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Finding Inspiration Among the Flowers

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Photo by Molly SHELTON Parade float volunteers apply the perfect color and textures to the octopus on the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses entry float, “To the Rescue.”

Photo by Molly SHELTON
Parade float volunteers apply the perfect color and textures to the octopus on the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses entry float, “To the Rescue.”

Help can come from the most unlikely of sources as this year’s La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses entry, “To The Rescue,” demonstrates.


Volunteers for the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses float will see the result of their hours and hours of hard work when the city’s entry rolls down Colorado Boulevard during the Rose Parade.

This year’s float is a reminder that even one normally considered an enemy needs help now and then. Employing the 2015 Rose Parade theme, “Inspiring Stories,” the LCF Tournament of Roses float depicts the story of a shark that has been trapped in a sunken ship in fishing nets when an octopus, a lobster and a variety of fish come “To The Rescue,” the title of the float.

To get the float from concept to Colorado Boulevard takes a lot of volunteers, a lot of organizing and a lot of flowers –about 18,000 vials of flowers. And that doesn’t include seeds and other flowers that are not in water vials.

For 20 years Patricia Foltyn has volunteered for the LCFTRA, 15 of those years as the person in charge of the “weeds and seeds.” Over the years she has learned a lot.

“Every live flower must be in water,” she said.

On Sunday, several teens and community members were filling up vials of water and placing them onto a Styrofoam board where they stayed until ready for placement on the float.

“Right now everyone is filling the vials with warm water and [flower freshness preserver] and putting the tops on them,” Foltyn said.


Folytyn is from San Gabriel and loves working on the La Cañada float. She likes that people come from a variety of backgrounds and locations to volunteer.

Mark Hershman, who was visiting his parents from Kansas, was also working on the float. He stood out from the other La Cañada volunteers who were bundled up against the cold weather. Hershman was wearing a T-shirt.

He said he has watched the parade on television.

“You don’t realize how much work it takes to [create the float],” he said.

The level of commitment and hard work by the volunteers was appreciated by Folytyn, too.

“I like seeing the passion and dedication of these kids [and volunteers] working together as a team,” she said. “To watch this whole process coming together – that’s what keeps me coming back.”

“We all have a good time,” said Ann Neilson, past LCFTRA president.


Neilson has been volunteering on the La Cañada float since its debut in the Rose Parade in 1979. The community decided to create a float for the Tournament of Roses Parade as a way of celebrating after the City of La Cañada Flintridge was incorporated.

“In the beginning, I was a Girl Scout leader and we started going around and collecting used Christmas trees …We used the trees as our base for the very first float,” she said. That first entry, “Horse Play,” earned the association first place for cities with populations from 20,000 to 30,000.

Since then the association has learned a lot about how to build a float including how to take into consideration the freeway and street crossovers the float must travel under.

The La Cañada Flintridge float is one of the few that is still produced at the city level, with funds raised by volunteers. No professional company is hired to design the entry either.

“We have a [design] contest every year,” Neilson said. “A committee looks at the submissions.”

After all the work, fundraising and flowers, when the parade is over the float comes back home to La Cañada. It is on display for a couple of days, usually near Memorial Park on Foothill Boulevard where community members can see it up close.

“Then we take it down to a chassis,” said Chuck Terhune, site chair or “chief troll” as he calls himself. “We cut off all the metal we don’t need, which brings it basically down to two engines, four tires and hydraulics.”

Terhune is part of the construction crew that created the skeletons of the animals, trees and objects on the float.

“I enjoy it,” he said of building the creatures.

Terhune built the “lantern fish” a creature that looks a lot like an angler fish that has a light at the end of the angler protruding from its forehead.

Volunteers begin construction on the float in late March or early April. After getting all the structure components they start shaping the float from the design.

“That goes through the summer,” he said. “Then in August things pick up a bit.”

The volunteers estimate the surface area of the float and determine how many seeds and flowers they will need to order. All of this has to be done with enough time to get the supplies.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” Terhune said.

Even though the 2015 Rose Parade is just ending, designs are already being submitted for the 2016 entry. Neilson encourages anyone interested in designing the 2016 float to submit a short written description on the online form. The 2016 Pasadena Tournament of Roses theme is a “Sense of Adventure.” The aim is to celebrate history, create awareness and encourage individuals to get engaged. For more information or to submit a design visit The deadline for submissions is Jan. 15.

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