John Schulte emailed The Rose Examiner to give an update on the fire that stalled the Chinese American Heritage Foundation float, “Harmony Through Union,” at the start of the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade. Schulte is one of the directors of the float, and his daughter, Blythe Abigail Su-Ren Schulte wrote and sang the theme song.
Schulte writes, “Since it’s been a month, I felt it was time to shed light on some of the folks who were involved in helping to safely resolve the fire that erupted inside the float — most specifically, John Strube, our driver.”
He included a link to an article he wrote, which is studded with shots of the float and riders. An additional link at the end of the article connects to more photos and background information on the riders, many of whom are descendants of the original Transcontinental Railroad workers.
After the fire, the Chinese American Heritage Foundation float was towed the length of the 2019 Rose Parade, still looking beautiful. Photo copyright LB Monteros 2019
Fire due to transmission fluid spray
All riders were safely evacuated
Fiesta Parade Floats president Tim Estes tells what happened
by Laura Berthold Monteros
Like the sturdy immigrants the Chinese American Heritage Foundation (CAHF) float honored, “Harmony Through Union” made it down the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade route on Tuesday, despite initial difficulties. The float celebrated the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Rose Examiner communicated with Fiesta Parade Floats president Tim Estes to get details on what happened when the 90-foot float, designed by Mike Abboud, had a fiery mishap.
When unexpected things happen, minutes twist around in a timey-wimey way. Sometimes it takes photos and time stamps to put things right. Using our photos, here is how I saw it from the scaffolding on the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado.
Descriptions are in the photo captions in the gallery below.
The float, moving north on Orange Grove Blvd. at 9:42, had just crossed Green St., one block before the turn onto Colorado Blvd. The smokestacks on the locomotives were emitting steam. Thirty seconds later, photos show a small puff of smoke on the right side, at the same time that colorful streamers were shot into the air.
I was not in a position to see flames, but Estes confirmed reports that there was a small fire, caused by a spray of transmission fluid from a fitting. There was a lot of smoke. Tournament of Roses quickly ran to the float, the riders and outwalkers evacuated, and no one was injured. Evacuation of the 26 riders took approximately 40 seconds. From first puff to dissipation of the smoke was nearly four minutes. [Note: TRE originally reported 10 riders; updated to 26 per a reader.]
All floats have fire extinguishers, which the driver, observer, and other personnel on the float can quickly grab. During technical tests, there are practice fire drills. Riders must be able to climb to the ground from the float in no more than 45 seconds. All floats have tow bars that slide into a compartment under the float.
Response from Tim Estes to The Rose Examiner
I contacted Estes via email on Wednesday with a few questions and requests for clarification. He quickly responded, tempering his comments with the caveat that the investigation is in its early stages and he does not want to speculate on unknowns. He wrote,
“Have done some preliminary investigation along with the Tournament of Roses mechanical inspectors, so do not have a full report to make until we get more time to check things out. This will occur when the Tournament of Roses Inspectors can be attending/participating in our joint investigation. We will focus on two items:
1. To the best of our joint effort, come to a joint conclusion on what occurred to the best of joint abilities.
2. Based on our joint conclusion, determine if any new procedures should occur to avoid a reoccurrence on any float that is in the Rose Parade.”
I asked him about some of the scuttlebutt I had heard. My queries (in regular type) and his responses (in bold) are lightly edited for clarity.
A white suiter told me the hydraulic line broke, so the float lost brakes and steering. No hydraulic line broke. The float never lost brakes or steering.
I also read it was a transmission fluid leak. The transmission itself did not leak and no transmission lines broke. It preliminarily appears that a mist of transmission fluid sprayed from a fitting on the external transmission cooler appeared to land on the exhaust pipe and created the smoke, but we will further check this out over the next few days.
There was a small fire, which I didn’t see, due to the smoke. Everyone got off the float safely. Yes that occurred and glad no one got hurt.
The tow truck couldn’t tow the float. The tow truck from Jan’s Towing towed the entire, intact float, to the post parade area to be on display along with all of the other floats.
The second part of the float was hinged to the first and did not have a separate tow bar. The second part of the float was connected to the first part of the float with a tow hitch, just like a truck towing a big RV trailer. Since the second part of the float was connected to the first part of the float with a tow hitch, it would not have a tow bar required.
The float building only began two weeks ago. This had zero impact on what occurred. The float was built on the float chassis that was inspected by the Tournament of Rose Mechanical inspectors on Oct. 13. They inspect numerous items which include the engine, transmission and brakes. There was nothing indicated on the inspection report of anything wrong with the engine, transmission or transmission oil cooler. As parts of the float got built, they were installed on the pre-inspected float chassis.
There were some problems getting it built. I had no problems building the float. I find it interesting that no one spoke to me or asked me any questions on the construction of the float. Instead it appears that people not in the know are making up comments or are speculating/guessing.
I also posed some questions of my own.
How much did this float weigh? When I was at Fiesta on Friday, it looked to me like it had a lot of heavy steel framing, but Fiesta has built floats for Joey Herrick that had to be much heavier. The float weighed approximately 45,000 pounds which is about the weight of an average float and the float had 12 wheels. The dog surfing float we did and will recall, weighed in at 142,000 pounds and had 26 wheels. Over my many years, I have built dozen of floats that have weighed more than 45,000 pounds.
How many tow trucks were needed? One tow truck towed the float to the Post Parade viewing area. It was from Jan’s Towing and I want to go on record that they did a great job and the driver (Steve) was great in his operation of his tow truck!
Usually, when a float breaks down, it is quickly towed to the side to allow other units to pass. The CAHF float was not as easy to move as a smaller, one-part float. The trailing half was jackknifed, perhaps to make more room. Once the area was cleared and it was safe to proceed, the units began coming through, though not in program order.
The first was, ironically, the Gold Rush Fire Brigade, which had been slotted in behind the CAHF entry. Next came the Lincoln-Way Marching Band, but by then, it was 9:48 a.m. The broadcast of the parade must end at precisely 10 a.m., so the Tournament gave the go-ahead to the Wells Fargo closing show. Wells Fargo is a long-time presenting sponsor of the Tournament of Roses.
Coming up behind, in order, were South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association “Three Little Birds,” DigAlert “Making It Safe for All,” and the Royal Swedish Cadet Band. These three entries did not make it into the national broadcast, but readers can see them on KTLA.com. There doesn’t seem to be footage of the CAHF float; if a reader has access to video, please email me at LauraBMonteros@theroseexaminer.com
Several readers asked if there will be a fine for Fiesta Parade Floats. The Tournament does levy fines for breakdowns, from $10,000 to $80,000. Estes addresses it in this article by Tracy Bloom of KTLA.
This article focusing on an unhappy incident cannot do justice to this beautiful float and the rich history it commemorates. The Rose Examiner will follow up with those details in a later article.
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The Tournament of Roses announced the winners of the 24 float awards for the 2019 Rose Parade to the media at shortly after 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. The chart of winners is below, but here are some observations before you peruse it.
Sweepstakes was won by The UPS Store, with a giant, toe-dancing ostrich. It brings the trophy back to Fiesta Parade Floats, after Paradiso Parade Floats took it home last year. It’s fitting that though Paradiso is no more, former owner Charles Meier was the designer for The UPS Store. His company was the first one in more than two decades to break Fiesta’s Sweepstakes streak with floats sponsored by Singpoli in 2016 and 2018.
Once again, Meier turned in a hundred-percent win percentage, with The UPS Store (Sweepstakes), Donate Life (Judges), and Easterseals (Leishman Public Spirit) floats. His designs were built by Fiesta Parade Floats.
Fitting also was the Theme award going to Shriners Hospitals for Children “Fezzy’s Garden of Hope and Healing.” Tournament Pres. Gerald Freeny chose the theme “The Melody of Life,” because through his health struggles and two transplants, music had brought him healing. That, and because his wife and daughter insisted on it.
A word on the International award: Readers may recall that The Rose Examiner has sometimes carped about this award, because there is usually only one float competing, China Airlines. This year, however, the float was so spectacular in design and entertainment, with dancers and drummers and brilliant florals, that is not only deserves the International award, but surely would have won an award in any case.
FTD is the official floral partner of the Tournament of Roses. The judges were Preston Bailey (who designed the new Royal Court float), Michael E. Berry, and Kimberly Oldis.
Here are the award totals: Fiesta Parade Floats, 9; Phoenix Decorating Company, 8; AES, 2; self-built, 5 (out of six organizations). The designer with the most wins was Michelle Lofthouse with 6 of 10 competing designs. Meier had the highest percentage.
2019 FLOAT AWARDS PRESENTED BY FTD
Most beautiful entry: encompassing float design, floral presentation and entertainment
The UPS Store, Inc.
Books Keep Us On Our Toes
Most outstanding depiction of national treasures and traditions
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day
Most outstanding use of animation
Burbank Tournament of Roses Association
Stompin’ Good Time
Bob Hope Humor
Most whimsical and amusing float
Spend Your Life Living
Crown City Innovator
Most outstanding use of imagination, innovation and technology
Trader Joe’s Company
Ride Captain Ride
Most outstanding artistic design and use of floral and non-floral
Sierra Madre Rose Float Association
Most extraordinary float
Cal Poly Universities
Far Out Frequencies
Most outstanding display of fantasy and imagination
Western Asset Management Company
Most outstanding float built and decorated by volunteers from a
community or organization
La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses
Tree Frog Night!
Most outstanding depiction of life in California
Big Bear Rose Parade Association
Most outstanding creative concept and float design
Stella Rosa Wines
Taste The Magic featuring
Kool & The Gang
Most outstanding float from outside the United States
Rhythm of Taiwan
Most outstanding presentation of color and color harmony through
United Sikh Mission
A Divine Melody Resonates In
Most outstanding float design and dramatic impact
Rhythm of the Heart
Leishman Public Spirit
Most outstanding floral presentation from a non-commercial
Celebrating Easterseals 100
Years of Disability Services
Most outstanding float from a participating city
South Pasadena Tournament of Roses
Three Little Birds
Most outstanding innovation in the use of floral and non-floral materials
Underground Service Alert of Southern
Most outstanding use and presentation of flowers
City of Hope
Harmony of Hope
Most outstanding floral presentation among entries 35 feet and under
City of Alhambra
Home Tweet Home
Most outstanding presentation of roses
Farmers Insurance Group
A Carousel of Experience
Most outstanding display of showmanship and entertainment
Universal Pictures & Dreamworks Animation presents How To Train Your Dragon
How to Train Your Dragon – The Hidden World
Most outstanding presentation of the Rose Parade Theme
Shriners Hospitals for Children
Fezzy’s Garden of Hope and
Most outstanding floral presentation of the Rose Parade Theme among
floats 35 feet and under in length
City of Torrance/ Torrance Rose Float
The Power of Music
Most outstanding display of floral presentation, float design and
The Rose Examiner dropped in on the three float barns last Friday and Saturday to see the progress of the creations at the commercial builders and to talk to some of the folks doing the decorating. The 130th Tournament of Roses Parade happens on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, so the decorators—almost all volunteers—were busy cutting statice, powdering rice, gluing on flowers, and filling vials.
Be sure to check out the gallery below to see the progress all those volunteers were making.
Making the rounds at Phoenix Decorating Company
Our trip started off with a bang at Phoenix Decorating Company in Irwindale. We had just walked in the door when a sound like an I-beam hitting the floor split the air. Those cavernous float barns echo, so it turned out it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. There had been a small explosion under the Trader Joe’s float. The folks at Phoenix reacted immediately, with crew chiefs hurrying the decorators off the scaffolding and away from the float.
“Go back to your floats, go back to your floats!” the other volunteers were ordered. Everyone complied, because after all, those floats had to be covered with flowers in less than four days.
We asked a man who had been waiting to work on the Kiwanis float if it was scary. “It certainly was,” he said. Another man suggested that the sulphur-scented smoke we noticed might well be just dust and glue, and we returned to our tour of the floats
At the Farmers Insurance float, “A Carousel of Experience,” we met Ryan Young, a Philadelphia transplant. He’s only been in Pasadena for a few months, and already he was fully into the experience of decorating a float.
“I didn’t realize the scale,” he said, comparing the TV version and the real thing. “It’s neat to see it coming together.”
Young works in procurement for Farmers, which is a good match for his role on the float. He said his job is to be a runner, getting whatever anyone working on the float needs.
At the United Sikh Mission float, “A Divine Melody Resonates in All,” we ran into creative director Minu Singh, whom we spoke with last year. The float features a giant rabab, which she said was the first Sikh instrument. It was used by Guru Nanak to spread his message of the oneness of all though his poems and songs.
“Everything in our holy book is music,” Singh said. “Every time we congregate, it’s about singing.” She spoke of an “eternal cosmic symphony.” “Every bit of creation is part of the symphony,” she said.
A few blocks north at Fiesta Parade Floats
We got to Fiesta Parade Floats around lunch time, and most of the volunteers were up on the floats or scaffolds so we stuck to taking pictures. We did notice that there were a couple towering humans looking down from the decks, though.
Lono, the Hawaiian god of music and peace and the deity associated with the fertile lands of the Hawaiian Islands stands at the front of “Rhythms of Paradise,” the Dole Packaged Foods float. Stella Rosa lets the genie out of the (wine) bottle with “Taste of Magic.” (Others are on the American Armenian float at Phoenix and AES’ 24 Hour Fitness float.)
“Harmony Through Union,” the first entry from the Chinese American Heritage Foundation, doesn’t have a whole human, but it does have two spectacularly huge arms, one holding a mallet and the other a golden spike to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the historic meeting of the eastern and western portions of the Transcontinental Railroad in Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869, and to celebrate the contributions of immigrants.
Previously used by Phoenix Decorating Company, Rosemont Pavilion now holds the AES floats for final decorating, as well as Cal Poly Universities and the FTD vehicle decorating. We were able to strike up a couple conversations at the floats. Check back after the Rose Parade for more about the four vehicles that will carry the celebrities in the parade.
At the Cal Poly float, “Far Out Frequencies,” we were given a California Grown sticker, which indicates that 85 percent of the floral material on the float was grown in California. Denise Godfrey was there with her daughter Emma McGregor. Their family business, Olive Hill Greenhouses, was founded by Godfrey’s parents in 1973. They have been supplying indoor plants to Cal Poly for about four years.
At the Chipotle Mexican Grill float, “Cultivate a Better World,” we found Russ Wimmer and Aida Bueno busily mixing spices to cover the float. And that is mostly what will cover the float. Wimmer told us that Chipotle insisted that only the 51 ingredients used at their restaurants can be used on the floats.
Red is created with a mixture of fresh chili pepper flakes and chili powder. The wood is brown rice instead of the usual paper bark, and juniper berries, oregano, lemon leaf, and corn husks are seen throughout the float. Baskets laid out around the deck like a vegetable stand will be filled with fresh produce. The only roses will be a red edging around the bottom and white spray roses tucked into a garland of red chili peppers. The Tournament of Roses granted a variance to allow a wheelchair lift at the back to remain uncovered.
Actor Nic Novicki led a cheer—actually, several of them—to celebrate Easterseals 100th anniversary and the Rose Parade float at Fiesta Parade Floats.
by Laura Berthold Monteros
Easterseals has aided people with disabilities for a full century and is the largest disabilities service provider in the United States. To celebrate and honor this anniversary, the organzation is sending its first-ever entry, a giant flowered birthday cake down the Rose Parade route in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1, 2019,. Last Saturday, Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) threw a party at Fiesta Parade Floats and invited Tournament of Roses Royalty to attend. Photos are below.
Nancy Weintraub, chief development officer for ESSC, said, “If there was ever a time to do one, this is now.” The 100th is a big party, and “it deserves a parade.”
Board member Mary Platt told us “For years [we talked about] how to get our name out among a broader group of people.” The float was a dream of hers and others. “All of a sudden, this became a reality.”
The “all of a sudden” took 18 months to two years to get through the process of committee work, coordinating with the headquarters in Chicago, and going through design and building. The festive float, “Celebrating Easterseals: 100 Years of Disability Services,” was designed by Charles Meier with a 20-foot high cake, party horns, and presents.
Easterseals serves 1.5 million people with disabilities across the country every year. ESSC is the largest autism service in California, with 8,500 families. One of the goals of Easterseals is to build a more inclusive future for the 61 million Americans with diverse disabilities. There are services for adults, children, veterans, seniors, and caregivers. Services include day services, therapy, peer-to-peer groups which help with social interaction, camp, and assistance in finding housing and employment.
There were a couple celebrities making the rounds at the party: actress Jamie Brewer, who has been a recurring actress in 20 episodes of American Horror Story, and Nic Novicki, who has 45 acting credits on IMDB and a couple dozen credits in writing, producing, and directing. He had a recurring role on Boardwalk Empire, and as Tyrion Lannister in the spoof School of Thrones. Both were irrepresible in their excitement over the Easterseals float and the work the nonprofit does.
Novicki is an ESSC board member and Founder/Director Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. The short videos have people with disabilities on or behind the camera, and can be serious or funny. Some can be viewed at the link above, along with information on how to enter the sixth challenge in 2019.
Brewer has worked in theater since she went to a summer program in 8th grade, for which she got college credit. She learned stagecraft, acting, and valuable skills for her career. In addition to American Horror Story, a new movie, Turnover, is in post production.
“An older man takes a new direction in life,” she explained. “He hires individuals who have different backgrounds, different abilities. Two special communities are represented: the Down Syndrome community and the deaf community.”
We asked if she sees herself as a role model and groundbreaker. She replied enthusiastically, “I am! I do break barriers! I’m the first woman with Down Syndrome to walk in a New York Fashion Week.”
When it was time to cut the real cake sitting in front of the float, President & CEO Mark Whitley underscored the “effort of inclusion” Easterseals promotes. “What better way to celebrate 100 years, than a float in the Rose Parade.”
Mary Platt stood with her son Michael, who is autistic, as she spoke. “The question is always, ‘What do you do?’” She said that the float will show some 80 million viewers all over the world what Easterseals does.
One of the most affecting speakers was Howard McBroom, Advocate for Easterseals. He worked himself into a job after some time of speaking with legislators and politicians as a volunteer. He was so effective in Sacramento, that Easterseals gave him a full-time job.
“Only one in five people with disabilities have affordable housing. The other four do not,” he stated. He says this is a “national disgrace.” When he meets with legislators who express sympathy, he tells them, “Compassion does not pay the bills.”
The young women on the Royal Court also spoke. Princess Helen Rossi, who has juvenile arthritis, said, “This event is special to me, because (for my Girl Scout Gold Award), I wrote a storybook for kids with disabilities.”
Queen Louise directly addressed the need for diversity. “I learned about Easterseals’ effort to destigmatize disability….Years ago, the Court was all white women,” she said, adding that the Tournament of Roses will continue to diversify.
“Celebrating Easterseals: 100 Years of Disability Services” will have 12 riders, spinning pinwheels, 3,000 hot pink roses, a coconut flake-covered cake, and lots and lots of marigolds. The flower is associated with Easterseals, and will be represented with fresh petals and stylized sculptures. McBroom will ride the float, with Easterseals Program Director Bryan Nguyen, who is a peer-to-peer counselor.
Kim Cohn, Vice President Marketing Communications for ESSC, explained how the riders were chosen. Each one of the 71 Easterseals affiliates were given the opportunity to nominate a rider, and 20 or 30 did.
“The committee looked for great, inspiring Easterseals stories, and those were chosen to ride the float,” she said.
Nine of the riders are Easterseals clients and three are accompanying riders. They are Kaison Shipp-Collier, 12, Easterseals Nevada (autism); Sophia Stafford, 17, Easterseals Southeastern Pennsylvania (Williams Syndrome), accompanied by sister Sabrina Stafford, Easterseals music therapist; Reagan Crabtree, 20, Easterseals Iowa (apraxia, autism); Blake Scribner, 21, Easterseals Central Illinois (brachial plexis injury), accompanied by Katie Pena, therapist; Matthew Jameson, 21, Easterseals Massachusetts (spastic diplegic cerebral palsy); Lora Glassman, 32, Easterseals Southern California (brain condition); Ernesto Gutierrez, 43, Easterseals Southern California (injury from an IED attack); Howard McBroom, 60, Easterseals Southern California (autism), accompanied by Brian Nguyen, Easterseals Program Director; danny Blake, 68, Easterseals Blake Foundation (cerebral palsy)
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