A Float for Every Holiday, Even the Day of the Dead
Marcus Pollitz grew up surrounded by flowers, but don’t believe for a minute that meant lying in the proverbial bed of roses.
Pollitz, the multi-media artist behind dozens of floats for the annual Rose Parade, this year is the creator of the Autry’s community altar for the ¡Vivan Los Muertos! celebration this Saturday, Oct. 30.
He says the Pasadena florist shop run by his mother and sister, where he often helped out as a kid, was his personal cultural classroom. Because the business revolves around holidays, he learned about all kinds of feasts and special celebrations.
“I always liked holidays,” he said. “I’m Jewish, and my mom would spend till 3 o’clock in the morning making Easter eggs, unique Faberge-type Easter eggs.”
Because his mother was one of the vendors providing flowers for the Rose Parade, Pollitz early on became interested in what it took to put the event together.
“Since I was 12 years old, I’ve been going and decorating, volunteer, on the Rose Parade floats during decorating week, one week a year after Christmas,” he said. “I got more and more into it and learned how to play with seeds and flowers and petals, and before you know it, I found I really liked doing it.”
It wasn’t much of a leap for him to go to work in the crafting of the fanciful vehicles. He has worked for Fiesta Floats for 12 years. He’s one of fewer than 20 people who do this for a living in the U.S. — some of them based in New Orleans around Mardi Gras or in New York around the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Despite the size and scale of some of his creations, “float making is a very small entertainment,” he says.
Even with all of that experience in holiday celebrating, Pollitz confessed this is the first time he has ever put together a Day of the Dead altar.
“It’s another holiday, and I like it,” he said. “It has a unique flair. It represents a lot of different things. More than anything, it’s the passing of our loved ones. And (we should) not be sad about it. Because we have Memorial Day, but it’s more solemn. Day of the Dead I feel is more festive. I enjoy it.”
Pollitz’s creation, 15 feet tall and 25 feet wide, will be displayed in front of the Autry, to one side of the entrance.
It will, of course, have flowers, particularly the traditional cempazuchitl marigold said to be fav0red by the spirits of the dead, as well as offerings of fruit and photos of the departed loved ones of people in the community.
“We have sculpted flowers,” he said. “We’ll have three-foot-tall arrangements, skull-on-top-of-skull arrangements with lights on them. There’s a lot of things to look at. And I think that’s the fun of when you go to Day of the Dead, there’s lots of things to look at and enjoy. And there’s stories behind a lot of these pictures.”