Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - THE GRILL - In­ter­view/ Britt Mann Pho­to­graph/ David White

Peter Tay­lor, 68, has been build­ing floats for Auck­land’s an­nual Santa Pa­rade for 45 years. His son Dave, 28, a builder, gives him a hand. The duo have three new floats in to­day’s pa­rade, in­clud­ing their most am­bi­tious project to date: a 13 me­tre-long steam­punk dragon. PETER/ I worked for Farm­ers Trad­ing Com­pany in its dis­play de­part­ment many, many years ago. A lot of us young peo­ple got the op­por­tu­nity to go and work on the pa­rade, which was based out One­hunga way. I worked on it for a cou­ple of months. Time went by, I left Farm­ers, and I opened up a sign­writ­ing, visual arts sort of busi­ness. I was given the op­por­tu­nity to do the pa­rade on a con­trac­tual ba­sis. I’ve been do­ing it ever since.

Early Fe­bru­ary, we all get to­gether – the cos­tume room ladies and my­self – and we just throw a few ideas around. I go and do some de­signs, and if we all agree on it, I do a lit­tle scale model, and then start to build it.

Dave is a builder by trade. He’s come in over the years and done lit­tle bits and pieces – paint touch-ups or art work. Most years, when it gets to the busi­ness end of things, he’ll come in. My Dave – he’s a nice, friendly sortof surf ad­dict. He’s very, very laid­back. I’m from the old school where you walk quickly around. Dave am­bles.

As far as tech­nol­ogy goes, he’s pretty sharp. He com­pleted a four-year ar­chi­tec­tural land­scape de­sign course be­fore he went into build­ing. He’s got a good eye for aes­thet­ics. If I said, “Look, I need a set of steps on the side of that float so the fairy can sit on the back of the swan,” he can blend the steps in. He’s very, very good like that. I can just leave him to do it.

He’s quite a shy guy – he doesn’t like to go on the day of the pa­rade. Too many peo­ple for him.

We’ve had some ma­jor catas­tro­phes over the years but we’ve al­ways been able to fix it up on the day. One of the big­gest dis­as­ters hap­pened maybe 10 years ago. We built a big pur­ple shop­ping bag, and in the top of the bag there were some big presents.

You’re look­ing at a float that’s prob­a­bly 4.5-5 me­tres high. There’s two routes to take the floats down to the start of the pa­rade and one of those routes has over­head gantries. The shop­ping bag float was told the wrong route and the over­head bar­rier just dec­i­mated half the float. There were bits of poly­styrene, card­board, presents ev­ery­where. We had to re­build the float on the day.

When it gets down there in one piece, it’s pretty re­ward­ing. I al­ways think they look a lot smaller on the street – in the work­shop, they look enor­mous!

In the past, all the floats were based on fairy­tales and nursery rhymes. They’d say to me: “Pete, put a smi­ley face on the dragon.” But kids ac­tu­ally like some­thing that’s a bit evil and a bit nasty-look­ing these days.

Back in the day, ev­ery­thing was wire net­ting and pa­pier mache, which was so vul­ner­a­ble to the weather. Now we use lots of fi­bre­glass, water-re­sis­tant paints and ma­te­ri­als, so if we do get a del­uge, they can with­stand it. DAVE/ Grow­ing up, I didn’t re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate Dad’s work, be­cause I was con­stantly sur­rounded by it. But it’s re­ally cool. We al­ways have pretty ex­cit­ing Christ­mases.

As a kid, I would go to the pa­rade ev­ery year. I think I was ac­tu­ally in it for a cou­ple of years, as well. There was al­ways a float called Mon­ster Mash. That got axed like, a year ago. I re­ally liked that. There was one called Ter­ror Moun­tain a few years ago, which was quite cool.

I got my de­gree in de­sign and then started my build­ing ap­pren­tice­ship, and of­fered to give him a hand. I al­ways re­ally en­joyed art and draw­ing, and cre­at­ing things. I sup­pose I get it from him.

I’ve helped him out since I was re­ally lit­tle, paint­ing. But over the last few years, I’ve been more in­volved in the build­ing side of it.

I like to think I have some in­put in the de­sign, but Dad’s pretty good at it, be­cause he’s been do­ing it for so long. He’s got an eye for it. But if I think there’s some­thing miss­ing or some­thing the kids will like more, then I’ll for sure men­tion it to him. He’s re­ally open to it. We’re both per­fec­tion­ists. We both love art. If we ever get grumpy at each other it’s be­cause we’re so sim­i­lar. We’re maybe a lit­tle bit stub­born.

In the work­shop, we’re just tak­ing the p... out of each other the whole time. He’s just like a big kid. Re­ally soft-hearted, and heav­ily in­vested in try­ing to make the best thing pos­si­ble, for any­one com­ing out to watch the pa­rade.

He’s got a mas­sive heart. He’s a re­ally good dad. And a real good grand­dad, as well. I’ve got two older sis­ters. They have two chil­dren each. Two of them live with my par­ents.

Me and Dad al­ways used to go surf­ing to­gether. He’s made me a fair few surf­boards – he’s quite good at that.

Grow­ing up, ev­ery sin­gle morn­ing, he’d be singing a song throw­ing one of our names in it, to wake us up. It was pretty an­noy­ing, out­side your door. We could never have a se­ri­ous din­ner be­cause he’d have a pen and be draw­ing pictures on all of our nap­kins.

Dad’s quite mod­est about [the pa­rade], and I like to think I am, too. When the float’s built, we’re just like: “Oh yeah, it looks re­ally cool.” We don’t nec­es­sar­ily cel­e­brate; we’re def­i­nitely happy to get it done.

Peo­ple don’t un­der­stand that Dad does the draw­ing on the pa­per, right through to ac­tu­ally mak­ing it. Ninety-eight per cent of the rea­son he does it is for ev­ery­one else. It’s not for money. He does it out of the good­ness of his heart. The 84th Farm­ers Santa Pa­rade starts at 1pm to­day in Auck­land’s CBD. san­ta­pa­rade.co.nz

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