At least two people from the Valley will be riding floats in the 123rd annual Rose Parade in Pasadena on Jan. 2.
Lance Walheim of Exeter will be waving from the Bayer Advanced "Garden of Imagination" float, and Max Zapata of Clovis will be doing the same from the Donate Life "One More Day" float.
The Bayer Advanced float will have only two people on it: Walheim and his brother Rex, an astronaut who will wear his blue NASA flight suit. The float depicts a 30-foot rocket contrail symbolizing a reach for the stars, in keeping with the "Just Imagine" parade theme.
Astronauts have a long history at the Rose Parade, but Rex's connection to the Bayer Advanced float is through his brother. The Walheim brothers grew up working in the family garden in San Carlos and dreaming of life's possibilities beyond removing pampas grass and poison oak.
Lance, a horticulturist, works for Bayer Advanced, a maker of garden chemicals. He's their answer man on call-in radio shows about gardening. He's also a specialty citrus grower and writes books.
The Rose Parade is a family tradition for the Walheims. Lance and wife Laura help build the company float each year. Their two daughters were in the parade as children, and five years ago, he rode.
"I was surprised how much fun it was," Walheim said.
Another Valley participant in the parade is Zapata, 52, a department manager at Vons grocery in Clovis who, two years ago, donated a kidney to a 27-year-old woman he didn't even know.
In May, he give a short speech in Fullerton about the experience, and it went over so well with transplant network officials that he got invited to ride the Donate Life float with 27 people. He's one of four "living donors" on the float.
Zapata, who grew up in Selma with 11 siblings, said he felt called to donate a kidney.
He was a match for a stranger, a family member of the recipient was a match for someone else, and so on, until 20 people got new kidneys in a chain donation that stretched across the country.
"I was just going to do the donation and sneak out the back door," Zapata said. But going public increases awareness, he said -- and got him into the parade.
His wife, Mary, and son Max Jr., 20, will be watching from the grandstands.