So every year I disappear from social networking sites, I fail to return phone calls and for the most part, no one sees me between Christmas & New Years. I really can’t be bothered… I’m busy making Rose Parade floats!
Ever since I was a bald headed baby, I’ve been going to the Rose Parade. My parents were hippies. We did all kinds of cool shit, my first camping trip was at 2 months old! One of the cool things we did was go to the Rose Parade… the night before. Crazy revelers fill Colorado Blvd. to ring in the new year AND claim a prime piece of real estate on the sidewalks of Pasadena to see the Rose Parade. A couple of years we camped out, but it gets colder than a polar bears toe nail at about 4am and we realized the view was much more comfortable from our heated living room in front of the boob tube. But still my Rose Parade connection remained. My aunt Joyce lived in Sierra Madre and we would go to her area for dinner and to watch the floats drive up to the parade route from her patio.
In jr. high I was finally old enough to volunteer to decorate a float and my parents found a spot. It was hard to get work, there were hundreds of volunteers ready to work and we came late in the week. I think I only got to glue on 4 flowers my first year but I kept coming back. My freshman year of high school I was a member of the Ayala Band & Pageantry Corps. Our parents ran the booster club and got us jobs in order to raise money. That was my first REAL decorating experience, I got to climb scaffolding to the highest heights to decorate the beak of a giant owl and after that I tried it all. All the other kids did their allotted time like it was a prison sentence, but I showed up with a shit face grin every day ready to glue stuff on. It was like a massive craft project for me and I’m a crafty girl. I came around so much that they offered me a job as “Float Supervisor” at the age of 18 and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’ve never been to a New Years party in my adult life, I’m always doing the floats… and I love it!
The floats are built by various float building companies. Fiesta Parade Floats is the company I build for. We usually do between 11 to 15 floats every year for the parade. Some of the floats are built in the Rose Bowl parking lot, but some companies come from as far away as Azuza! Imagine my friends, super-sized piñatas bursting with flowers and powered by gasoline engines. 50 tons of roses and steel roll in a convoy to Orange Grove Blvd. These floats is kinda ridin’ durrty so they take side streets the whole way. Imagine being stopped at a red light and a train of these bad boys roll by?! The convoy takes about 5 hours and HOPEFULLY, if there are no break downs or crashes, arrive on Orange Grove about 10pm on New Years Eve.
This is where I come in. The whole street is blocked off and filled with PEOPLE of all walks. There are drunken aristocrats, families with babies, people with dogs and teenagers with noise makers and shit-face grins because they are out in packs, late at night acting a fool. All these people are here to get a look at freshly decorated parade floats shining like a peacock in all its glory. We block off an arms length perimeter around the float with caution tape because the float would be picked bare if we didn’t. On the drive up, it is inevitable that damage will occur.
The float driver is driving blind. He’s driving in a rabbit’s body cavity or inside of a fanciful tree. Somewhere hidden at the front of the float is the driver’s eyes. Another person tells the driver directions via head set like, touch right, hard left and STOP!!! Sometimes they hit trees or curbs or even cars! Well, they don’t usually hit cars but last year, there was a car/float involved collision. No one was hurt, but could you imagine filling out the insurance claim forms on that one?! “Ok sir, so the vehicle you say you hit was a 2010 Fiesta Parade float?” Anywho, we are there when the float arrives to repair damage.
Once everything is cool with the float, I usually wander the line up of floats. I walk from one end to the other and back, looking at the floats without scaffolding and checking out the competition. There is also some GREAT people watching at this time. At 6am, the Tournament of Roses announces the winners. Floats are completely finished and judged 24 hours prior to this moment. I think there are like 15 total awards for different categories like, “Best Floral Presentation for a Non Commercial float” which is called the Lathrop K. Leishman Award. <—That’s the award my float for The City Of Torrance won.
Rewind to 8:00am on December 26th, thats when my job with Fiesta gets crazy. I arrive, pick up my “float bible” from the floral director and asses what I have to do to get the float finished and beautiful in time for judging on New Years Eve morning. Soon after, a bus load of 50 folks, dressed for a dirty job arrive and ask me, “What should I do?” Everyone is eager to help, but I can’t just let them at it like a pack of hungry wolves. There is precision involved in decorating a Rose Parade float and I have to give special instructions of the applications of things like maleluca bark, sheet moss, onion seeds, corn husk and crushed rice. I set up assembly lines and we mass assemble and decorate a float together. I get a bus load of 50 volunteers twice a day, every day from 8:00am to 11:00pm Dec. 26th thru the 30th. If we don’t finish on the 30th, we pull an all nighter until its finished. Later in the week, we start to apply fresh greens and flowers to the float and usually on the last night, the roses go on like icing on cake.
Floats cost as much as a condo or house to build & decorate. And as you see in the pictures to follow, it’s definitely worth every penny. The float design concept starts in January for the parade the following year. By February or March the building has begun and it takes all the way up to Christmas Eve to get them ready for the decorators to do their thang. Floats are built on a chassis with an engine, then tubes of metal as thick as pencils is welded into fanciful shapes, further shaped by a screen cocoon, giving “skin” to the sculpted characters. Some pieces are further shaped by masterfully carved foam. Animation is also involved, allowing parts of the floats to move as if alive. Floats are also animated to “fold down” so they can fit underneath traffic lights and freeway underpasses. Once the float is sculpted and shaped, its painted to color code for the decoration.
Here are a bunch of photos from my experience this year. Check it out and please leave me a comment or question if you have any.
1000’s of man hours going into decorating the floats, here are some pictures of volunteers in action.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on flowers and plants from around the world. Check out some of the amazing floral work on our Fiesta Parade Floats…
After judging I went home to get some sleep so I could be up and chipper New Years Eve and into the next day…
For most night-before-parade goers, Colorado Blvd. is the natural choice to go. Orange Grove Blvd. is where all the float action is at though. The floats are staged in order of parade appearance here waiting for their moment to shine. All the horses, bands and fancy cars feed in between the floats from side streets just before the start line on New Years Day. Here are some shots of what its like…
Welp, thats about it, thanks for checking out my rose parade blog! Next year around Christmas and New Years I’ll be doing the same thing, let me know if you are interested…