For the first time in SF's Chinese New Year Parade's 29-year history, a woman is in charge

The annual Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco is just days away, but this year, there are some noticeable changes.

The last minute push to get all the floats built is on at Pier 54 and for the first time in the parade's 29-year history, a woman is in charge.

The sounds of a staple gun and a power drill are the opening chord of a symphony of float making. 

"I have a perfectionist personality. I like to make things better and better. When I see things that can be fixed, I go over there and tweak it," said Stephanie Mufson, master float builder who's in charge of the whole operation.

The 36-year-old is taking the helm for the first time in charge of making 20 floats for the Chinese New Year parade— the first woman to do so.

She has been helping to build floats for the parade for 10 years.

"Really enjoying designing that one," as Mufson pointed to one float that featured a moon made of foam, It's been fun watching it come to life. It's very whimsical, very playful modern and contemporary."

She brings a new twist to the design and artwork.

"I'm a modern woman and there's a modern sensibility to them," said Mufson.

With a degree in fine arts, the Connecticut native now builds floats year round for all the major parades in San Francisco including Pride.

"My degree was in general fine arts so I studied painting and sculpture and woodworking and fiber. All of that gets used with what we do here,” she said.

However, she said she's still fighting stereotypes.

"I get comments on me being a woman in a business like this all the time. I had a man at Lowe's tell me I shouldn't lift any lumber because I might break a nail. Little did he know I didn't have any nails to break," said Mufson.

Her crew members say she inspires them to improve on their craft, leading them on a journey of building new floats to honor the year of the monkey.

"I've got some muscles now. I started working here. I got this wood and I can't move anything.
And now, I'm working with the guys, pushing and moving floats," said Michelle Pamintuan, a painter and foam sculptor.

Mufson's vision includes creative uses of color and more intricate floats.

"This wheel rotates these characters bounce around," said Shane Grogg, a crew member.

The floats are all designed to captivate the audience

Grogg says the most rewarding part is the last push. "Putting in all the final touches, seeing it all come together and being in the parade and watching everybody react to it."

"I feel privileged to honor all of those people, where they come from and what's gone through history," said Mufson.

She says work on the floats started three months ago. She hopes to have all of them done by Thursday.
The parade is Saturday.