Unlike the extravaganza on the other coast, the Tournament of Roses Parade isn’t put on by a commercial corporation. Bands come to Pasadena from all over the world to participate and float sponsors run the gamut from local cities to multi-national companies, but Pasadena’s parade is run by local volunteers and still has room for hometown entries.
Six of the 40 to 45 floats are designed and built by community members who work 9 to 5 or go to college full time, harking back to the early days of the Rose Parade, when individuals or businesses decorated their own vehicles. Five cities—Burbank, Downey, La Cañada Flintridge, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena—and two sister schools, California Polytechnic Pomona and California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo, work year-round to put together spectacular floats.
With the 2015 parade only a few months away, these organizations have shared their design concepts for the parade theme, “Inspiring Stories,” with Tournament of Roses Examiner for a sneak peek. Readers can share what inspires them on All Things Rose Parade.
Each full-blown beflowered float that glides along Colorado Blvd on New Year’s Day starts early in the previous year with a design contest, often before the parade theme is formally announced. The president of the Tournament drops hints, though, so designers can get started. The association votes on the concepts and the winner is presented to the Tournament of Roses Float Committee for approval. Runners up are brought along in case the first concept doesn’t get the green flag.
The volunteers of the float associations deconstruct the float that appeared in the Rose Parade just days after the parade and reuse everything they can. They dry petals from leftover fresh roses to use as powdered material on the next float and begin to collect botanicals from neighbors and friends to help keep costs down. Fundraisers are held throughout the year: restaurant nights, casino trips, craft fairs, and naming rights for characters on the float help raise money to get the float on the road. If there’s a hometown parade, the float rolls along in whatever state of building it is at the time.
The list below (in alphabetical order, no favoritism here!) has information about each organization, including its website and Facebook page, and the rendering of its 2015 float. The final floats will differ somewhat from the renderings, which are a like a snapshot to guide the process.
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If you have a question or would like a reply to your comment, please post on Facebook at All Things Rose Parade or email email@example.com. The theme of the 126th Rose Parade and 101st Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2015 is “Inspiring Stories.” Subscribe to Tournament of Roses Examiner by clicking the “Subscribe” link for the latest news and for upcoming announcements.
Burbank Tournament of Roses Association ‘Jungle Rescue’
A passel of monkeys aided by a gorilla and bemused giraffe rush to put out a fire for a panicked parrot on Burbank’s 81st float entry. Little touches such as pink hair rollers and a tree stump pump add humor to the design, which is the fourth created by the team of Bill and Carol Cotter of Granada Hills and Stacia Martin of Brea. Their last entry, 2014’s “Lights! Camera! Action!” won the Fantasy Trophy. BTORA has won eight awards in the past 10 years. Website: http://www.burbankrosefloat.com; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BurbankRoseFloat
Cal Poly Universities ‘Soaring Stories’
The students at Cal Poly usually go for humor; of their six wins in the past 10 years, two have been the Bob Hope Humor Trophy. The 2015 entry, the schools’ 67th, takes a more serious turn with its books-come-to-life theme. Like a castle in a pop-up book, a medieval fortress sits on an open tome, while a griffin arises from the pages of another book.
Cal Poly Universities are the only institutions of higher learning to enter floats every year, and the only builder to construct one float in two pieces. The university in San Luis Obispo builds one half and Pomona builds the other, and the two parts of the 55-foot float are bolted together in October. The 2014 entry “Bedtime Buccaneers” won the Crown City Innovation Trophy. Website: http://www.rosefloat.org; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rosefloat
Downey Rose Float Association ‘Home for the Holidays’
In a scene right out of Currier and Ives, DRFA honors America’s military members who look forward to holidays with their families. The design’s slender trees and open space create a feeling of lightness. Downey has won six awards in the past 10 years, including the 2014 Founders’ Trophy for “The Glass Slipper.” Website: http://www.downeyrose.org; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DowneyRoseFloat
La Canada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association ‘To the Rescue’
Like the lion and the mouse, smaller sea creatures put aside their fear to save a large shark trapped in the nets and timbers of a sunken fishing boat in LCFTRA’s “To the Rescue.” The builders warn, “When they get him free, they better be careful. He may be really hungry by then!”
If you think this is an “Inspiring Story,” check out the response of the La Cañada Flintridge community when burglars broke into the float yard and stole equipment in October, 2013. We covered it here ‘Dog Gone!’ La Canada Flintridge recovers from Rose Parade float theft and here La Canada Flintridge float receives $5,000 from Wells Fargo after theft. The float, “Dog Gone!” went on to win the 2014 Bob Hope Humor Trophy, one of seven the association has won in the past decade. Website: http://www.lcftra.org; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/LCFTRAorg/386720658092912.
Sierra Madre Rose Float Association ‘I Think I Can’
One of the most famous children’s books ever, The Little Engine That Could, is being told in flowers by SMRFA. The little engine’s mantra as she pulled the cars filled with toys over the mountain was “I think I can, I think I can,” and here she does a fantastic job. There will be plenty of animation: All the wheels turn, the cars rock side-to-side, and the front wheels of the engine lift off the track in an attempt to pull harder and harder. Three similar concepts were submitted in the January contest by Nancie Filkins, Joanne Garcia, and Justin Brandstater, and were integrated into one inspiring float.
SMRFA has won eight awards in the past 10 years, including the Mayor’s Trophy for “Catching the Big One” in 2014 and the coveted Isabella Coleman Trophy for Best Presentation of Color & Color Harmony Through Floral Use for “The Sky’s the Limit” in 2013, which has not been awarded to a self-built float in at least a decade and a half. Website: http://www.smrosefloat.org; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/29356432318/
South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association ‘Still Winning!’
And indeed, the women features on SPTOR’s float are still winning. They are members of a multiple medal-winning dragon boat team from Long Beach, called the Los Angeles Pink Dragons, and they are all survivors of breast cancer. The concept was created by Anita Scott, a member of the SPTOR decoration team and a breast cancer survivor. The boats will slide past each other as the float travels along the parade route, first one in front and then the other.
When the design was presented to the association, their Facebook page reports, “We all instantly looked at each other and said ‘Wow!’ that’s a pretty powerful and inspiring story.’” SPTOR has been posting the story of each paddler in her own words on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SPRoseFloat. They are worth reading, and capture the essence of the 2015 Rose Parade theme. SPTOR has won two trophies in the past 10 years, the last one being the Founders’ Trophy in 2013 for “Sailing the Sea of Knowledge.” Website: http://www.sptor.com