Burbank and Sikh American floats had stories to tell in the 2020 Rose Parade

by Laura Berthold Monteros

For The Rose Examiner, the week between Boxing Day and the Showcase of Floats is packed with preparations for the Tournament of Roses Parade and visits to the barns to see the floats in the final stages. We especially like being able to talk to some of the people who are working on the floats.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a couple weeks since we spoke with folks during Deco Week. We had conversations with Linda Cozakos and Erik C. Andersen at Burbank Tournament of Roses Association, and Harry Gill and Maninder Minu Singh, creative director of the Sikh American Float Foundation, in the Phoenix Decorating Company barn.

Be sure to check out the photos in the gallery below for the two floats in progress

Burbank “Rise Up”

Erik C. Andersen and Linda Cozakos explain the various choices of botanicals for the beak of the phoenix on “Rise Up.”

Burbank’s 88th Rose Parade entry won the Leishman Public Spirit Award for most outstanding floral design and display from a non-commercial participant. In keeping with the parade theme “The Power of Hope,” the float depicted a giant phoenix being reborn from the ashes of the 8,527 wildfires that destroyed 1,893,913 acres of homes, businesses, farmland, and wildland in California 2018. A waterfall in front, surrounded by lush vegetation, offered hope that the land will be renewed.

Named “Paradise” in honor of the town that was nearly wiped out in the Camp Fire—two of designer Lisa Long’s nephews battled the fire there—the bird’s body rose and fell and head turned side to side. In a first for Burbank, three fireballs shot out of the tail feathers.

We talked to Cozakos and Andersen about the florals used for the colors and textures on the phoenix. Floral decorators always keep an eye out for new materials or ways to use old ones, and the beak of the bird had a rather unusual choice.

Cozakos said the frilly acorn caps lining the top of the beak can only be found in Griffith Park on one particular tree. One of the members of BTORA discovered them and has returned to collect them as needed. Mustard seed, fava beans, dried mango, and two purple potatoes for nostrils completed the beak, with vermilion Chinese lanterns around the eyes.

The feathers on the face and body were whole magnolia leaves and palm leaves that had been torn into thin strips. The leaves were covered with ground yellow and orange marigolds, sumac, and paprika to simulate the fiery colors of the phoenix.

Remembering a different kind of tragedy, roses with the names of the Saugus High School shooting victims attached were on the float, as well as dried agapanthus from the school. The roses will be returned to the parents after the parade.

Sikh American “Planting Seeds of Hope”

Harry Gill and Minu Singh stand before the Sikh American float.

The theme of the Sikh American float was realized with a fanciful garden and rotating carousel filled with children of various ethnicities. Through selfless service to humanity with love, respect, compassion, and humility, Sikhs hope to nurture an environment in which children can grow and thrive.

A sculpture of  Bhai Ghaneya Singh sat at the front, pouring water out of a leather bag. Bhai Ghaneya was a compassionate man who carried water to the troops in the 1704 war of Anandpur Sahib. Harry Gill told us the story behind the image.

Bhai Ghaneya gave water to both the Sikhs and their Mughal enemies, thus planting seeds of love. For this, he was brought before Guru Gobind Singh. Bhai Ghaneya’s defense was “I see God in every one of them.” The Guru replied, “Give everyone water and also apply medicine on their wounds,” Gill said. “He’s the forerunner of the Red Cross, more than 300 years ago.”

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, said “there is only one God of the whole world; the same light shines in every person,” Gill said, regardless of color, creed, or gender. “Even emperors are born of women.”

Award winning-floats in the 2020 Tournament of Roses Parade

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