Extreme Close-Up: The Big Floats

Lean in and play the lookie-loo at the Rose Parade's Showcase of Floats.

A new optical illusion trend comes along every couple of years or so, or so it seems.

Remember the posters where you tried to spy a dolphin in the lines of color? Or those drawings that seem to spin, even as they stay static?

Neato things to behold, all of 'em, but the niftiest of the bunch is almost never classified as an optical illusion. And it comes around far more frequently, to boot: once a year, in fact. Yep, we're talking about the Rose Parade, and if those moving, mechanical marvels that roll down Colorado Boulevard aren't mega optical illusions, of a sort, well, then we'll firmly but politely take the opposite opinion.

See what we mean at the Showcase of Floats, the annual, just-after-the-parade-wraps look-a-thon that takes place around Sierra Madre and Washington Boulevards (where the floats come to a stop).

The Showcase continues into Jan. 2. Tickets are ten bucks.

As for the optical illusion bit? That's easy. A swath of blue hyacinths or cornflowers, when seen from afar or on television, may look like a swimming pool or bluebird. But when seen from a few feet away, the in-person viewer can pick out the thousands of particular petals that make up the "pool" illusion.

Yeah, we said "neato" and meant it. It's just a really cool effect that the Rose Parade has perfected. Cheers to the many volunteers who do the countless-hours thing, sticking all of that natural stuff on, just so we parade fans may see dragon scales in a bunch of peony petals or a campfire that consists of oodles of marigold buds.

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The Tournament of Roses Showcase of Floats is on from 1 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan.1 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 2.

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