Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years Day Rose Parade

I don't have recollections of attending many parades over the years, aside from Disney parades at the parks, until we moved to Wisconsin.  Even small communities here seem to have an annual parade.  We even found ourselves participating in the Kaytee contingent at the annual parade in Chilton several times handing out candy and other goodies. The Christmas Parade in Appleton is a local favorite.  And the boys still talk about the parade celebrating the Packers Super Bowl win in 1996 that passed through the village of Ashwaubenon where we lived.

But we were finally able to attend the one parade I'd always wanted to see, the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California, on New Years Day in 2001.  (For years I have watched TV New Years morning to see the beautiful floats that require frantic, last minute efforts by many volunteers to cover every square inch with the required flowers and natural materials. With a new theme every year, there are surprising new floats constructed and decorated each year-not the same helium-filled balloons or corporate sponsored floats that appear year-after-year in other locales.)  Our next-door-neighbor from Ashwaubenon was thrilled to be invited to bring the local high school band to appear in the parade, so we south traveled from northern California to meet up with friends from Ashwaubenon.  

Several floats we enjoyed in 2001:

Rotary International's
Recognizing Tomorrow's Leaders

Rotary International has a website chronicling the process of building and decorating their floats over the years.  In 2001 their won the Volunteers Trophy for the "best floral design of Parade theme under 35 feet in length."  Mark Twain’s story of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn is instantly recognizable by millions of people around the world. They were the recognizable element of the theme for the 2001 float, "Recognizing Tomorrow's Leaders".

Proposed float design
Float driver's compartment


Test driving float
constructed in Azusa by Charism Floats

Float painted & ready for application of flowers

Dry flower decorating in Azusa, CA

Buckets & buckets of fresh flowers

Fresh flowers being applied near the Rose Bowl

This Tournament of Roses began as a promotional effort by Pasadena's distinguished Valley Hunt Club to promote the "Mediterranean of the West." They invited their former East Coast neighbors to a mid-winter holiday, where they could watch games such as chariot races, jousting, foot races, polo and tug-of-war under the warm California sun. The abundance of fresh flowers, even in the midst of winter, prompted the club to add another showcase for Pasadena's charm: a parade would precede the competition, where entrants would decorate their carriages with hundreds of blooms. Today, float building is a multi-million dollar business and float construction begins almost immediately after the previous year's parade is concluded. The process starts with a specially-built chassis, upon which is built a framework of steel and chicken wire. In a process called "cocooning," the frame is sprayed with a polyvinyl material, which is then painted in the colors of the fresh flowers or dry material to be applied later. Every inch of every float must be covered with flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds or bark. Volunteer workers swarm over the floats in the days after Christmas, their hands and clothes covered with glue and petals. The most delicate flowers are placed in individual vials of water, which are set into the float one by one. Computerized animation has had an enormous impact on Rose Parade floats. Recent entires have featured King Kong stomping through a floral jungle, a guitar-playing dinosaur, pigs dancing the hula and a 60-foot-tall talking robot, all controlled by computers. But through all the changes, the Rose Parade has remained true to its floral beginnings, and each float is decorated with more flowers than the average florist will use in five years.

A year earlier, we had traveled to Pasadena to see the 2000 Rose Bowl game (a disappointing loss for my husband a Stanford grad, but a cause for celebration for many of our friends back in Wisconsin).  We didn't make it to the parade, but had been to visit the venues open to the public to view the floats in their final, frantic stages of decoration.

Rotary International's
"Readers are Winners"
float under construction

We saw the Rotary's float, "Readers are Winners" recognizing Rotary's emphasis on the need for functional literacy since 1985. UNESCO has estimated that more than a fourth of the people in the world are illiterate and unable to read or write well enough to adequately support themselves. 
Renowned designer Raul Rodriguez used the fable of the tortoise and the hare to depict the studious tortoise winning the race with his basket of books while the laid back rabbit was listening to his walkman. The thirty five foot float was constructed by Charisma Floats and was decorated by hundreds of volunteers from Rotary, Rotaract, and Interact clubs. The float won the Isabella Coleman Award for "Best presentation of color and color harmony through floral use."

2014 Tournament of Roses Parade 

Miracle Gro (Scotts) has posted a time lapse video of their 2014 float being built.

The finished "Grow Something Greater" float ready to be driven to 

The 2014 Rose Parade theme, “Dreams Come True”, inspired Miracle-Gro to create, “Grow Something Greater”, an edible dream garden overflowing with vegetables, fruits and flowers, all set next to a dream outdoor kitchen and social area where friends and family gather to harvest, create and enjoy healthy meals, and much cherished time together, while building life-long memories. Framed by lush floral trees and colorful fluttering butterflies, the edible gardens at the front of the float are ripe for the picking, filled with delectable fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Family members tend to their gardens and harvest their bounty, which is then handed to the family chefs at the center of the float working in the outdoor kitchen, sheltered by an overhead patio pergola laden with floral vines bursting in color, scrumptious and fresh meals are readied to serve. At the back of the float sits an outdoor dining area where family and friends joins together for their meal of fresh harvested delights. Beautiful floral gardens and containers cascading with colorful blooms set the stage for the family to relax aside a real waterfall and tranquil pond that is home to frogs and lily pads.
 The Miracle-Gro float uses:
• Over 15,000 Impulse coral roses ramble throughout the float
• Over 7,000 dendrobium orchids
• Over 12,000 yellow Giant Oncidium, golden hybrid vanda and James Story orchids
In harmony with nature, flowers, leaves, mulch and other appropriate materials used on this moveable green space, and others within Fiesta Parade Floats, will be recovered and recycled into Miracle-Gro soils, keeping green waste out of landfills.

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