Friday, December 31, 2010

The Cal Poly Float: A Rose Parade Tradition

For the past 63 years, the California State Polytechnic Universities (San Luis Obispo and Pomona) have joined engineering and design forces to create an annual animated Rose Parade float.

This year is no different. Based upon this year's year's parade theme: Building Dreams, Friendships and Memories, the Cal Poly Rose Float takes us out of this world with 'Galactic Expedition.'

As a Cal Poly professor, I was able to access the float's workshop at the Rose Bowl and am happy to share this behind the scenes look at how the finishing touches are placed on a Rose Parade float.

Controlled chaos would be the best description. Here's what the float looked like at 1:00pm on December 30th, with judging due at 2:30pm on December 31st.

It's true that most of the flowers are put on the float at the last minute, so judging is done with the 'final' touches of arrays of flowers in place, but clearly the float had a long way to go to completion. (But it will get done!)

The Cal Poly float effort is really symbolic of most of the float making in the parade.  Despite recent
'corporate' floats that can cost up to a $1 million to create and build, many of the most popular and long standing floats come from schools like Cal Poly and local cities like La Canada-Flintridge and South Pasadena. These community floats are all created by volunteer work with donation support.

The Cal Poly float is an interesting example of cooperation between two Cal Poly campuses (the San Luis Obispo engineering students design the technology - the Pomona students construct the float) involving an integrated array of volunteers that include students, staff, faculty, parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, and friends.  The Cal Poly float team even has an alumni group for those who have worked on the float over the years!

The volunteers come and work in shifts, while taking periodic 'lunch breaks' with a food tent and porta potties handy so that valuable work time is not lost.

What was just as amazing as watching this float constructed was observing the tremendous sense of community among all the workers and visitors, a community that all float volunteers share, regardless of sponsor. This is what helps make the Rose Parade so magical - it's long tradition of floral floats and multi-generational, multi-cultural bringing together of families and friends during the holiday season with only one goal in mind: build a prize-winning float. One of the most touching moments of my visit was watching an elderly couple showing their grandchildren toddlers the float and proudly exclaiming: We used to work on this float and someday you will too.
Last year, the Cal Poly float won the Bob Hope Humor Award, but the campuses are most proud of earning the  'Viewers Choice Award' for the past 2 years. This award is given annually to the most popular float based on viewer votes from those watching the Parade with Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards on KTLA, Los Angeles oldest independent television station.

So here's my unabashed promotion to ask you to vote for Cal Poly's Rose Float as this year's Viewer's Choice Award' to give the Cal Poly Broncos a 'three-peat.' Here are the rules: you can vote a maximum of five times and voting takes place on Saturday, January 1, 2010 between 8:00am and 2:10pm.

Whether you are watching the parade live on TV or in person, text FLOAT14 to 50649 from your mobile phone to cast your vote for Float #14, Galactic Expedition. You can also vote online at Don't forget to note you are voting for Float #14! Vote early, vote often (up to 5 times!)

Happy wishes to all participants for a smooth travel down Colorado Boulevard in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade, the 'granddaddy of them all!'

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1 comment:

  1. I appreciate this Rose parade post.
    I'm a ToR supporter - just not much of a parade goer!


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