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BEST BUDS BUILDING A FLOAT FOR THE ROSE PARADE FOSTERS COMMUNITY SPIRIT ALL YEAR LONG.

Byline: Vicki Smith Paluch Correspondent

Since its inception, the Tournament of Roses Parade has been a showcase for community pride.

Starting in 1890 with the Valley Hunt Club's first flower-festooned carriages riding down Colorado Boulevard on New Year's Day to advertise sunny Pasadena to the snow-bound East Coast, the parade grew in size and stature. Communities throughout the Southland joined in with their self-built floats, turning Pasadena's festivities into their own display of community spirit. Today, however, professional float builders have taken over the construction of most floats, leaving only six self-built floats in the 2005 parade.

The five stout-hearted communities and two colleges - Burbank; Downey; La Canada Flintridge; Sierra Madre; South Pasadena; and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; and California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo - still design and build their own floats. For them, ``homemade'' floats are the only way to go.

In South Pasadena, the Rose Parade float-building tradition is a deep one. For 113 years, the community has been decorating and constructing its own parade entry.

``There is a great community tradition here,'' said John Vandercook, president of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association. ``People who grew up here and moved away come back every year just to be a part of building the float.''

The association builds its float in the rear parking lot of the Wells Fargo bank building at Fair Oaks Avenue and El Centro Street, where curious bank customers and Starbucks patrons often become volunteer float decorators.

Chance encounters are one way associations find volunteers. Some volunteers stay for one session; others get hooked.

``We moved to Sierra Madre from Northern California two years ago,'' said Bonnie Colcher, a volunteer coordinator for the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association. ``I learned about the float-building by chance when I was recycling our cardboard moving boxes.''

The association's float-building pavilion is adjacent to the city's cardboard recycling depot and the dog park in Sierra Madre Park. Many volunteers like Colcher simply stumble upon the pavilion when they are in the park, but volunteers from other cities come to Sierra Madre so they can be a part of building an entire float, not merely helping with the final rush of placing flowers in thousands of tiny vials on the almost- completed float.

``There are so few opportunities to really work on a float that we get people from all over,'' said Colcher, who proudly noted that Sierra Madre is the only float association to have its own full-time, enclosed facility with a catwalk. ``And this is a 12-month process.''

The 2005 Tournament of Roses parade theme is ``Celebrate Family.'' Sierra Madre this year had originally planned to feature bears at a picnic, but during the selection process the Tournament of Roses design committee told them to change it because other floats had bears.

``We had to scramble,'' Colcher said. ``We took out pencils and totally redesigned the float, which is now 'Monkey Mischief,' showing the antics of a family of monkeys at the zoo and the young monkey who escapes from his enclosure.''

``I couldn't believe it when they had to redraw animals,'' said Vandercook. ``It's wonderful to see people's creativity.''

To build the float, many volunteers have taken up trades they never imagined having to learn.

``My husband the scientist is now a welder,'' Colcher said with amusement in her voice. ``He's also the driver.''

The self-built floats compete with professionally constructed entries in their size category. Self-built floats tend to be in the 55-foot category or a smaller one, such as the 35-foot or shorter category that will be used by Sierra Madre.

South Pasadena's float, ``Mom's Flight School,'' is a 55-foot float featuring a family of dragons. But in the 2003 parade, South Pasadena had the parade's last entry: a 60-foot, full-scale, self-propelled circus train.

``The professional floats are so magnificent, but the crowd really responds to the self-built floats,'' Vandercook said. ``They cheer for the great effort it takes to create these beautiful floats.''

In Sierra Madre, a city that still has a volunteer fire department, the effort is truly a volunteer one as the city only contributes the cost of the entrance fee. The Sierra Madre Rose Float Association has to raise between $20,000 and $30,000 in materials and cash to build its animated float, which will carry Sierra Madre's court of princesses.

The South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association receives $12,000 in seed money from the city for its float and raises the remainder of the float's $87,000 budget.

With a limited budget, the associations have to stretch their creativity. Colcher and other volunteers collected magnolia leaves from along the 210 Freeway and from parking lots, and pink and red bougainvillea petals from their neighborhoods, so that they could be ground up and used as the ``dried material'' used on the floats - leaves, seeds, bark, grasses. The communities that have self-built floats reach out to students at their local schools, as well as churches and businesses to get the volunteers needed.

``We're building more than a float,'' said Vandercook. ``It's building community.''

If you watch it

--``Tournament of Roses Parade'' The annual New Year's Day celebration airs on several different networks and cable channels. This year's theme is ``Celebrate Family,'' and Mickey Mouse will lead the celebration as grand marshal. The lineup features floral floats, marching bands and equestrian units.

Watch the parade at 8 a.m. on CBS (Channel 2), NBC (Channel 4), WB (Channel 5), HGTV and the Travel Channel. (Repeats at 10:30 a.m., 1, 3 and 7 p.m. on the WB.)

--``The Making of Rose Parade 2005'' (7 a.m., HGTV) Curious about what's involved in making a Rose Parade float? This new program takes you behind the scenes as the floats are prepared for their journey down the streets of Pasadena.

If you see it

There are several opportunities to view the floats after the parade. Here are the best bets:

POST-PARADE SHOWCASE OF FLOATS

On Sierra Madre Boulevard, between Washington Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue, and on Washington Boulevard, between Sierra Madre Boulevard and Woodlyn Road, in Pasadena. 1-3:30 p.m. today and 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sunday. 7-9 a.m. Sunday is reserved for seniors and mobility-impaired viewers. Admission is $7. On-street parking is extremely limited. Shuttle bus service is available for $2 per person round trip; children 5 and under ride free. Ticket booths will sell shuttle and admission tickets at all four Park & Ride locations. You can also buy tickets at park entrances. Visit www.tournamentofroses.com for more information.

BURBANK AND GLENDALE FLOATS

Viewers can see these cities' Rose Parade floats for free.

The Burbank float, ``Dinner's On ... FIRE!'' can be viewed in the parking lot of George Izay Park, 1111 W. Olive Ave.

Glendale's float, ``A Mother's Love,'' will be parked in front of the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd. Both floats will be on display Monday through Wednesday.

CAPTION(S):

5 photos, 2 boxes, map

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) Your guide to the 2005 ROSE parade

Walt Mancini/Staff Photographer

(2 -- color) D. Lester Williams, a metal sculptor from Arcadia, creates the frame of a monkey that will be part of Sierra Madre's float for the 2005 Rose Parade.

Caleb Vandenberg/Staff Photographer

(3 -- 5 -- color) AT LEFT, Minerissa Dela Cruz, 17, works on the city of Burbank float, ``Dinner's On...FIRE!'' The float, above, will be on view free of charge in the parking lot of George Izay Park after the parade.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer

Box:

(1) If you see it (see text)

(2) If you watch it (see text)

Map:

Pasadena

Graphic by MANUEL AMAYA and CHRISTOPHER D. CRUZ
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:1287
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