Wingspan

Volunteers help assemble their parade float, known as “The Betsy Ross,” on Saturday at Robson Ranch in Denton. More than 30 neighbors calling themselves “The West Wingers” built the float for the development’s Fourth of July parade.

This Fourth of July, spectators at Robson Ranch’s parade will have the chance to see a 3D eagle built with wood, Styrofoam and PVC pipes ride through with other floats.

About 30 members and one dog of Robson Ranch community stood back and watched Saturday morning as some of their own took the newly made float on a test drive. The float, called “The Betsy Ross,” is set to appear in the southwest Denton senior community’s annual parade, which travels along Robson Ranch Boulevard starting at 9 a.m. July 4.

“[This] was such a community effort,” said Mary Morse, the float designer. “It was just one of those neat things where everybody participated.”

Half a year of work planning, designing, building and decorating brought together the residents who live near the 12000 block of Brant Way.

The Betsy Ross features a large eagle with movable wings, with a wingspan of about 20 feet. The eagle has a brown body with wings of red, white and blue, covered in about 12,000 pieces of thin plastic, cut from rolls of table covers.

The float’s trailer has “United We Stand” on both sides and is also covered in patriotic colors. A flag on the truck that pulls the float reads “The West Wingers” and includes the names of some birds — the names of some streets where volunteers live in Robson Ranch.

Plans for the parade float were first out in the open in January, Morse said. This is the first time she has ever designed something like this.

Originally, no one wanted to do it, but someone suggested she design the parade float during a group breakfast. Morse said she would do it but she would make the float “country” — the eagle would have boots and it would carry a gun.

Putting it together

Float designer Mary Morse assembles a Fourth of July parade float named “The Betsy Ross” on Saturday. The eagle, whose wings move up and down, is decorated with more than 12,000 plastic tablecloth squares stuffed into chicken wire.

“I sat down for two hours [one day] and drew an eagle,” Morse said. “This is what I saw in my head that morning. It just popped into my head.”

Although the eagle on the float doesn’t carry a firearm, Morse represented her West Texas roots in the eagle’s boots. The boots have the state’s flag painted on it and spinning, golden-colored spurs.

Morse is a mathematician, so she was able to get the dimensions of the eagle just right — with no adjustments needed.

After the designs were ready, Mike Slusher got to work building the eagle’s body in April. Slusher said he’s worked on a lot of parade floats in the past in Grapevine.

“I built the wings out of PVC pipe — I heated up and formed the shape of the wings, and then I did the air hydraulics inside to prove that we can run [the wings] up and down and then just built off of that,” Slusher said.

During the building process, he had to switch from household-type pulleys to industrial ones so the eagle could stay together as the wings moved. Morse said some of the materials came from her and Slusher’s garages as well as scrap wood from construction sites.

Although it was Morse and Slusher who designed and built the float, Slusher’s wife, Janet, coordinated about a hundred more volunteers to help in shifts to decorate the Betsy Ross.

She coordinated times and shifts for people to work on the float in any way they could, with most helping cut the plastic sheeting that gives the eagle its colors. It took about two hours one day to get that done.

The Betsy Ross

Float makers perform a test run of their Fourth of July parade entry, named “The Betsy Ross,” on Saturday at Robson Ranch in Denton. More than 30 neighbors calling themselves “The West Wingers” built the float for the development’s annual Fourth of July parade.

While the volunteers didn’t want to risk moving the eagle’s wings during Saturday’s test drive, they still took it for a spin through their neighborhood for about 15 minutes. When they got back, Morse happily declared that nothing fell off.

“We didn’t lose anything,” she said. “It all stayed. It didn’t bounce. It didn’t rock.”

While Morse and others went out for a spin, most of the volunteers that day stayed behind talking about the float and everyday things. Morse’s dog, Adobe, calmly walked around the driveway.

Susan Supak, another volunteer, said the float design shows the love the volunteers have for their community as well as for their country.

“This has been a real community involvement,” Supak said.

Morse said preparing the float was a way to get everyone in their subdivision together.

“This is a new subdivision [of Robson Ranch],” Morse said. “People got to come to my garage and help and meet their neighbors and have fun. It kind of brought the community together.”

ZAIRA PEREZ can be reached via Twitter at @zairalperez.

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