Blind World Magazine

Golf Cart Parade in Palm Desert.

January 8, 2006.
The Desert Sun - Palm Springs,CA,USA.

Penny Miller lasted about five minutes.

That's how long the regional director of the Braille Institute in Rancho Mirage managed to stand by Friday afternoon as volunteers and staff decorated the organization's entry for today's Golf Cart Parade in Palm Desert. After about five minutes, she climbed on a ladder - in business suit, heels and stockings - and helped drape some fabric.

"(The parade) puts us before the public," Miller said. "(It's) a way for people to say, 'The Braille Institute, what do they do?'"

And, she added, it's way too much fun to miss.

With the clock winding down to parade kickoff at 1 p.m. today, golf cart enthusiasm rolled through the area.

The 41st annual parade is expected to draw thousands to Palm Desert's normally staid upscale shopping district for a party on wheels, with about 80 decorated carts, marching bands, and a live show featuring area cabaret and jazz performers.

January a first.

This year also marks the first time the parade has been held in January instead of November. The first Golf Cart Parade was held in July in the early 1960s as a diversion for summer residents, eventually moving to the November date of more recent years.

"The parade organizers for several years have been toying with the idea (of changing the date)," said Susan Harvey, president of the Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the parade. "There are lots more people here, both regular residents as well as part-time residents."

It also gives participants more time to plan their carts, said Robin Montgomery, executive director of Pegasus Riding Academy for the Handicapped, which has been decorating carts and winning parade awards for 12 years.

"It's better for us not to have to build in the heat of the summer," Montgomery said. "This way we got to start in October."

In Palm Desert, Pegasus provides physical therapy on horseback for children and adults with severe disabilities. It is this year's recipient of the parade's annual $7,500 grant to an area nonprofit agency.

The school's cart will feature its perennial mascot, a life-size, papier-maché winged horse named Peggy. Montgomery said this year the figure will be decked out in horse-size sunglasses and parasols, in line with the parade's theme: "The Future's So Bright, You Gotta Wear Shades."

"It takes about four months," she said. "(We) have to repaper her frame and repaint, and you have to add to the mane and tail. The wings always have to be redone."

The Braille Institute's cart also has been a four-month project, said Richard S. Castillo, assistant regional director.

This is the second parade for the organization, which provides education and life-skills training to visually impaired people.

"We started planning in October," he said, "(and) started three weeks ago putting everything together."

Final assembly on Friday involved chicken wire, tissue-paper flowers, a papier-maché head and top hat and red-tipped cane, correctly proportioned for a golf cart.

The cart will roll down El Paseo to the accompaniment of "Putting on the Ritz," along with the organization's drill team of about 30 visually impaired individuals, also in top hats and shades.

"It will show the public that we have people who, even though visually impaired and blind, (are) being as independent and happy as they can," Castillo said.

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