By Charly SHELTON
It’s New Year’s Eve and for many around the country the hype and excitement of celebrating the coming of the New Year would not be complete without the Tournament of Roses Parade, the first thing seen by many in the morning on New Year’s Day. For those who watch from around the country, television is as close as they will get. But for the lucky residents of the Crescenta Valley, the Rose Parade floats are only a stone’s throw away.
Tucked away in an unassuming warehouse in Pasadena, 10 of the 27 Rose Parade floats sit side by side while teams of volunteers crawl up and down, all over the floats adding the flowers, seeds and plants that make this a floral parade. From Dec 26 up to judging time on Dec. 31, hundreds of volunteers will take these plywood floats and make them into floral masterpieces. These include volunteers such as Crescenta Valley’s Youth Town Council. Crescenta Valley Town Council member Harry Leon brought the CVYTC down to the parade decorating warehouse at Phoenix Decorating Company to help adorn the floats from Glendale and the Armenian Float Association, and anybody else who may need help.
“Right now we’re volunteering, helping the Armenian Float Association with their Armenian Rose Parade float,” said Elektra Mirzakhanian, president of CV Youth Town Council. “It’s been very nice and very exciting. We’ve learned a lot of new things about what they put on the float and how they decorate it. It’s very cool.”
The float, with the theme “Discover Armenia,” features 16 different locations and points of interest from around Armenia. The CVYTC was among the many volunteers who helped decorate. With a total of 13 shifts, and between 50 and 70 volunteers per shift, the Armenian Float Association is expecting around 700 volunteers to help in the creation of this display over the course of six days.
“[The CVYTC has] been working great,” said Mike Panossian, director of the float who is in charge of volunteers. “They’ve been very patient, they came in and started cutting flowers and whatever work there is to be done. They’re doing a great job. I love their work.”
Panossian added with a laugh, “It’s like they know what they’re doing.”
Glendale’s float is similar in labor. Cindy Slaughter, sergeant-at-arms on the executive board of the Glendale Rose Float Association, estimates their volunteers at about 125 per day, from 9 a.m. to
5 p.m. over the six days. But the volunteering didn’t just start on Dec. 26 for the Glendale Rose Float Association members. For them, volunteering started on Jan. 28 of this year.
In 2012, the previous Rose Float Association disbanded and the organization, financing and execution of the City of Glendale’s annual Tournament of Roses entry was left in question.
“The City of Glendale, Dave Weaver, handled everything for three years and then in 2015 the city council voted not to have the float,” Slaughter said. “[The float is now back for 2016 after a one-year hiatus] because the community – me, Lori Silao and people on Nextdoor.com – wondered why we didn’t have a float.”
Those concerned citizens held a meeting on Jan. 28 to see what they could do about getting a Glendale float back in the parade. The application was submitted to the Tournament of Roses Association that had to re-approve the contestant, Glendale, because it skipped a year. Finally, the city was invited back to the parade, providing that it bring a stellar float.
“The cost of the float, the cost for us to be invited back, was to have this very [expensive float]. It was very expensive to come back into the Tournament of Roses Parade,” Slaughter said. “The city voted unanimously to approve the cost of building this float provided that the community cares enough to help with fundraising and that there is a strong association to help. So this is different in the way that it’s now a city and community partnership.”
The Phoenix Decorating Company warehouse holds 10 of the 27 floats, and another 11 floats are being decorated in the Rosemont Pavillion, closer to the Rose Bowl. Six other floats are self-built by the organizations that sponsor them, and they are built and judged off-site.
“Five of the six self-builds are off-site building in their own location,” said Pam Wiedenbeck, treasurer of the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association. “Cal Poly, which is the sixth self- build, is down in the Rosemont tent with the Paradiso floats.”
The La Cañada float, titled “Up a Creek,” was built on the backlot of the Foothill Municipal Water District. It was then wheeled out to the parking lot of Flintridge Preparatory School, under the freeway overpass, for decorating. The staff of volunteers, including the entirety of LCFTRA, donate their time, mainly in the last two weeks, Wiedenbeck said, to get the float show ready. All told, 25,000 to 30,000 volunteer hours will be spent on the float to get it ready for judging.
With the decoration phase now finished, the floats will be judged this afternoon, Thursday, sitting in place at the various sites where they were decorated. The scaffolding will be removed and judges will examine each float for five minutes before moving on to the next. Once the floats have been judged, in the late afternoon, they will be moved to their starting positions for the Tournament of Roses Parade.
“My favorite part [of decorating the float] has been the teamwork, working together and seeing the end result has been really cool,” said Mirzakhanian. “It shows just how much your council means, how much people who work with you mean.”