by Dot Cannon
Thousands of roses, thirty-nine years of tradition–and three days left until the parade.
That’s what the La Canada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association was facing, on Thursday, as they worked to complete their thirty-ninth Rose Parade® float, “Backyard Rocketeer”.
The 2017 float depicts a child who built a rocket from objects he found in his backyard. Traveling through space, he’s surrounded by stars, and twenty-three planets of varying sizes. A friendly alien waves “hello” as the rocket ship approaches. The young rocketeer’s dog is along for the ride, equipped with his own space helmet.
Now, all that remained to be done was covering every inch of the float with live materials, to supply the colors, before the parade.
“We’re right on schedule,” said one of the volunteers.
At the float barn on Thursday afternoon, the weather was not very Decemberish. At one point, the temperature registered 84 degrees! With the parade happening on Monday, no roses were going on “Backyard Rocketeer” as yet.
But the volunteers had a number of tasks to keep them busy.
“They have a special tool that removes the thorns,” a docent said. “There will be almost thirty thousand roses (on the float when we’re done).”
At the time of our visit, those thorns had been removed, and plenty of dry decoration was going on.
Brussels sprouts and split peas will be among the ingredients used to create the green “alien”. Meanwhile, decorators will be using cranberry fiber and kanoa seed for the planets. Seaweed, blue statice and buffalo grass will create the dog’s “fur” and helmet.
And like all float decorators, the La Canada Flintridge Tournament of Roses volunteers were working against the clock. They were expecting the first visit from the float judges on December 31st.
At one time, most Rose Parade® floats were built and decorated non-commercially–by either individuals or communities. Today, only six of them come from independent organizations, known as “self-builts”. These nonprofit groups raise their own funds and create their parade entries independently.
(The six organizations are: South Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Sierra Madre Rose Float Association, Downey Rose Float Association, Burbank Tournament of Roses Association, Cal Poly Universities, and, of course, La Canada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association.)
And their professionalism is HDTV-quality. All six self-builts received awards for their floats in the 2016 Rose Parade®. La Canada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association, which has been participating in the parade since 1978, won the “Bob Hope Humor Award”, for their float “Up a Creek”.
So, what do independent Rose Parade® float builders need, besides creativity, dedication and talent? At least sixty thousand dollars, according to a “by the numbers” listing posted for visitors to La Canada Flintridge’s float site. Construction of the float itself costs between twenty-five and thirty thousand dollars.
And then, there are the flowers–which the same list shows as costing between thirty and thirty-five thousand dollars.
However, those figures are a fraction of commercial costs. The Tournament of Roses®’ website gives $275,000 as “average construction and design costs” for 2018 float participants.
Looking forward to 2017–and beyond
Very little sleep appears to be in the immediate future for some members of La Canada Flintridge Tournament of Roses. The posted schedule listed the float’s departure from the float barn as “sometime after 6 pm” on New Year’s Day. The 15-ton float travels at five miles per hour from its location to parade lineup. (And it moves at half that speed, in the actual parade.)
Then, when the Rose Parade® starts at 8:00 on Monday morning, “Backyard Rocketeer”‘s magic will be a team effort. Inside the float will be the driver, float observer, and a third operator, running the animation. The docent with whom we spoke said the spaceship will be moving up and down, as well as sideways, as the float travels down Colorado Boulevard.
Would you like to see “Backyard Rocketeer”? Here’s the link for information on the 128th Rose Parade®, themed “Echoes of Success”. The parade starts on Monday, January 2nd (due to New Year’s Day having fallen on a Sunday) at 8 am at Colorado and Orange Grove.
Can’t be in Pasadena at that time but you’d like to see “Backyard Rocketeer”–and the other floats–anyway? Here’s the link for details on®”Post Parade Showcase” float viewing, after the 2017 Rose Parade®’s forty floats have wowed parade crowds.
Meanwhile, La Canada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association is already looking ahead.
They’ve already opened their “Float Design Concept Contest” for 2018–and you’ve invited to submit your ideas, online, no later than January 18th! The winner gets two grandstand tickets to the 2018 Rose Parade®.
Have fun, be kind, and Happy New Year!