Little preparation was necessary, admitted South Pasadena’s Peggy O’Leary. There’s no real practice needed when it comes to the art of pooper scooping in the Rose Parade.
O’Leary, after 26 years has it down pat, giving her assignment little thought beforehand, knowing the job well as a seasoned veteran at the traditional event to help welcome in a new year.
Looking for a life-changing experience, maybe even something to do as a bucket list item, O’Leary made a call in 1990, telling Tournament officials she wanted to be a pooper scooper, and was asked on the spot. No official interview was required to be a member of the Pooper Scooping team, sometimes lovingly called environmental engineers.
Today, she relishes the opportunity to see the parade up close and personal where all the action takes place at parade’s launching area – the corner of Orange Grove Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. Prior to the 8 a.m. start, O’Leary gets a chance to meet those riding aboard colorful floats, young band members marching in the parade for, perhaps, the first time and others riding with equestrian groups.
“It’s fun to see all the kids in bands from out of state,” she said. “They’ve worked hard to be here.”
Decked out in white overalls, carrying her trusty 18-inch wide snow shovel or wide broom and trash bags tucked into her overall pockets, O’Leary looks forward to the annual spectacle, now in its 128th year. “I just enjoy the energy of it all, prior to the start of the parade hugging everyone wishing them a happy new year. I look forward to seeing people I only see once a year. It’s just a wonderful day.”
The trick to becoming a good pooper-scooper is being quick on your feet, looking for what O’Leary calls “the stuff” from horses and moving into action fast. “You sweep it into the shovel as quickly as you can and then get out of the way,” she explained, noting that between parade entries, there’s time to wave to the crowd, sometimes bowing and using an air freshener to gain a laugh.
Dashing out into the middle of the roadway to do her duty, the group seems to always get its share of applause from those sitting in the stands. “It’s a wonderful experience,” O’Leary said about her duties. “People cheer, applaud and even whistle. It’s fun.”
Some might think it’s her 15 minutes of fame each year, but O’Leary is quick to point out that the parade is two hours in duration, a longtime tradition to kick off the new year. What’s more, if there’s a lull in a conversation at parties, all she needs to do is bring up one of her favorite passions – pooper scooping at the Rose Parade. How does she bring it up? “Very gracefully,” a smiling O’Leary replied.