On the Record with Janet Gallagher

MALTA – On the first day of the new year, Janet Gallagher will be in California for the Rose Parade.

But instead of spectating, Gallagher, an associate professor of horticulture at Kishwaukee College, will be one of three parade float judges for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

The parade will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 1, and will be broadcast internationally. This year’s theme – “Dream. Believe. Achieve.” – focuses on how education can open doors and change lives.

Gallagher, a member of the American Institute of Floral Designers, joins J. Keith White, AIFD designer and instructor at the Houston School of Flowers, and John Piper, former vice president of the Macy’s Parade Studio, on this year’s list of float judges. The three will grant 24 float awards based on three categories: float design, floral presentation and entertainment value.

Gallagher spoke with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about the Rose Bowl and being selected as a judge.

Milton: How did you become a judge for the Rose Parade?

Gallagher: It was a complete surprise. In February 2020, I was contacted by a representative of the committee. There is no application or recommendation process. When they reached out, I thought I was on one of those TV shows, like I was being “Punk’d.” I sent them my biography and they contacted me in March to let me know that I was going to be one of the three judges. There was no parade in 2021 because of COVID, so I will be one of the judges this year.

Milton: Have you ever attended the parade before?

Gallagher: This will be my first time attending the parade. I have never worked on the floats before, but I always watch the parade. We’ve had a speaker that has worked on the parade come in to talk to students about the experience.

Milton: What will your judging experience be like?

Gallagher: It will be very secretive. I will have two people with me at all times and carry around a binder. No photos of the floats will be allowed before the parade. I will be very professional at all times and show no favoritism. I fly out on Dec. 28 and will have orientation and training. I’ll spend a couple of days evaluating the floats, and my husband and I will attend the president’s ball, parade and football game.

Milton: What is some of your background in the floral industry?

Gallagher: I have been involved with floral design for 34 years and have been a horticultural instructor at Kishwaukee College for 16 years. I am also the founder and CEO of Designs by Janet, a special events floral company. ... This year’s parade theme focuses on education. The theme is “Dream. Believe. Achieve.” I think it’s really fitting for me to be a judge as an educator.

Milton: What are you looking forward to the most?

Gallagher: I’m excited to see the scale and size of the parade floats and the variety and quantity of flowers. I look forward to seeing all of the creativity. Every float will be different, and I can’t wait to see how each team interprets the parade’s theme. I’m also really excited to represent Kishwaukee College and Malta. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Katrina Milton

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.