By Ted AYALA
From the garbage cans of Glendale neighborhoods to becoming a nationwide celebrity, the saga of Meatball the Bear has been a winding and improbable one. Now a new twist is being added to his journey – as inspiration for a Rose Parade float.
Meatball, whose culinary habits caught the attention of the national media last year, is now on the cusp of being immortalized in the Glendale’s Rose Float entry for the 2014 Tournament of Roses Parade.
The float’s preliminary design features as its centerpiece a likeness of Meatball popping in and out of a garbage can. The 27-foot tall design was chosen to bring awareness to the city’s more than 5,000 square miles of natural space, much of which rubs shoulders with the city’s neighborhoods – a fact that Meatball himself famously discovered. Dubbed “Let’s Be Neighbors,” the entry will fit into the 2014 Rose Parade’s “Dream Come True” theme. Some of the other examples of Glendale wildlife to be featured on the float will include the California mule deer, red-tailed hawk, and American goldfinch. Also being considered is the inclusion of having a real coyote riding on the float.
“It’s a very cute float and very topical,” said Councilmember Laura Friedman. “This one really says something.”
According to a city staff report prepared for the Glendale City Council’s review, “the float suggests that it is not only desirable, but possible for all those who live on the wildland-urban interface to live together in harmony.”
Council has so far appropriated $150,000 for use in entering into a contract with Phoenix Decorating Company, Inc. of Pasadena, as well as another $10,000 for promotional costs. Funding goals for the float is set at $75,000 – at least half the cost of the float, excluding staff costs – in order to offset the cost of the float. The city has so far secured a $10,000 sponsorship from Holland Partners, as well as another $160 from the community.
Mayor Dave Weaver sounded pleased at Tuesday’s council meeting over the attention the float has received from the media.
“It’s gone nationwide,” he said. “It’s gone viral.”
Though city council members expressed disappointment that donations have so far been much less than expected, they remained hopeful that the national exposure the float is receiving will inspire more corporate sponsors to step forward.
“We won’t be sitting still,” Mayor Weaver said.
Meatball the bear has been living in San Diego County since his last brush with wildlife officials. His new home, the Lions, Tigers, & Bears sanctuary in Alpine, has provided him with his own four-acre habitat, which was funded by donations obtained earlier this year.
Meatball has yet to publicly comment on the float.