BELTON — Imagine a professional office — with the framework of a large wooden and wire horse on wheels in it. Behind that you can see a tall, headless wooden outline of a cowboy that wore one size 14 boot.
Blue fabric with stars and other items are on a couple of desks, and a short hallway is the “graveyard” — the description used by the company’s director — for the head of Uncle Sam, carousel horses, flags and more.
CGI, located in Belton since 2012, has a history of four overall winners in the Belton Fourth of July parade, but its first association with the annual tradition was the sponsorship of the Fiddler’s Pavilion at Yettie Polk Park, CGI Director Norm Veit said.
Each year the volunteers meet in a big jam session and come up with ideas.
Veit had a large white board in his office with pictures of the floats of previous years, as well as the drawing plans for this year’s entry.
The aim at CGI is to go above and beyond the past entries, and this year’s float is no exception. It features a bucking horse and cowboy — both operated like marionettes. In addition, a carousel with two horses will turn on the float.
The horse’s head was carved out of Styrofoam pieces, and the eyes are small, painted globes, creator and builder Alvin Romualdo said.
Romualdo built the horse in his driveway, and neighbors and people driving by were intrigued by what he was doing. Some guessed he was building a dinosaur during the building process that took several weekends and six to eight hours each day, he said.
Romualdo is a software developer at CGI who got his inspiration by looking at floats from a Montreal parade.
Veit referred to Romualdo as the “architect of this year’s float.”
He first became involved in float building during the interview process, Romualdo said. He watched the company’s slideshow and saw the floats. Animation on the float was mentioned during the hiring process, and ideas kept popping into his mind, Romualdo said — and those ideas partially led to his acceptance of the position at CGI, which provides IT support systems and service.
The first meeting for the float process begins in early March. The first meeting was the introduction to this year’s theme — 100 Years of Celebration.
In the past, nothing had every moved on a CGI float, so they agreed, “something’s moving,” Veit said.
The two constants in a Belton parade have always been the rodeo and a carnival, Chris Flor, CGI director of technologies and solutions and a Belton Area Chamber of Commerce director, pointed out. The moving horse and rider idea was pitched by Romualdo. The design was refined during the next two meetings, and Romualdo made prototypes that showed people how the float could become a reality.
What sealed the deal for everyone was a one-tenth scale model driven by a remote-controlled truck operated by Romualdo.
“At that point, everyone got it,” Veit said.
Romualdo drove the large wooden and wire horse on a trailer to the office.
Veit praised the diverse talent at CGI, and admitted the competitive streak in some of the leaders and volunteers.
Between 30 and 40 people worked on this year’s float, and the large group was divided into teams that conquered the “how do we do this” and gave the float its creative touch, Veit said.
On top of the carousel will be an eagle’s head — one built a few years ago by Veit.
Outside in the back parking lot is the float’s framework, and part of it was built and welded by the Belton CTE Program at Belton High School, Veit said.
The hardest part of the framework was getting it lifted onto the base, he said.
The horse is situated at the end of the float and is behind the gate. It took 12 people on the bottom of the carousel to put it up onto the float base. Only two men were tall enough to put the top on the carousel.
The Belton High CTE Program welded the gate and, in return, CGI will make a donation to the program for the cost of the materials and possibly for a project next year. The gate weighs over 250 pounds and is about 10 feet tall, Veit said.
The expense of the float is raised by the members, who pay for the privilege to periodically wear blue jeans. The donations build up the cash reserve for the project, Veit said. The only thing the corporation pays for is the donation to the Belton CTE Program.
The first float built by CGI and entered into the Belton Fourth of July Parade was in 2013, and it’s been a yearly project since then.
That first float was started three weeks before the parade and was built by about 10 people. They agreed on a concept, put it together over a couple of weekends and threw on some “shiny stuff,” Veit said.
Other floats have taken more planning, more time and have drawn in more people.
Those floats have portrayed travel, our town and patriotic themes. CGI’s 2014 entry won Best Commercial Float. The next four years earned them best overall float each year — which may have some people “gunning for them” this year, Veit said.
CGI volunteers built an airplane connected to a covered wagon and a 1950s Air Stream trailer that morphed into the airplane.
The next entry was once again a combination of ideas. Flor had his heart set on the Boston Tea Party but Veit wanted an eagle. The eagle was controversial because no one wanted to make the head, so Veit volunteered.
The Uncle Sam used in the 2018 float was 14 feet from the waist up, and Veit and a couple of volunteers built him. The float was finished at 12:03 a.m. on the Fourth of July and, once again, won Best Overall float.
In this year’s entry, the team concept was used for the first time. About 30 to 40 people were involved in the float process, and each team leader recruited team members.