It was an exciting Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2016 for the six organizations that build their own floats. For the first time in Tournament of Roses history, all six took home trophies. Burbank, Cal Poly, Downey, La Cañada Flintridge, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena put together creations that were beautiful, whimsical, and used an abundance of roses. The photo list below presents each award-winning float and a bit about the organizations, with links to previous articles.
In Rose Parade parlance, “self built” is a noun as well as an adjective, and can refer to either the volunteer organization that constructs the float or the float itself. When the Rose Parade began in 1890, the rose-bedecked carriages and floats were built and decorated by the people who entered them, but soon professional builders were offering their design and building skills. For the past 30 or so years, only six of the dozens of floats were self-built.
The organizations may compete for trophies, but they have an annual get-together and on occasion order supplies together to get a better rate. Both professionals and self builts support each other in time of need, such as when La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association was burglarized a few years ago.
Building a float is a year-round process. Design concepts are solicited as early as December and the final ideas selected by ballot in late January or early February. Builders are looking for designs that fit the parade theme and the particular style of the organization and are buildable. The design that is presented to the Tournament of Roses in February may be a simple reworking of the one chosen or may be a conflation of two or more designs.
Throughout the year, builders raise funds, create awareness, take care of business, choose and round up construction botanical materials, and volunteer thousands of hours putting the float together. They show off their progress by driving the unfinished float in local parades. December is filled with dry decoration, testing animation and driving, and putting on fresh flowers and other botanical materials.
After the Rose Parade and two or three days of post-parade showings are over, the floats are moved back to the barns to be deconstructed. The parts that can be reused are stored and the rest is recycled or disposed. This can be a traumatic time for some of the volunteers who put so much into the creation, but there’s not much time to mourn. The next year’s parade is already underway.
The theme of the 127th Rose Parade and 102nd Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2016 was “Find Your Adventure.” If you have a question or would like a reply to your comment, please post on Facebook at All Things Rose Parade or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Pasadena ‘Fishing Follies’
South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association is the senior member of the self-built clan. Its 123rd Rose Parade entry, “Fishing Follies,” won the National Trophy for best depiction of life in the USA. The float depicted a giant bear making an unexpected catch in the local fishing hole as his woodland friends watched in laughter. Appropriately, the theme from The Andy Griffith Show was whistled as the float rolled along. SPTORA’s mission is to create positive exposure for South Pasadena through volunteerism.
Sierra Madre ‘Rollin’ on the River’
Sierra Madre Rose Float Association presented its 84th Rose Parade entry in 2016. “Rollin’ on the River” won the Animation Trophy for best animation and movement with three funny flamingoes white-water rafting in umbrellas. Each flamingo’s craft moved in a different fashion: side to side, back and forth, and spinning. Sierra Madre, with a population of 11,000, is the smallest city to participate in the parade, and SMRFA receives no city funds. Each year, four teens are chosen to represent the city and ride the float.
Burbank ‘Are We There Yet?’
Also presenting its 84th entry was the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association. It won the Theme Trophy for excellence in presenting the parade theme with “Are We There Yet?” The float presented the quintessential summer vacation, with each member of the Raccoon family wanting to go someplace different as they bounced along the highway in a woody wagon pulling a Teardrop trailer. BTORA has a state-of-the-art float barn and receives support from the City of
Burbank, Burbank Water and Power and Burbank Parks and Recreation Department. Crunch-time volunteers often come from the local studios.
Cal Poly Universities ‘Sweet Shenanigans’
At Cal Poly Universities, float building is a class, though many volunteers are added to the crew. The entry is built by students from the two California Polytechnic Universities, San Luis Obispo and Pomona. Each school works on half the float until mid-October, when SLO brings the back half down south for final construction and decoration. “Sweet Shenanigans”, the 68th Cal Poly float, was a play on the many bears featured in the 2016 Rose Parade, with gummy bears instead of growly bears. It won the Lathrop K. Leishman Trophy for most beautiful noncommercial float.
The mission of the Rose Float Leadership Committee is to develop student leadership, teamwork and life skills. The problem solving these technical and agricultural students engage to get a float on the route is sure to help prepare them for their careers.
Downey ‘Exploring the Everglades’
Downey Rose Float Association consistently presents floats that lean more to the artistic than the humorous. Its 62nd entry, “Exploring the Everglades,” was a gorgeous depiction of the Florida National Park and some of the endangered animals that live there. It won the Founders’ Trophy for most beautiful float built and decorated by volunteers from a community or organization. Like Sierra Madre, Downey chooses several princesses to ride on the float and represent the city. DRFA works with the City of Downey and other organizations to promote community pride. Volunteers range in age from 3 to 92.
La Canada Flintridge ‘Up a Creek’
Whimsy, humor, and animation are what La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association looks for in a float design. The youngest of the self builts at age 38, LCFTRA won the Bob Hope Humor Trophy for most comical and amusing entry with “Up a Creek.” Three wild and crazy guys took a trip downriver and had a bit of trouble when the bobcat’s oar broke. The association receives no monetary support from the city, but come December when the float is moved under the 210 freeway for decorating, it is one of La Cañada Flintridge’s most identifiable landmarks.