rose parade

Rose Floats: Some Communities Still Build Them the Old Fashioned Way

Plop! Plop! Plop!

Down came the drops of rain runoff from the freeway overcrossing onto the bustling area below -- usually a parking lot -- but approaching the annual Tournament of Roses parade, float central for volunteers in La Canada Flintridge.

"You just gotta dodge it as it comes down," advises Shannon Rodick, spending part of her holiday break from the University of Oregon to help decorate her hometown's annual entry in neighboring Pasadena's tradition-rich parade. "Mostly, it's covered."

Indeed, the leaking is only beneath the gap between the two sides of the Foothill Freeway where it crosses over Hampton Road at Foothill Boulevard.

But the fact the volunteers don't expect a fancy indoor facility -- or even a tent --says a lot about this foothill community's holiday spirit.

"It just makes it that much more fun," said Jeff Helgager, a hydraulic engineering specialist -- his day job is with a water district -- who serves as construction co-chair.

Though volunteers help with the floral decoration of most all Rose Parade floats, as elaborate and sophisticated as they've become in recent decades, the majority nowadays are designed and constructed by one of the handful of professional companies that focus year-round on prepping parade entries.

When it comes to floats, La Canada is old school, one of only five small cities, and Cal Poly, that still rely on volunteers for the entire project.

Like Cal Poly, the city that shares the Jet Propulsion Laboratory with Pasadena is blessed with some serious local talent.

"Lucky to have a large contingent of technical people, engineers, computer people, who help us put together the design of it, and animate it," said Chuck Terhune, himself a retired engineer who serves as president of the La Canada's donation-supported Tournament of Roses Association.

The corporate-free, do it yourself community spirit is part of the appeal for Jerry Bulosan of Glendale, who's been taking time from his real estate work to volunteer the past four years.

"You can see the float come together," Bulosan said.

During the year, some 80 volunteers take on the design and building of the mechanicals -- much, but not all, mined from past floats -- and that part is done indoors. The week before the parade, the float is moved out beneath the freeway, and more than 1,500 volunteers brave the elements to help with decorating.

Among them is a precocious first grader from La Crescenta who's overjoyed finally to have met the volunteer minimum age requirement of seven years.

"I've always wanted to since I knew what a float was," said Aliana Taylor-Aguilera.

With her mom Christy Taylor already an expert at picking and "fluffing" carnations, Aliana's mission is to deliver them from the preppers to those applying the flowers to the float.

La Canada's 2017 entry is "Backyard Rocketeer," depicting the story of a child -- a budding rocket scientist -- who builds a rocket ship and on Monday morning will set out on Colorado Blvd to explore a flower-festooned solar system.

It has special appeal for Aliana, who confided, "I don't want to be a decorator. I want to be a scientist."

Then, running another batch of fluffed carnations to the Backyard Rocketeer, she added, "but this is fun!"

Contact Us