By Angela Mennecke
Kimberly Oldis developed her floral design skills at College of DuPage, launching a career that would lead her to serve as a judge in the 130th Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, on New Year’s Day.
Only three judges are selected each year to grant awards to the dozens of floats in a parade that has a national viewership of 44 million, as estimated by the Tournament of Roses.
“I can’t really put my feelings into words,” Oldis said. “This is a lifelong dream coming true.”
Oldis got her start studying ornamental horticulture at College of DuPage in 1975. While studying at COD, she did her co-op at Hinsdale Floral Shop, gaining real-world experience in not only floral design but business.
“COD was the perfect place for me,” Oldis said. “With the guidance of my professors and desire to be in the horticulture field, I was able to utilize the skills I learned in the classroom by gaining experience in floral design."
After completing her horticulture studies at COD, equipped with confidence and an array of skill sets, Oldis opened her floral shop, Kimberly's, in 1986 in downtown Glen Ellyn that became a staple in the community for 16 years.
Oldis never steered too far away from the College, coming back to teach advanced floral design in 2001 after retired Horticulture Program Coordinator Judy Burgholzer called her and said that students would benefit from her expertise.
“While I left COD as a student, I never stopped staying connected to the COD community,” Oldis said. “I would have COD students work at my floral shop as interns, and horticulture classes would visit my floral shop to see first-hand how a business was run.”
While Oldis closed her floral shop in 2000, she continued to stay active with the American Institute of Floral Designers and now works as a freelance floral design consultant in her new hometown of LaConner, Washington.
Doors opened for Oldis through her AIFD accreditation and volunteer service to the floral community, including her involvement with Charisma Floats, which included designing Rose Parade floats from 2005 to 2010. Through Charisma, she also had the privilege to be on the floral design team at the Academy Awards for four years. Kim was invited to design for the 2004 Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. and was also invited to design for the 2015 Fall Festival at the White House.
“After leaving Glen Ellyn, my floral design aspirations didn’t stop,” she said. “Joining the North West AIFD chapter was a catalyst for me. I’ve been able to network with other professionals in the floral industry, and new opportunities seem to open up for me, including this one as a Rose Parade float judge.”
As Oldis prepares to make the journey to California to judge one of the largest floral design competitions in the world, she says she can’t help but reflect back to where she got her roots.
“The elements and principles of design that I was taught at College of DuPage through floral classes were instrumental in my successes,” she said. “From the floral shop to designing to teaching, COD has been my foundation.”
Oldis finds her way back to Glen Ellyn every three years to redecorate the Village’s Christmas tree that stands tall in the center of downtown during the holiday season. Since 2007, Oldis has been the Village’s Christmas tree decorator—and she has no plans to retire her duties.
“Glen Ellyn is where I started and will always hold a special place in my heart. Glen Ellyn will always be home.”
Photo caption: Kimberly Oldis works on the Cal Poly float for the Rose Parade in 2013 while working for Charisma Floats.