Tournament of Roses floats

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Floats for the New Year's Day Tournament of Roses Parade evolved from flower-decorated horse carriages. The floats are required to be covered with plant material, living or dead.[1] Originally Tournament of Roses floats were created solely by volunteers from sponsoring communities. Currently, most are built by professional float building companies, and take nearly a year to construct. Some communities and organizational sponsors, such as the City of Burbank, the City of Downey, City of South Pasadena, the City of Sierra Madre, the City of La Cañada Flintridge and the Cal Poly Universities, are referred to as "self-built floats" as they design, construct and decorate their floats solely on volunteer hours. Self built floats look for help year round and are usually willing to teach many skills.

The 2010 parade floats included Boy Scouts of America, Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, New Mexico Tourism Department, Phoenix Satellite Television (U.S.) Inc., Roundtable of Southern California/Shanghai World Expo, and Safety Harbor Kids. The 2010 parade also featured a 113-foot-long (34 m) float from Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Foods, which set a Guinness world record for longest single-chassis float. The City of West Covina paid tribute to the "service and commitment of the Tuskegee Airmen" with a float, entitled Tuskegee Airmen – A Cut Above, which featured a large bald eagle, two replica World War II "Redtails" fighter planes and historical images of some of the airmen who served their country. The float won the Mayor's trophy as the most outstanding city entry – national or international.

Modern-day process[edit]

After the parade, floats are stripped to their chassis. Structural steel elements are reused where possible; organic materials and sculptural steel are recycled.

Shortly after each year's parade is over, and the next year's parade theme is announced, the parade sponsors and participating communities start to plan their floats for the following year. A "theme draft" meeting is held in mid-February where builders select their float theme. The Tournament assures that there are not too many similar floats.

Characters and other objects on the float are created as separate elements to add later, consisting of a framework of steel and chicken wire. The chassis has beams and steel rod welded to it to support a mesh cover. The float is then "cocooned" in the next process; it is sprayed with a polyvinyl material which acts as a base for inserting decoration. This base is painted with the colors of the flowers to be applied to the float.

Tapioca pearls and cranberry seeds as decorations

Every square inch of the exposed surface of a float entered in the parade must be covered with flowers or other natural materials. These other decorative applicants include bark, seed and leaves. Decorating with the non-perishable materials is performed first. In the days following Christmas, the live additions to the float are applied by volunteers or hired workers. Delicate flowers are placed in individual vials of water and set into the float one-by-one. The Tournament of Roses is the largest consumer of flowers in the world, and flowers arrive from all over the world.

Many floats, along with their drive train, include computer-controlled robotic mechanisms to animate the floats. Most float drivers can only see the ground below them. An observer communicates by intercom to the driver. Most observers are hidden within the float and have limited visibility. Each float has a Tournament Member (Float Liaison) assigned to it who shepherds the float from the float barn to the formation area and down the parade route. Most ride on motor scooters although some walk. The Float Liaisons communicate with the float's observer by hand signals. At the two corners other Tournament Members direct the floats in addition to the Float Liaisons.

It is estimated that it takes 60 volunteers working 10 hours a day for 10 days to decorate one float.[2]

Float builders
  • 20 daisies, 30 roses or 36 marigolds will cover one square foot of a float area
  • Over 500,000 roses (in vials) used in the parade
  • 15 tons of steel along with 10,000 feet (3,000 m) of chicken wire for the framework of a float
  • 600 tons of steel, 5,000 gallons of glue and 18 million flowers are used to make the floats each year
  • 935 “white-suiters” spent 80,000 hours to manpower and plan the parade
  • Floats must collapse to no more than 16.5 ft (5.0 m). high, to pass under a freeway overpass
  • Natural materials, such as bark, seeds, leaves and flowers, shall cover the floats
  • Twenty-four awards for some 50 float entries
  • Length of parade is 5.5 miles (8.9 km), about 2.25 hours long at 2.5 miles (4.0 km) per hour pace[3]

Viewing float decorating[edit]

After Christmas one can view many of the floats being decorated with flowery mantles, in the various "float barns" that dot the Pasadena area and communities to the east.

Admission is charged for viewing the floats at the various sites. The four float decorating places are Rose Palace, Rosemont Pavilion, Brookside Pavilion, and the Irwindale Pavilion, in the City of Irwindale, California.

Approximately 120,000 visitors attended the three-day event in 2009.

Quantity of flowers[edit]

A flower used on a 2009 Rose Parade float

While many distinct changes have taken place with the Festival's floats, including computer-aided movement and professional float building, the floats have kept true to the event's title and heritage, by using real, fresh flowers. The cost of flowers is included in the total cost of the float and paid for by the float sponsor.

In the old days, some of the flowers used on the floats were home grown in the former Fanny Morrison Horticultural Center, now the Kidspace Children's Museum in the Arroyo Seco Natural Park.[4]

Post-parade: A Showcase of Floats[edit]

Presented by Miracle-Gro, the Showcase is a paid admission area where the floats are displayed after the parade, for close-up viewing. The floats are parked along Sierra Madre and Washington Boulevards in Pasadena, near Pasadena High School and Victory Park, for three hours after the parade. On the day after the parade (occasionally two days when January 3 falls on Saturday or Sunday), the first two early morning hours (7-9) are reserved for seniors and the disabled, and the rest of day's worth of viewing for the general public.

A fair-like environment with food and souvenir vending stands is created for public enjoyment. Handicap access and assistance is provided. Some of the animated floats are put on display with their animation running.

Judging[edit]

Three civic and floral industry leaders evaluate the floats and hand out prizes to the participating floats in 24 categories. The top prize for the parade is the Sweepstakes Trophy, the most beautiful entry, which in 2008 was won by Rain Bird International's entry of "Preservation Celebration", built by Fiesta Parade Floats.[5] Recent year judges:

Designer Nancy Clarke at the White House

Judging occurs on the two days before the parade. In the first day's judging, the float is viewed "at rest", without any animation, sound, or riders. The float builder is allowed to explain the float to the judges before the judges begin their examination. In the second judging, the float is judged as it will be presented in the parade, with all animation, riders, outwalkers, and effects. Each judging session lasts five minutes.

Floats are judged in 14 categories, with varying weights; the most important categories are those relating to floral usage. Winners are announced at 6 AM on parade day.

Top prize for the 2016 Rose Parade went to Singpoli Group's float "Marco Polo East Meets West", which was constructed by float builder Paradiso.[7]

Sweepstakes Trophy[edit]

Recent Sweepstakes Trophy winners for the "most beautiful entry with outstanding floral presentation and design":

Year Sponsor Float Title Builder
2016 Singpoli Group Marco Polo: East Meets West Paradiso Parade Floats
2015 Dole Packaged Foods Rhythm of Hawai'i Fiesta Parade Floats
2014 Dole Packaged Foods Sunrise at the Oasis Fiesta Parade Floats
2013 Dole Food Company Dreaming of Paradise Fiesta Parade Floats
2012 Dole Food Company Preserving Paradise Fiesta Parade Floats
2011 Dole Food Company Living Well in Paradise Fiesta Parade Floats
2010 Rain Bird Corporation Mountaintop Majesty Fiesta Parade Floats
2009 Rain Bird Corporation Entertaining Expedition Fiesta Parade Floats
2008 Rain Bird Corporation Preservation Celebration Fiesta Parade Floats
2007 FTD Jewels of Nature Fiesta Parade Floats
2006 FTD Your Wish is My Command Fiesta Parade Floats
2005 Rain Bird Corporation Playful Pandamonium Fiesta Parade Floats
2004 FTD Love Songs Fiesta Parade Floats
2003 Rain Bird Corporation Water Wonderland Fiesta Parade Floats
2002 Rain Bird Corporation Animal Ambassadors Fiesta Parade Floats
2001 Rain Bird Corporation Enchanted Expedition Fiesta Parade Floats

Notable recent floats[edit]

  • a Bollywood wedding scene featuring a bride riding in a palanquin carried by twelve men, a groom atop a giant animated elephant and an ensemble of Bollywood dancers (Sierra Madre, 2009).[8]
  • working roller coasters (2003 and 2009 Cal Poly Universities; 1998, Downey)
  • a 50-foot (15 m) replica of the Statue of Liberty (2006) by Honda advertising their slogan "The Power of Dreams". Honda's other recent floats have included a car transforming into a spaceship (2008) and ASIMO (2009).
  • In 1985, the Chrysler float carried the actual torch from the Statue of Liberty,[9] while the statue was being renovated. It was one of the very few times in Tournament history when an object was allowed in the parade without floral covering.
  • British Petroleum (BP) (2008 or 2009) presented a group of dinosaurs with a 10 foot flame being ejected from a 20 foot erupting volcano.
  • a working water slide (1993 La-Z-Boy "School's Out!")
  • a nearly 100-foot-tall (30 m) Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, 2004
  • Anaheim city's float that included the Stanley Cup that the NHL's Anaheim Ducks had won last season, hoisted by player Brad May. (As the regulations state that the outside of the float must exclusively use organic material, ABC commentators speculated that the city got an exception to display the Cup.)[10] (2008)
  • In 2010 Anaheim, California and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim commemorated a float to the 2010 All-Star Game at Angel Stadium
  • The 2010 Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance float, featuring snowboarding bulldogs, measured over 113 feet (34 m) long, setting a Guinness world record for longest single chassis float.
  • The 2011 theme float was decorated with the help from participants of the CBS television show Amazing Race, broadcast on Sunday, December 12, 2010. The final "roadblock" had one team member of the three finalists decorate one of three sections of the float with chrysanthemums and roses, and then covering a sculpted rose with natural material. During the parade, "Up with People" rode and performed atop of the float. For the second year in a row, the 2010 Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance float, featuring skim-boarding bulldogs was Certified by Guinness World Records as the "World's Heaviest Float," it featured over 4,000 gallons of water and was heavier than a 747 airplane.
  • The 2012 Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance float, featuring surfing bulldogs, was deemed the World's Heaviest and Longest Rose Parade float.
  • The 2014 Public Storage "Adventures in Space" float featured 3 satellite alien spacecrafts rolling down the front ramp and driving around to "discover life on planet Earth" before rolling back up the rear ramp into the spaceship. Public Storage's first ever entry in the parade was awarded the Grand Marshal's trophy for excellence in creative concept and design.[11]
  • In keeping with the 2014 parade's "Dreams Come True" theme, Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair exchanged vows and were married atop a giant wedding cake float. It became the first same-sex marriage in the Rose Parade's 125-year history.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Former float construction companies[edit]

Float construction companies[edit]

Self-Built float organizations[edit]