The Rose Parade started with roses, and though many other flowers and dry materials are used on floats now, the rose still reigns supreme. The aptly named Queen’s Trophy is presented to the float that has the most effective use and display of roses in concept, design and presentation, and in 2016, that went to the Public Broadcasting Service’s “Downton Abbey: The Final Adventure.” Charles Meier, creative director of Paradiso Parade Floats, designed a float that recreated Highclere Castle in intricate detail.
With more than 60,000 roses in 20 varieties, this entry was certainly a good choice for the Queen’s Trophy. Tens of thousands of Roseberry and Cherry O roses carpeted the base of the float and pink Titanic and Priceless roses bloomed in the flowering trees. Of special note were the English garden roses, rarely used on Rose Parade floats because of their fragility, nestled in the landscaping.
For those of us suffering withdrawal after the last episode of Downton Abbey aired in early March, a look back at the Tournament of Roses entry should provide a little relief. The list below is filled with photos, flowering and details of this stunning entry that had fans cheering up and down the parade route. Be sure to check out Elizabeth McGovern’s Rose Parade story.
For PBS, the parade served not only as a goodbye to the long-running show, but an event that brought together many elements of the organization. Paula Kerger, CEO of PBS, in a pre-parade interview with KTLA, reminded viewers that the Grand Marshal has a relationship with PBS, producing documentaries including one on the National Parks and a famous Dodger.
“This is huge for us. This is a fantastic way to celebrate the final season of Downton Abbey,” she said. “Ken Burns is the Grand Marshal, and a salute to the National Parks, Jackie Robinson’s hometown—we were just meant to be here.”
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 email@example.com.
‘The Final Adventure’
PBS brought a bit of British élan to the 2016 Rose Parade with “Downton Abbey: The Final Adventure.” A model of a 1919 3-liter Bentley blue label touring car, with a float observer doubling as the chauffer, drove along a road made of red, purple and brown potatoes. The Bentley was covered in burgundy strawflower with black seaweed tires and silverleaf chrome. A close look reveals the perspective created by the diminishing of the road towards the castle door. Two riders are tucked into the camera side of the float.
The 26-foot high tower had to be lowered to 16 feet to get under the bridge toward the end of the parade route. This was done with a custom-made elevator that lowered the top straight down into the lower floors of the castle. This piece was decorated separately from the rest of the float and hoisted into position before the start of the parade.
American Elizabeth McGovern portrayed Lady Cora Crawley, wife of the 7th Earl of Grantham. Seated with her in the Bentley is PBS CEO Paula Kerger. McGovern, who grew up in Los Angeles, had her own Rose Parade story to tell KTLA in a pre-parade interview: “When I was little, my dad put us on the bus from Encino, and we were sitting on the sidelines,” she said, waving her arm to the crowd. “Age 8. So for me, to be actually on a float is quite a journey .”
Roses and apples
Topiaries created with deep red roses and decorated with garlands of green apples and foliage added a touch of formality to the PBS Downton Abbey float. The riders were not identified.
Swans and iris
Mute swans glide in an iris pond. The iris were hand-opened to show color and create the water. Other flowers included Oriental lilies, snapdragons, hypericum and a variety of orchids, with a lacy edging of white and pink cymbidiums.
Two more riders nestle among the lush rose gardens on the off-camera side while a trio of swans gracefully skim the pond. Several urns were filled with profusions of flowers, including delicate English garden roses. The cymbidium edging an elegant touch.
Though Downton Abbey fans will always identify this estate with the television series, the building used for both exteriors and many of the interiors is Highclere Castle, the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. This miniature was created in painstaking detail with a palette of golden flax and sesame seed, walnut shell and millet. Ground cloves and cinnamon were dusted over the castle to give it a weathered, antique quality. The shadows created by the morning sun and rose trees is quite beautiful.
Creating a castle
Volunteers for Paradiso Parade Floats glued tiny seeds and walnut shell on a wood-and-foam surface to create the replica of Highclere Castle that towered over the PBS Downton Abbey float. More than 5,000 pieces of foam were shaped to create the ornate trim, medallions and finials.
Mounds of roses
This shot of the rear of the PBS float, taken at the post-parade Showcase of Floats, shows why this entry won the Queen’s Trophy for the most effective use and display of roses in concept, design and presentation. More than 60,000 roses formed carpets, cascades, trees, mounds and arrangements.