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