Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: UGA — and me — headed for the Rose Bowl

When it was announced last weekend that the University of Georgia would be playing in the Rose Bowl, I thought it ironic because I was selected to be in the Rose Bowl parade eight months ago.

I have watched the Rose Bowl parade since I was little. A New Year’s tradition for my mother and me, we were amazed year after year at the artistry of each float and wondered about the time it takes to put such beauty together.

If you have never watched the Rose Bowl parade, then you are unfamiliar with the fact that each float in the parade is required to be organic. In other words, all the colors you see in the design are made from natural ingredients such as roses, rice, tree bark, coffee, etc. Only the mechanics of the float can be man-made, but all decor comes from nature. Now imagine the time it must take to put that together, coupled with the knowledge that the float can’t be decorated too far in advance or the flowers and other materials will die before the parade begins.

Never did I think I would actually participate in the Rose Bowl parade. At best I’d hoped to see it in person someday but never really knew how I was going to make a trip like that happen. Then, several years ago, I emceed a Georgia Transplant Foundation event and learned a fellow transplant recipient would be riding on the Donate Life Float. This float was dedicated to transplant recipients and donors, where recipients would ride on the float and donors — whose families bravely gave their organs upon death — would have their portraits depicted in organic pictograms.

Happy for and envious of her at the same time, I wondered if that would ever be a possibility for me. Were all recipients allowed to ride the float, or had she achieved the honor in a way I would never qualify for?

Then, a couple years later, another recipient I knew rode on the same float and I asked her how the selection was made. She explained the application process that was open to all recipients, that finding a sponsor was one of the requirements and wished me luck. I decided to make the effort as sort of a “bucket list” venture, and thanks to Piedmont Healthcare who stepped up as a sponsor, I was selected for the 2018 float in the early months of 2017. That means I head out to California after Christmas and not only ride on the float but also help decorate it in the days leading up to the parade. What a way to ring in 2018!

My University of Tennessee Volunteers had the worst season in the history of the school’s football program, and even though I’m still frustrated by my own team, I am always happy to see the SEC rise to the top of the rankings … even if I don’t like the university represented. And the fact that UGA is fighting for that championship spot — and it’s through the Rose Bowl that they’ll get there — it will be fun to see the Atlanta area well-represented in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

To find out more about the Donate Life float visit