Rose Parade floats, food, and friendship at annual self-built potluck

Photo: Sierra Madre float barn displays name signs from award-winning floats

Updated April 30, 2019 to add Sierra Madre Rose Float Association

by Laura Berthold Monteros

When the six self-built float organizations meet for the annual get-together and potluck, the talk isn’t of beating the others out for Rose Parade trophies. It’s a time to reveal designs for floats in the upcoming Rose Parade that have been approved by the Tournament of Roses, as well as a place for camaraderie among a rare breed of peopl who still build their own flower-covered floats to represent their communities. Ideas, techniques, and food—plenty of it and all delicious—are shared.

The Rose Examiner attended last Saturday’s event, hosted by Sierra Madre Rose Float Association in their float barn in Sierra Vista Park. All six associations had representatives there: Burbank Tournament of Roses Association, Cal Poly Universities Rose Float, Downey Rose Float Association, La Cañada Flintridge Rose Float Association, South Pasadena Rose Float Association, and of course Sierra Madre. The Cal Poly team was represented by alumni, because it was the weekend for students from both Pomona and San Luis Obispo to get together and plan for the parade.

The theme for the 131st Tournament of Roses is “The Power of Hope.” Each float entry must reflect that in some way. The designs, chosen from among scores of submissions, are presented to the Tournament of Roses for approval on theme draft day in February.

Self-built floats are usually humorous, though Downey often creates scenes simply for the beauty, such as 2016’s “Exploring the Everglades.” The 2020 float, “Wings of Hope,” features orgami cranes flying over a Japanese garden. The concept was inspired by a project at East Middle School that, like the students in Sadako and the Thousand Cranes, had a goal of folding 1,000 paper cranes to be given to patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Burbank also has a more serious theme this year. “Rise Up” depicts a phoenix rising from the ashes, a reminder of the fires that tore through areas of Northern California last year. President Ginny Barnett said she had friends in the almost completely destroyed city of Paradise. The phoenix represents the hope those caught up in the fires have for the future. She said this design is unusual for a Burbank float, which is usually about fun.

The 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage will be honored by South Pasadena with “Victory at Last.” The victory was the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. A gigantic straw hat decorated with feathers, flowers, and a campaign button dominates the float in a star-spangled celebration of a watershed event in American history.

“We’re trying to be as non-political as possible,” the presenter said. The Rose Examiner hopes that votes for women is no longer a political issue!

La Cañada Flintridge, whose floats are always highly animated, went to the birds with “Dodo Bird Flight School.” Penguins and an emu are also enrolled, but it’s doubtful they will have much success launching off the giant blimp. The emu, strapped to a da Vinci screw on a satellite float, may have the best shot.

Sierra Madre had a model of their float, “Ka La Hiki Ola” (The Dawning of a New Day) on display and will produce the rendering later. There will be a waterfall at the rear, and lots of tikis, and birds rising off the float.

The design draft for Cal Poly Universities was not yet ready, but we look forward to seeing it in the future. Visit All Things Rose Parade on Facebook to get updates on the Tournament of Roses.

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Floral Design award winners in the 2018 Rose Parade

City of Hope has been transforming the future of health since 1913, through research, prevention, and treatment. The float depicts one of the Wishing Trees on campus, with notes of hope fluttering from the branches. It won the coveted Isabella Coleman Award.

 

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Since the foundation of the Tournament of Roses Parade is flower-covered floats, it may seem odd that in the new system of float awards there is a specific category for Floral Design. The floats that take home awards in this category display the most effective, beautiful, creative, and bountiful use of fresh botanical materials. One of the most prestigious awards, the Isabella Coleman, is in this category.

The winners in the 2018 Rose Parade are listed in the table below, and descriptions of flowering and animation are in the captions in the photo gallery. It’s a large gallery, but the floats are well worth the clicks.

Some interesting notes on a few of the floats:

City of Hope rider Daniel Bliley began donating platelets on his 18th birthday in memory of his mother, who died of leukemia when Daniel was 8. Fifteen years later, he has donated 200 times. Read more about this young man on the City of Hope website.

United Sikh Mission is a Southern California nonprofit founded by Rashpal Singh in 2006 to benefit the poor in rural Punjab. One of the major efforts is providing eye clinics. The dedication to service is foundational to Sikhism, which can be seen in this depiction of the Golden Temple kitchen (langar) which feeds 100,000 people a day. The Leishman Public Spirit Award, the organization’s first, is well-deserved.

A sapling from one of Hiroshima’s A-bomb survivor trees was on the Rotary float and slated to be planted in one Rotary’s Peace Gardens.

More than 97 percent of the flowers on the Cal Poly Universities float were grown in the State of California, which garnered them California Grown certification for the seventh year; the only Rose Parade float to do so. Masses of fresh flowers included 10,000 roses, 10,000 gerbera, 12,000 chrysanthemums, 12,000 button and cushion mums, and 1,000 irises.

Taiwan-based China Airlines signed the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce Buckingham Palace Declaration in 2017. The airline has pledged to not transport illegal wildlife and related products.

 

2018 FLORAL DESIGN CATEGORY
Award Sponsor “Theme” Builder, Designer
President Award for most outstanding use and presentation of flowers Western Asset Management Company “Oceans of Possibility” Phoenix Decorating Company, Michelle Lofthouse
Isabella Coleman Award for most outstanding presentation of color harmony through floral design City of Hope “Transforming Lives with Hope” Phoenix Decorating Company, Michelle Lofthouse
Queen Award for most outstanding presentation of roses Downey Rose Float Association “Working Together” Self Built, Jeff Shadic, Jason Redfox, Thom Neighbors
Leishman Public Spirit Award for most outstanding floral design and display from a non-commercial participant United Sikh Mission “Serving Kindness” Phoenix Decorating Company, Michelle Lofthouse
Princess Award for most floral display among entries 35 feet and under in length Rotary Rose Parade Float Committee “Planting the Seeds of Service” Phoenix Decorating Company, Michelle Lofthouse
Past President Award for most outstanding innovation in the use of floral and non-floral materials Cal Poly Universities “Dreams Take Flight” Self Built, N/A
Founder Award for most outstanding floral display built and decorated by volunteers from a community or organization Burbank Tournament of Roses Association “Sand-Sational Helpers” Self Built, Catherine Glandeon, Fred Fraleigh
International Award for most outstanding floral display among floats from outside the United States China Airlines “Caring for Our Sea” Artistic Entertainment Services, John Ramirez
Tournament Volunteer Award for most outstanding floral display of the rose parade theme among floats 35 feet and under in length Shriners Hospitals for Children “Caring for Kids Around the World” Phoenix Decorating Company, Cynthia McMinimy

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Burgers and camaraderie at self-built float picnic

Cal Poly Pomona 2019 float team, L-R: Elizabeth Meyer, Nathan Muro, Stephanie Ferreya, Hana Haideri, Caitlin Yaneza, Wolfgang Breitenbach

by Laura Berthold Monteros

One might think that there would be a good deal of competition among the associations that build their own floats for the Tournament of Roses Parade. Indeed there is, but it’s all good-natured. Once a year, they get together for a picnic or potluck at one of the float sites to reveal the designs for the upcoming parade, talk shop, and share information. Your Rose Examiner dropped by the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Assn. build site on Saturday to chat with some of the folks and glimpse the design sketches for the 2019 parade.

The floats will end up looking a good deal like the sketches, but there will be tweaks along the way, some by the builders as they work on structural and floral elements and some from the TOR Float Committee. With the theme being “The Melody of Life,” there’s an emphasis on incorporating musical elements in each entry. In the case of Sierra Madre Rose Float Assn., acceptance of the design was contingent on adding an instrument to the float. The team added a koto player to “Harmony’s Garden,” a depiction of the Japanese Garden on the grounds of Sierra Madre Elementary School.

Check out the photos below!

Five of the six self-built associations were at the picnic—SPTOR, Burbank Tournament of Roses Assn., La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn., SMRFA, and Cal Poly Pomona—which form a sort of necklace along the foothills. The remaining builder is Downey Rose Float Assn., which is further south. San Luis Obispo, the northern half of the Cal Poly Universities Rose Float, gets together with the Pomona when it rolls down in October.

We met Janetta Mcdowell, the Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float Director, and spoke with six of the students who are on the team this year. Despite all the hours they put in, they get no academic credit. “It’s a club, not a class,” they said. During crunch time towards the end of the year, they will be joined by other volunteers. Here’s a little about the students in the photo above.

  • Elizabeth Meyer is working on the float for her second year, last year as a volunteer and this year as a team member. She works on the hydraulics, a messy job but one that is redolent with the scents of childhood spent with her mechanical grandfather. She’s studying mechanical engineering and working on the float is her senior project.
  • Nathan Muro volunteered for a year before joining the float team two years ago. He is the design committee chair and is majoring in electrical engineering.
  • Stephanie Ferreya is an assistant chair of the design committee and is in her second year on the float. She majors in biology.
  • Hana Haideri is an electrical engineering major; this is her second year on the float team after volunteering for a year.
  • Caitlin Yaneza works on the electronics on the float as part of the construction team. This is her second year on the team. She is a psychology major.
  • Wolfgang Breitenbach is on the team for the first year. His choice was the deco committee, which handles the floral design. His major is manufacturing engineering, which he simplified for us by saying that it about automation and assembly lines.

Cal Poly Universities are known for engineering and agriculture, so we asked if anyone was an agriculture major. The head of the decorating committee, which is in charge of ensuring that floral and botanical choices are made, fulfilled, and get on the float, is an ag major, we were told.

The all-volunteer associations are very proud that they give the professional builders a run for their money. One of the Burbank volunteers noted that the only trophy designated for self-builts is the Founder Award, but in recent years, self-builts have frequently taken four or five trophies overall. In 2016, all six groups won awards. For long-time Rose Parade aficionados, the self-builts are the heart of the parade. It will be exciting to see how they fare in 2019.

Documentary ‘Float’ chronicles Burbank’s entry from concept to Colorado Blvd.

Usually I’m on the button side of the camera. Yesterday, I was the subject.

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Karl Preusser

It was a beautiful, move-to-California day at Tournament House yesterday, where I had the pleasure of being interviewed by composer and filmmaker Karl Preusser (behind the camera at left) for a documentary. Float is the story of how a self-built Rose Parade float gets from design to deconstruct, focusing on Burbank Tournament of Roses Association. Preusser and his wife have volunteered with BTORA for seven years, and he has recently moved up from the flower cage to learning welding. His wife served one year as decorating chair, a job that requires estimating and rounding up the botanical materials for a float.

Preusser had originally thought to do a sort of reality show, but he soon discovered that there is more camaraderie than conflict among the builders, which doesn’t make for a lot of drama. Competition for the float awards is tempered by the attitude that everyone, professional companies and self-built associations alike, have a shared goal of putting on a beautiful and entertaining parade. In many ways, the Rose Parade is still a hometown event.

Our conversation ranged over the history of the Tournament of Roses to the differences among various builders, the accommodations locals are willing to make to support the Rose Parade, and why it is such a special event. I like to talk, so it went on a couple hours, and I don’t envy Preusser the job of editing it down to a few minutes. His aim is to get the film ready to submit to the Sundance Film Festival by August. My piece was one of the last to fit in.

I don’t know that I had much original information, but I can opine on of what it is that makes the Rose Parade so exceptional, so enticing to 80 million viewers around the world and 700,000 along the parade route. When I interviewed R. Scott Jenkins, president of the 2014 Tournament of Roses, he talked about the Macy’s Parade and the huge balloons and Broadway acts. “What makes us unique in my view is floral-covered floats….That’s what puts us on the map.” I responded, “It’s that the Rose Parade has a soul.”

 

Self-built floats are entries that are designed and built entirely by volunteer organizations, or in the case of Cal Poly Universities, schools. Here are the six organizations that grace the Rose Parade every year:

Self-builders share picnic goodies and 2018 float renderings

At the annual Self-Built Floats picnic on May 6, 2017, folks huddled under canopies to nosh on burgers and potluck.

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Self-Built float associations may compete for trophies in the Tournament of Roses Parade, but there is a lot of camaraderie and mutual aid among the volunteers and students who build the entries. Of the 40 to 45 flower-covered floats, all but six are built by professional float companies. The six associations take turns hosting an annual potluck get-together to display the renderings and share stories. The Rose Examiner was honored to attend today’s event, in anticipation of the 129th Rose Parade to be held on Jan. 1, 2018.

La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association hosted barbecue at Los Angeles County Fire Camp 2, a training facility tucked between the Jet Propulsion Lab and Hahamongna Watershed Park. Tables were filled with potluck sides and desserts while LCFTRA volunteers grilled burgers and hot dogs. A fragrant log fire warmed our hands in the steady rain. It was the end of a typical spring week in Southern California, which saw sunny 90-degree-plus days in the first half of the week drop to 60 degrees for the weekend.

The six self-builders are Burbank Tournament of Roses Association, Cal Poly Universities, Downey Rose Float Association, La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association, Sierra Madre Rose Float Association, and South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association. DRFA and SPTORA were unable to make picnic, but we have photos of the rest.