Building Rose Parade floats: The tools of the trade

Photo copyright 2012 Ramona Monteros


by Laura Berthold Monteros

A Tournament of Roses Parade float is the epitome of teamwork.

It starts with a sit-down discussion and ends with a unique and stunning yet ephemeral work of art.  A float for the Rose Parade is a combination of a sponsor’s idea, a designer’s concept, an engineer’s calculations, a mechanic’s skill. When they are done, artists in metal, wood, sculpture, paint, and floral design bring in their talents.

Sponsors may have a detailed idea of what they would like on a float, or no idea at all. It’s the job of the float builder and designer to create a concept that will not only be stunningly beautiful or charmingly whimsical, but will work. Considerations include reflecting the theme of the parade, presenting the message of the sponsor in the few seconds a float passes by viewers, weight, height, whether or not there will be animation, and cost. Engineers design systems and mechanics design the engine that will get the float from the barn to post-parade and back.

Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the end of this article!

Metalworkers bend rods and weld them into skeletal sculptures. Screeners put the skin on the skeletons.  Wooden components are built. The float is then sprayed with a fabric cocooning material and foam, which is sculpted into shape. Small sculpted details such as hands are also added. In a sort of paint-by-numbers scheme, areas are lined out and the names of the colors penciled in to match the artist’s rendering. The float is painted and the floral designer, Continue reading “Building Rose Parade floats: The tools of the trade”