- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Earl Hargrove Jr. loves a parade.
And he really loves the inaugural parade.
Mr. Hargrove and his employees at Lanham-based Hargrove Inc., just outside the Beltway, have built floats for inaugural parades for every president since Harry S. Truman's in 1949.
This year, Mr. Hargrove, 72, helped design and build three of the six floats that will appear in Saturday's inaugural parade, which begins near the Capitol at 2 p.m. and ends just past the White House.
"It's one of the most inspiring things this company does building floats for the inaugural parade. I would die if somebody else got the job," says Mr. Hargrove, president of the company.
Mr. Hargrove and his team of 15 employees have worked on the floats 12 hours a day since Jan. 5, six days after the Presidential Inaugural Committee awarded Hargrove Inc. the contract. The company hasn't had as much time to build floats as in past years because of the prolonged election battle in Florida.
The largest float will carry 321 singers from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The 130-foot-long structure weighs 80,000 pounds without the singers.
Hargrove Inc. also is building the American Eagle float, which Mr. Hargrove will drive in the parade. It will serve as the lead float and bear the slogan the committee picked for the parade's theme: "Celebrating America's Spirit Together."
The eagle is an impressive creation of thin steel rods, foam rubber and paint, with a wingspan of 18 feet. Saturday's parade will be the third in which the eagle has appeared.
But the float that has dominated the attention of Mr. Hargrove and his colleagues is the Wyoming float, intended to represent the home state of Richard B. Cheney, who will be sworn in Saturday as vice president.
This is not the chicken wire and tissue paper float you and your friends built in high school for the homecoming parade.
The 85-foot-long float includes a stream, a painting of the Grand Tetons, a 162-year-old Conestoga wagon pulled by models of two horses, a stuffed buffalo, a fly fisherman flesh and blood wearing hip boots and standing in a pool of water with a fake fish at the end of his pole, two bighorn sheep with rotating heads, and a handmade model of the state's official symbol, the bucking bronco.
The float bears little resemblance to the initial design presented to the inauguration committee, which included a moose. Mr. Cheney said through the committee that he wanted a buffalo, not a moose.
Hargrove Inc.'s warehouse includes hundreds of props from past inaugural floats and past inaugural balls, including 16-foot-high cowboy boots used on the float for President Bush's inaugural parade in 1989 and plastic flowers from the balls in 1961 for President Kennedy. Mr. Hargrove didn't have a stuffed buffalo sitting around, so he bought one from a Colorado taxidermist for $6,000.
"We looked up 'buffalo' on the Internet," he says.
It arrived on Jan. 10.
Mr. Hargrove is not sure when he will use the animal again, but he never considered rounding up a live buffalo because he has seen how animals can behave in parades. In the 1949 parade for President Truman, a group of Missourians had a team of mules pull a float they constructed for the parade. When the mules turned from Pennsylvania Avenue onto 15th Street, something spooked them, Mr. Hargrove recalls. They started running and ended up on the sidewalk.
"It was almost a disaster," Mr. Hargrove says.
The idea for the bucking bronco also was Mr. Cheney's. The company had to get approval from Wyoming officials because the symbol has a trademark and appears on the state's license plates.
"He wanted a few changes. I think they want to promote the beauty of Wyoming," says Mr. Hargrove, who has never traveled to Wyoming.
Mr. Hargrove added the Conestoga wagon. Workers have carved and painted plastic foam encircling the Wyoming float to make it look like rocks from the Grand Tetons.
"This one is special to me. Mr. Cheney has had a long involvement with the military, and I was in the Marines," he says.
Mr. Hargrove and his colleagues plan to complete the floats today, when members of the Presidential Inaugural Committee will get their first look at them.
"We're just tweaking them now," he says.
But the hard work won't be over.
"Our next problem is getting them out of this building," Mr. Hargrove says.
The floats can be taken apart to fit through the loading docks. Workers will drive them to the Capitol beginning about 2 a.m. Saturday.
The day likely will mark the end of Mr. Hargrove's career building floats for inaugural parades. After 14 parades, he doesn't expect to be working by the time the next one rolls down Pennsylvania Avenue.
"It's certainly not the last one for my company, but I think this will probably be my I don't know. I'm not trying to be morbid. But I've been working a long time, and it's time to let someone else step in," Mr. Hargrove says.



Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide