Visiting the float barns during 2019 Rose Parade Deco Week

by Laura Berthold Monteros

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

Ryan Young with the Farmers Insurance float.

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

Tejinder and Simran cut statice for the United Sikh Mission float at Phoenix Decorating Company.

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.

Rosemont Pavilion

Denise Godfrey and Emma McGregor at the Cal Poly Universities float.

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.

For a list of all the floats with builders and designers, read “Rose Parade 2019 float entries.”

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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”

Phoenix Decorating Company chosen to design gateway arch to Arroyo Seco Weekend: New Photos

An enchanted passage into the Arroyo, designed by Phoenix Decorating Company and covered in all natural botanicals. Photo c.2017 Carlos Monteros

 

by Laura Berthold Monteros

The excitement was apparent in publicist Chuck Hayes’ voice when we talked on the phone this evening about Phoenix Decorating Company’s latest build. The most prolific float builder for the Tournament of Roses Parade, the company was tapped by Goldenvoice to build an entry archway for the Arroyo Seco Weekend coming up this Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25. It’s a classic Rose Parade rendition of a Pasadena icon, the Spanish Colonial Revival City Hall. The Spanish tile dome and copper-clad cupola perches on a 20-foot-wide sculpture patterned after the rotunda arches.

In classic float style, the Tournament of Roses Archway is covered in botanical materials chosen by COO and Floral Director Lyn Lofthouse. She used light lettuce seed, poppy seed, ground onion seed, coconut, powdered rice, lima beans, navy beans, black beans, and strawflower. Hayes also gave credit to Production Manager Sean McMinimy and the skilled crew at Phoenix in completing the project.

Phoenix Decorating Company President and CEO Chris Lofthouse stated, “Phoenix Decorating Company was honored to be asked to create the Arroyo Seco Weekend Archway in the style of a Rose Parade Float by Goldenvoice, it is our hope that the people who visit the festival will return on January 1, 2018 to see our floats in the Rose Parade.”

Entry archway for Arroyo Seco Weekend being towed into the Rose Bowl area. Courtesy Phoenix Decorating Company.
Entry archway for Arroyo Seco Weekend being towed into the Rose Bowl area. Courtesy Phoenix Decorating Company.

While only a few people can ride on a Rose Parade float, thousands of people will get a taste of the experience as they enter the festival through the decorated arch over the two days. The freestanding piece stands 20 feet high with arches 13 feet high and 13 feet wide. It weighs more than 2,000 pounds. It was towed from the float barn in Irwindale on a flatbed, with the dome lying beside the arch.

Hayes chuckled, “You know we don’t like tows!” The company usually drives the floats from parade route to the float barn—and no builder likes an emergency tow during the Rose Parade—but in this case, the logistics of getting the piece down into the low-lying Rose Bowl area required a bit of help.

An artist’s concept of the arch is on the Arroyo Seco Weekend site. The family-friendly event includes activities at Kidspace, several stages for bands, and several art installations. Readers can follow Phoenix on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PhoenixDecoratingCo