Shelter Bay woman selected as a judge for Rose Parade
SHELTER BAY — A Christmas tree that looks straight out of a magazine stands grandly in Kimberly Oldis’ Shelter Bay home, the placement of its twinkling lights, strings of beads and shining ornaments a testament to its designer’s talent.
The artist behind the tree is Oldis herself, a floral designer of 44 years whose skills have taken her to four Academy Awards presentations, a presidential inauguration and in two weeks time, to Pasadena, California, to serve as a judge in the 130th Rose Parade.
Sitting in her cozy living room overlooking the Shelter Bay Marina, Oldis recounts her lifelong love of flowers. Her husband, Dale Oldis, fills in details as she goes, his straightforward statements a complement to his wife’s undeniable passion.
Nine months ago, the two were waiting in an airport when a call from Pasadena flashed on Kimberly Oldis’ phone.
Thinking it would be a friend from the area, Oldis was surprised when a man introduced himself as being from the Tournament of Roses, which hosts the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day.
But since she had designed floats for the parade in years past, she wasn’t shocked until the man asked if she was interested in being a float judge, one of the most prestigious positions in the floral community.
Only three judges are selected each year to grant awards to the dozens of floats that are seen by a live audience of about 700,000 and a national viewership of 44 million, as estimated by the Tournament of Roses.
“I still can’t believe it’s happening,” Kimberly Oldis said. “Never in my wildest dreams.”
“You’ve had some pretty wild dreams,” Dale Oldis said.
“I have,” she replied, her mind drifting somewhere far away.
The Rose Parade holds a special place in Kimberly Oldis’ heart.
Her parents married the day before the parade while her father was home on a weekend pass from the Korean War.
Oldis has childhood memories of waking up early to watch the parade on TV with her mother and three younger siblings, the feats of artistry passing by in black and white, then color, and years later, as a result of her own work.
After studying ornamental horticulture at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Oldis opened a floral shop in 1986.
“I wanted to be creative in a natural way, and floristry gave me instant gratification,” she said.
During the 16 years Kimberly’s Flower Shop was open, Oldis became a member of the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD), a nonprofit dedicated to recognizing the highest standard of floral design.
On top of wanting to support AIFD’s mission to advance the art of floristry through education, service and leadership, those vying to become accredited members must pass two rigorous exams. And to remain accredited, members must continue to demonstrate their art by meeting specific requirements.
Oldis has been a member for 22 years.
Doors were opened for Oldis through her AIFD accreditation and service to the floral community, including becoming involved in Charisma Floats & Designs Inc., a former float builder for the Rose Parade and floral provider for the Academy Awards.
Oldis’ eyes come alive as she describes working on the floats.
“It’s one of the most beautiful, grand floral events that I’ve ever been to,” she said.
But behind the grandeur is enormous effort, skill and passion.
Each year, 935 Tournament of Roses volunteers supply more than 80,000 hours of combined service to put on the New Year’s Day celebration.
Oldis worked as a Rose Parade float designer with Charisma from 2005 to 2010, creating many award-winning pieces, including the 2010 Tuskegee Airmen float, which honored the black military pilots of World War II.
“We worked like dogs,” she said, recalling how her team would work nonstop from the time they arrived on Dec. 26 until the seconds leading up to New Year’s Eve.
Mornings began with 6 a.m. breakfast, then it was off to the floral tent, which spanned an area the length of three football fields.
Oldis said her team worked until midnight or 1 a.m. each day with 50 to 100 volunteers working two-hour shifts to adorn every inch of the floats in organic material.
A burnt red hue was achieved with dried cranberry skins. Shaved coconut became feathers. Real oranges were used for the color orange.
“Nothing was dyed or painted,” Oldis said.
On Dec. 28, Oldis will fly back to the madness to assume her role as float parade judge, along with celebrity wedding planner Breston Bailey and CEO of the Kentucky Derby Festival Michael E. Berry.
Having years of parade experience under her belt, Oldis said she isn’t nervous to return, but she does feel a great responsibility to carry on the tradition of the Tournament of Roses.
“This is really an honor — a privilege and an honor that we’re good enough to do this,” she said. “This is the icing on the cake of a 44-year career.”