Standing inside the flower shop at Reading-Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center, Mia Rosa smiled.
“I like ringing the bell,” the 17-year-old senior said Wednesday, gazing at the train-themed parade float in front of her. “That’s my favorite part.”
For Alexis Fernandez, also a 17-year-old senior, it’s the entire engine, crafted out of a pair of 55-gallon drums and wooden pallets, that she enjoys most.
Both are excited to share the float they had a hand in building, to have crowds of cheering people watch it move down the streets of downtown Reading. And they’ll get that chance Saturday as it’s featured in the Reading Holiday Parade.
Students at the career and technology center have been building floats for the parade for the past four decades. The effort is led by the SkillsUSA and Future Farmers of America clubs at the school, with students from other clubs and programs lending a hand.
“It’s really a schoolwide event,” said Mark Vrabic, horticulture instructor and the driving force behind the float project. “It’s a group effort to make it come together.”
Students in the printing and graphics program made banners for the sides of the float, students in the paint shop made a pair of murals, the electrical shop handled the wiring and the welding shop built the train engine’s working smoke stack.
Work on the float began just before Halloween, with dozens and dozens of students offering their time to help.
For those students, seeing the project take form was awe-inspiring.
“From what you see in the beginning to what it is now,” Fernandez said, shaking her head and left nearly speechless. “I’m actually impressed with how it turned out.”
“It didn’t look like that a week ago,” Rosa interjected about the nearly complete float.
Rosa and Fernandez said they learned quite a bit while working on the float. Rosa said she gained a new respect for the painting process.
“You just have to be patient,” she said. “You have to wait for each coat to dry.”
Fernandez she learned that when tackling a large project you have to just trust the process, even if completing it feels overwhelming early on.
Along with working on building the float, Rosa and Fernandez will join 50 to 80 of their fellow students walking with it in Saturday’s parade. For Fernandez, it will be the second year in a row she will take part.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” she said of her experience last year. “Being on the float, seeing everyone looking at something I made is awesome. It was exciting seeing the kids waving, it made me smile.”
For Rosa, this will be her first time taking part in the parade.
“I’m kind of nervous,” she admitted. “Nervous and excited. I can’t wait to see people’s reactions when they see it.”
Vrabic said the crowd reaction is always a highlight of the float parade, especially when members of the crowd are former students who have built their own floats in the past.
“It’s great driving down Penn Street and hearing all the former students yelling, ‘Way to go,’” he said. “It just brings back memories for everybody. They get a lot of pride from it, they get a ton of pride.”
Reading Holiday Parade
When: Saturday, Nov. 19 starting at 10 a.m.
Where: Penn Street, Reading.
What: The parade will feature dozens of floats and walking groups, with Santa arriving at the parade’s conclusion.
More information: A parade-goers guide with information on parking and special offers is available at readingpa.gov/images/pdfs/2022_Holiday_Parade_VISITOR_GUIDE.pdf.
Source: Berkshire mont