By Brandon HENSLEY
Santa’s workshop has nothing on the Rose Palace.
The Pasadena hideout is a place where New Year’s dreams are born; a place not for elves but for student volunteers who paint and meticulously place beads and flowers onto enormous floats, proud representations of different regions in Southern California.
The payoff will come Saturday on Colorado Boulevard during the 122nd Tournament of Roses Parade, but the work starts in the giant warehouse, and that is where the Glendale Rose Float Association and its volunteers are this week, preparing for the big day.
In keeping with the parade’s theme this year of “Building Dreams, Friendships and Memories,” Glendale’s float is named “Say Cheese,” and features a giant bellows camera with a mouse standing on top taking pictures of life’s most cherished memories such as birth, graduation and marriage. Riders will be featured in oversized frames, recreating these images.
The entry will be 33 feet long, 22 feet high and 18 feet wide.
Building floats requires a lot of man hours and crew chief Dave Weaver said he has the best volunteers around. Weaver said he expects the float to be finished early this week because, “We’re much more organized than the other floats. We have more volunteers, too.”
Those volunteers, from high schools all over the Southland, like to stick with Weaver, who has been the crew chief since the early 2000s. Walk around the float and he’ll point out students that have been with him for up to seven years.
“The [volunteers] I develop I hang onto a number of years,” Weaver said. “After so many years I give them a white jacket,” as a kind of morale booster.
Weaver had 160 volunteers the first day of work this month. He expects over 500 in total before the end of the week.
The City of Glendale’s floats have won awards each of the past four years, but to Weaver, it’s more about how the kids feel if they lose out on one.
“The only time I feel bad for the students is when we know what we did and then we don’t get it and I feel bad for them,” he said. “Me, I’m disappointed, but I look forward to the next year.”
While Glendale gets to work in the comfort of the Rose Palace, the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association does their best interpretation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song, “Under the Bridge,” as they are set up directly underneath the southbound 2 Freeway in La Cañada.
The workspace is more than enough though and on Tuesday coordinator Danelle Jacobs said they were almost ready to start putting the flowers on their float, “3-2-1 Dig!,” which consists of three construction machines that have taken some time off to play. Animation includes 360 degree turns by each machine.
“It’s a transition day,” said Jacobs. “We’re finishing up dry but it’s a little early to start flowers.”
But on Saturday, viewers will able to see a simply massive amount of flowers on the float. There will be 7,000 roses of four different shades, and around 20,000 different carnations.
“We want it to be fun and reach out and bring childhoods [together], so we felt going with the bright carnations can give us what was more important,” Jacobs said.
Those flowers are usually imported from Central America, Thailand or Hawaii but, “This float doesn’t call for a lot of tropicals and exotics so we don’t have them this year.”
Perhaps another award is in store for the La Cañada team. Since being a part of the parade in 1979, they have won 22 different kinds of awards.
What Jacobs does have this year is all kinds of volunteers. Students from local schools, Boy and Girl Scout troops, and even people from out of state have come to help decorate. Jacobs said a couple from Michigan came “because it’s been their dream to work on a Rose Parade float.”
For the volunteers and coordinators, their dreams will be realized New Year’s Day. Christmas is over, so maybe those guys in the North Pole can come down and see how Southern Californians go to work.