Sierra Madre Cherishes Rose Parade Tradition

Since 1917, friends and neighbors have come together to build the city's annual entry.

At the Rose Bowl, the floats were being moved into place for the parade Thursday night, readying for a tradition that began when they were decorating horse drawn carriages.

One of the first cities to get involved was Sierra Madre, and building that city’s float is still a favorite annual tradition for residents.

This year it’s a 44-foot-long family of flamingos floating down a river. While most of the floats in the Rose Parade are built for companies or charities by professionals, Sierra Madre’s float is one of six still being built by individuals.

“We’re working the whole neighborhood,” said David Colcher of the Sierra Madre Float Association. “About half our members come from Sierra Madre, the rest from surrounding communities.”

For Sierra Madre, a city with just over 10,000 people nestled in the foothills, creating its own float is a great source of pride. The city’s float was built entirely with donated money. $40,000 was raised this year through potlucks and bingo games.

“We always call this the Normal Rockwell town because it has such old values and community feelings and people getting out for each other,” said resident Gillian Hile. “That’s why this is such a success — because people just do it.”

Float building has been a part of the city’s history since 1917. Lolita Brady has been a volunteer for more than 67 years.

“When I was a Girl Scout I used to come here and work on it,” Brady recalled. “It was so fun, just a team working together. So awesome.”

Sierra Madre even built a barn so they could house the float, and each year hundreds of residents come out to see the finished product.

Each year, retired engineer Dave Gaydosh climbs into the driver's seat and hides out beneath more than 30,000 flowers to steer the float down the parade route.

“I can see and the co-driver sees the other side and between us we have 180 degree vision, and it’s a nice drive,” Gaydosh said of his annual ride.

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