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Lodi man is 'engineer' on Rose Parade float

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Posted: Sunday, January 4, 2009 10:00 pm

Have you ever seen a railroad engine made of seaweed?

Well, if you looked at the Tournament of Roses Parade closely enough, you would have seen such a train engine made by Union Pacific. And its "engineer" comes from Lodi.

Israel Maldonado, 33, joined two other Union Pacific Railroad employees on the city of Roseville's float for the classic New Year's Day parade. He could be seen on national TV grinning and waving to the crowd in a 55-foot-long replica of a 1909 locomotive.

The original 1909 train was built for the Sacramento-to-Roseville run. It features two vintage-style Pullman passenger cars, 25-foot depictions of oak trees and a creek representing the seven creeks flowing through Roseville.

It was good enough to win the Governor's Award for the best depiction of life in California.

The train was part of the city of Roseville's float because of the significance the railroad has to the history of the Placer County city. Roseville's railroad yard is the largest west of the Mississippi River, Maldonado said.

Maldonado and his wife, Amanda, spent three exhausting days in Pasadena. They arrived in Southern California on Wednesday because they had to be present for the judging the day before the parade. Everyone on the float - including the UP staffers, Roseville city officials and others - had to be in their proper place on the float so they could be judged properly, Maldonado said.

The city of Roseville's float, featuring a 1909 Union Pacific train, is displayed in Pasadena last week. (Courtesy photo)

One judge examined the flower arrangements, another checked the moving parts, another person judged what the float represents and another judge checked how structurally sound it was, Maldonado said.

The floats were tough to construct because every inch of every float must be covered with flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds or bark, according to the Tournament of Roses.

Judges also checked how energetic everyone on the float was.

"They look at smiles," Maldonado said.

But that's not all that parade officials look for.

Each person on the float had to show their driver's license so that security could do a background check. Then on the day of the parade, security officers made sure the people they saw on the float on Thursday were the same ones they saw during the security check.

"It gave me a whole new gratitude of how much safety they put into it," Maldonado said.

Israel Maldonado, of Lodi, gives a broad grin on the city of Roseville's float that got international exposure during Thursday's Tournament of Roses Parade. (Courtesy photo)

Safety is important to Maldonado because that's the focus of his job with Union Pacific. He ensures that UP employees practice safety in whatever they do, and he sets up safety teams at railroad yards from Bakersfield to the Oregon border and east to Sparks, Nev.

Maldonado also participates in UP's Operation Lifesaver program, where he gives 45-minute presentations at schools, churches and groups like Lodi's GrapeLine bus service and Waste Management.

The Maldonados were amazed at all the hard work that went into caring for each float. Since much of each float consisted of flowers, people continually sprayed them with water to keep the flowers from wilting, first during Wednesday's judging, then the parade, and then for two-and-a-half more days when all floats were on public display.

Rose Parade at a glance

Q: How long does the parade last?
A: Two-and-a-half hours from any given point.

Q: How long is the parade?
A: Five-and-a-half miles.

Q: How many times has it rained during the parade since 1890?
A: 10.

Q: How is the Rose Parade patterned?
A: After the "Battle of the Flowers" in Nice, France. It was initially a modest procession of flower-covered carriages with games including foot races, tug-of-war contests and sack races.

Q: How many watch the parade?
A: Approximately 40 million Americans watch the Rose Parade on TV, as well as millions of international viewers in 150 territories around the world. The Pasadena Police Department estimates that approximately one million people attend the Rose Parade each year. An average of 70,000 people visited the post-parade float viewing in the two and a half days following the Rose Parade.

Q: How can you see the parade in person?
A: You do not need tickets to the Rose Parade unless you are looking for a grandstand seat. The official seating company, Sharp Seating, can be contacted at (626) 795-4171.

Q: What are the criteria for building a float?
A: Each float must conform to certain regulations in the areas of height, width, length and thematic design. The entire surface must be covered using a variety of flowers, seeds, bark, leaves and other natural materials. Most floats are controlled with the aid of internal, computer-driven hydraulics and are entered in the parade on behalf of a corporation, city or organization.

Source: Tournament of Roses

Not only that, but people were also seen working overnight to guard the floats from vandalism and to keep people from cuttin flowers for themselves from the float.

Israel and Amanda Maldonado didn't exactly spend Wednesday night ringing in the new year. They had to get some sleep early because they had to be back at their float at 5:30 a.m. They had to be in their parade positions by 6 a.m., two hours before the Tournament of Roses Parade began.

The parade was over at about 11 a.m., but the Lodi couple remained busy, first at a special tailgate party that required special tickets acquired by Union Pacific, then watching the Rose Bowl football classic between the University of Southern California and Penn State. It was the first football game Israel Maldonado has attended since actually playing football at Lodi High.

Maldonado grew up in Acampo and lived in Lodi the past 10 years. He is a 1993 Lodi High graduate.

He got hired by Union Pacific almost 13 years ago through a good friend he worked with at the Lodi Wal-Mart store. He and his friend, Adam Sharp, were hired by UP through Sharp's father, who also works for the railroad.

"I think God blessed me," Maldonado said about his opportunity to work for Union Pacific.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 8:38 am on Tue, Jan 6, 2009.


    Sorry it's not my it's (may)

  • posted at 8:37 am on Tue, Jan 6, 2009.


    It gives me great pleasure to see my brother representing the Union Pacific Railroad today. I can't wait to see him when he becomes Mayor of Lodi. Isman I'm so proud of you . I love you so much. My God keep blessing you.

  • posted at 12:17 pm on Mon, Jan 5, 2009.


    Cool float. Well done.

  • posted at 11:07 am on Mon, Jan 5, 2009.


    Interesting article with a local spin.

  • posted at 3:36 am on Mon, Jan 5, 2009.


    They could not have chosen a better person to represent Lodi and Union Pacific Railroad. Way to go Israel!Julie



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