Reading-Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center students build a float for the holiday parade

Standing inside the flower shop at the Reading-Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center, Mia Rosa smiled.

“I like ringing the bell,” the 17-year-old said Wednesday, looking at the train-themed parade float in front of her. “This is my favorite part.”

For Alexis Fernandez, also a 17-year-old senior, it’s the whole engine, made from a pair of 55-gallon drums and wooden pallets, that she likes best.

Both are thrilled to share the wagon they helped build, to have cheering crowds of people watch it roll through the streets of central Reading. And they will have that chance on Saturday as he is featured in the Reading Holiday Parade.

Julianna Molano, 16, left, a Reading High junior student, helps put the finishing touches on the float in the Reading-Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center Christmas parade.  .  (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Julianna Molano, 16, left, a Reading High junior, and Mia Rosa, 17, a Reading High senior, prepare the Reading-Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center float for the Reading Holiday Parade. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

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 school’s SkillsUSA and Future Farmers of America clubs, with students from other clubs and programs lending a hand.

“It’s really a school event,” said Mark Vrabic, a horticulture instructor and the driving force behind the floating project. “It’s a group effort to make it all come together.”

The students in the print and graphics program made banners for the sides of the wagon, the students in the paint shop did a couple of murals, the electrical shop did the wiring, and the welding shop built the smokestack working locomotive of the train.

Work on the float began just before Halloween, with scores of students donating their time to help.

For those students, seeing the project take shape was impressive.

“From what you see in the beginning to what it is now,” Fernandez said, shaking his head and nearly speechless. “I’m really impressed with how it turned out.”

“It didn’t seem like that a week ago,” Rosa interjected of the almost complete wagon.

Rosa and Fernandez said they learned a lot while working on the wagon. Rosa said she has gained a new respect for the painting process.

Reading-Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center students put the finishing touches to their float for the Reading Holiday Parade.  (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Reading-Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center students put the finishing touches to their float for the Reading Holiday Parade. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

“You just have to be patient,” she said. “You have to wait for each layer to dry.”

Fernandez learned that when tackling a big project you just have to trust the process, even if completing it seems overwhelming at first.

In addition to working on building the float, Rosa and Fernandez will join 50-80 of their fellow students walking it in Saturday’s parade. For Fernandez, it will be the second consecutive year that he participates.

“I loved it,” she said of her experience last year. “Being on the bandwagon, seeing everyone look at something I’ve made is amazing. It was exciting to see the children say hello, it made me smile.”

For Rosa it will be the first time that he will participate in the fashion show.

“I’m a little nervous,” she admitted. “Nervous and excited. I can’t wait to see people’s reactions when they see it.

Vrabic said the crowd’s reaction is always a highlight of the float parade, especially when the crowd members are alumni who have built their own floats in the past.

“It’s great to drive down Penn Street and hear all the alumni shout, ‘Well done,’” he said. “It just brings back memories for everyone. They take a lot of pride in it, they take a lot of pride in it.

Reading-Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center students put the finishing touches to their float for the Reading Holiday Parade.  (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Reading-Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center students put the finishing touches to their float for the Reading Holiday Parade. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Holiday parade reading

When: Saturday 19 November starting at 10:00

Where: Penn Street, Reading.

What: The parade will feature dozens of floats and groups of walkers, with the arrival of Santa Claus at the conclusion of the parade.

Additional Information: A guide for parade attendees with information about parking and specials is available at readingpa.gov/images/pdfs/2022_Holiday_Parade_VISITOR_GUIDE.pdf.

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