Insurance Corporation

The Optimists Club – Battle of Flowers 2017

It’s not long now until The Optimists Club will be fighting to retain the title at this year’s Jersey Battle of Flowers, and we got in touch with the team to find out a little more about the Club, and their plans for this year’s main event!

Q: Can you tell us a little more about “Bossa Nova” – your entry for 2017?

Bossa Nova is taken from the soundtrack starring Elvis Presley. It represents everything about Mexican festivals with musical instruments and features a large skull on the front taken from their world famous Day of the Dead Festival.

Q: What does “Bossa Nova” translate to and why did it inspire this year’s float?

Bossa Nova is a Latin American dance and a genre of music taken and developed by the Mexicans.

Q: How will ICCI sponsorship help this year and how has it helped in the past?

ICCI sponsorship is so unbelievably important for a small group of friends to be able to compete with cash-rich parish floats. Although a grant from the states is given to all floats, this doesn’t cover the cost of the flowers, therefore the sponsorship enables us to construct the floats, and come with new ideas and initiatives that keep pushing the concept of battle design. For example, last year, we achieved a feat never seen before and rocked the whole float side to side. This year, we are putting in the biggest float we have put in, and one of the tallest ever seen. It also enables us to help hire or make costumes which are an important part of the whole show we try to put on. The partnership between Insurance Corporation and the Optimists Club has been going on for so long and has been so successful, that Peter and Jean, and other former colleagues are more like friends.

Q: How many hours will go into constructing “Bossa Nova” and how many people are involved?

The hours are incalculable. We started the construction between Christmas and New Year last year, and people have been working on the float since then. For example, on a ‘good’ day we could have 9-10 guys constructing the float, and another 10-12 ladies doing some of the hares tailing work. They could all be there for between 3-5 hours so that would be 100 hours of volunteer time in one day. We have had at least one person working on the float 6 out of 7 days a week, so it’s a lot of time to calculate, and maybe one year we will record it all!

We have around 30 people helping in some form over the year, and in the run up to Battle of Flowers itself that will increase as friends and family help with the picking and gluing of flowers.

Q: Does your team have fixed roles in developing your float or do you all get involved with various aspects?

The team has worked together for so long that we all seem to have an idea of what we do. The guys in the team will generally construct the float. Roger Pugsley is a highly experienced builder and is a past president of the club. We have learned along the way, and anyone is able to come up with ideas about construction, but it is usually Steve Bouchard, the designer, who would have the final say.

When it comes to Battle ‘week’, again we all have roles. Some pick flowers, some glue, some coordinate, some stick flowers, and some will walk around and ‘advise’. Because we have done it for so long, we are all happy in the roles we have. We appreciate that every role is important. One of the ladies will spend 2-3 days filling up buckets the week before. She is more than happy to do it, and to me, that is equally important as any other role down in any other part of the year.

Q: What is the most satisfying part of the process and why?

Seeing it finished, in the arena, with all those who have worked on it having a great time and entertaining the crowd. Also breaking it up once it is all finished is excellent fun! It means we can start again.

Q: What is the most challenging part of the process and why?

Flowering is always the most challenging. We have 8 months to build it and get it ready, and then 3 days to stick a few hundred thousand flowers on it. Another stressful bit is getting it from the shed and into Millbrook Park before Battle starts. We really can’t do any damage to it as there is no time to fix anything.

Q: How does it feel when you’re finally able to parade the float and of your previous entries have there been any special moments that stand out?

We build floats to entertain the crowd, so parading the float is fun for us. I think the reason we have been so successful is that we do that so well – have fun. Although doing 2 parades in 2 days after a long week flowering the float is exhausting!

We’ve had so many special moments, and I am sure we all have different moments we could share. One would be from 4 years ago when we did a Les Miserables theme float, “Beyond the Barricade”. It was so full of emotion and when we stopped outside the main stand, we were given a standing ovation. Peter Walpole said at the club room afterwards that the float was a game changer for Battle, in that we recreated a show, rather than just a float.

Q: ”Bossa Nova” features architectural detailing. What style is this and why?

The detail in the design has been well researched to replicate an old Mexican church with a bell tower. It features large revolving sombreros and the whole float is set on a garland of bright coloured flowers.

Q: What types of flowers will be incorporated into the design this year?

As last years float was all white I set out to produce something completly different so we have a total of 18 different colours this year, mostly made up of different varieties of chrysants. 140,000 blooms in total!

We’re looking forward to another entertaining year and wish The Optimists Club the best of luck!

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