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.

Conversations in the Rose Parade float barns

by Laura Berthold Monteros

We dropped into a couple float barns this week to get a look at the floats in their final stages. First was the new spacious and bright headquarters of Phoenix Decorating Company in Irwindale. Man-of-many-hats Chuck Hayes introduced us to assistant volunteer coordinator Jay DeCastro, who has worked for float companies since 1986, and Maryann Griffin who told us she “absolutely loves” being around people and ensuring they are welcome.

The next day, we went to Rosemont Pavilion in Pasadena, which has been used by many float builders over the years. This year, Paradiso Parade Floats and Cal Poly Universities drove their entries from the far east San Gabriel Valley to finish up the floral on their floats. The cars that will carry the dignitaries are being decorated there, too; more on that to come.

In the Phoenix Decorating Company barn

Laura Farber

Laura Farber, who will have her turn as president of the Tournament of Roses in 2020 greeted us by the Theme Banner float. Asked if she was preparing for the 131st Rose Parade, she said, “Yeah. That’s what we do!” She has her theme (big secret) and has a list of potential Grand Marshals (bigger secret). “We have an eight-year build-up,” she said, referring to the Tournament’s executive committee ladder, from vice president to secretary, treasurer, executive vice president, and finally president.

“The last four years go by super quickly,” she said, adding that she’s getting ready early because she is an “excessive planner.” She said it will be fun to do the job from a different perspective as the third woman president and first Latina.

“We’re trying to expand outreach to the global community…. We’re talking to people Continue reading “Conversations in the Rose Parade float barns”

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.

California Grown celebrates the Golden State in the Rose Parade

by Laura Berthold Monteros

It was 2011 when we first wrote about the California Grown credential awarded by the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC). The California Clock Company contacted us about their 2012 Rose Parade float celebrating their 80th anniversary and their most famous product, the ubiquitous Kit-Cat clock. They insisted on floral materials that were grown in California, and along with Cal Poly Universities, achieved California Grown status. In order to be certified, 85 percent of the floral materials on an entry must be grown in the Golden State.

By 2017, three floats and the Tournament of Roses vehicles carrying Rose Parade honorees, received certification, despite the years-long drought that plagued California agriculture until early 2017. The floats were Miracle-Gro “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” Cal Poly Universities “A New Leaf,” and California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) “Legacy of Generations.” We were able to attend the ceremonies at Fiesta Parade Floats for Miracle-Gro and CMAB, but there are photos of all the honorees below, along with links to more extensive articles on the Tournament of Roses entries.

At the ceremony on Jan. 1, 2017 at Fiesta, Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Continue reading “California Grown celebrates the Golden State in the Rose Parade”