A wide-eyed ostrich, wearing a leather helmet, goggles, and a scarf blowing in the wind, blasts off with the aid of a rocket-fueled jetpack, propelling it from high atop a snow-covered cliff.
Below, as part of South Pasadena’s latest float scheduled to role down Colorado Boulevard in the next Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, more ostriches, joined by raccoons and a rabbit, help send it down its path, some holding a makeshift sail made of rope.
It’s all fictitious, of course, a blend of humor and fun offered as part of the city’s floral spectacle returning after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, scheduled as part of a long tradition until it wasn’t, cut short last January on account of COVID.
From all accounts, the city’s entry – “Sky’s the Limit” – is on target to reach the starting area along Orange Grove Boulevard December 31, just hours before the 8 a.m. launch down the parade route the next morning to take part in the 5 ½-mile journey to welcome in 2022.
“Our float is coming together very nicely,” said Brant Dunlap, the president of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee. “All of the animals are constructed and the screening process on them is in full swing.”
Dunlap says the main ostrich, given the name Theodore Fahrenheit, is close to being suspended above the float. “The decoration team has been busy working on gathering Buffalo grass, Pampas grass, Lily of the Nile, and doing general prep work on the float,” he said.
While Dunlap likes the progress being made, Tournament of Roses officials require the float to pass a series of inspections leading up to the parade. There are what South Pasadena Construction Chair Joss Rodgers calls three “check-ins” from the Tournament crew, each one having its own specific checklist of highly technical requirements, but basically falling into different buckets – the MI, T1 and T2 – all taking place at the float site behind the War Memorial Building in the city.
The MI or Technically Mechanical Inspection, usually held in late summer, is a check of the basics, making sure the float operates, including the engines, wheels, chassis. Potential issues are identified and addressed by the next phase – T1 or formally the Technical Inspection 1, which was successfully held last Saturday.
“It calls for confirmation of the design, all the parade day plans and how those plans align with tournament requirements,” explained Rodgers. “This would include overall dimensions, weight, basic safety and operation. The overall structure (length, width, height) must be finalized for this.”
Any issues identified must be addressed by the third and final phase, T2 or officially Technical Inspection 2, usually taking place in late November or early December.
In the T1 and T2, the South Pasadena crew takes the float out for an important test drive up-and-down Fair Oaks Avenue in front of TOR officials, who insist the float’s construction must be 80% complete by the latter with all structural fabrication and operator compartments completed.
From a construction standpoint, the volunteer work crew is looking ahead to November 15 when foam is sprayed onto the float’s surface, providing much of its shape and structure, allowing the decorating to largely begin.
Paying for the approximate $80,000 to $100,000 price tag for the local float takes a concerted effort of fundraisers and contributions in-kind from the community.
The organization kicked off its money-raising efforts several months ago with a golf tournament at South Pasadena’s 18-hole Arroyo Seco Golf Course and pulled in roughly $15,000 when the proceeds were ultimately tabulated.
South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee (SPTOR) officials hope residents will dig deep into their pockets to take part in a special raffle that could make the next New Year’s Day extra special for some lucky participants.
Alan Vlacich, an official with SPTOR who helped spearhead the golf tourney with John Vandercook, is now busy selling raffle tickets for $100 apiece. The first-prize winner in the drawing will receive four tickets to the Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 2022 between the 40 and 50-yard lines. Second place will receive four VIP Rose Parade tickets in the reviewing stand. Third place walks off with $300 in cash.
“It’s all to help our committee raise funds for our city float in the Rose Parade,” explained Vlacich, noting only 200 tickets are sold. “It’s one of a number of fundraisers we hold throughout the year to generate enough funds to pay for cost associated with out entry.”
Vlacich has done the math, and notes that selling all 200 raffle tickets will raise a nifty $20,000 for the float. To purchase one, give him a call at (626) 233-5570.
Another big fundraiser is the Crunch Time Party, which was held virtual last year and featured dozens of silent and live auction items. It looks to return in late December. “Currently the Crunch team has been meeting and discussing how this can be done in person,” noted Dunlap. “Being that our regular attendance of 200 may be too many with COVID restrictions, the committee is looking at possibly capping attendance to 125. In doing so it is also possible that our traditional table sales may not happen. Meaning only individual tickets would be offered. If in fact we do meet in person, we will have our traditional live-auction being run by an auctioneer. The goal of the committee is to have everything in place by December 1st and officially make the announcement.”
Whatever decision is made, Dunlap insisted, “We will be having our world famous second annual on-line auction again.”
The SPTOR committee is looking at holding the event over four days, from December 27 – December 30.
As the float is being constructed under a giant tent, Dunlap encourages the public to stop by, view its development and say hello to the work crew. Some might even want to stick around and lend a hand. Workers are generally at the site on Tuesday and Thursday evenings after 5 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
“It’s your float,” he said. “It’s city pride that is seen around the world. The site is available for anyone to come by at anytime to see the progress. On the left side of the tent is a banner showing what ‘Sky’s the Limit’ will look like as it rolls down Colorado Boulevard on January 1st. As you look at the float itself you will be amazed at the talent we have to make this come to life.”
Dunlap says multiple South Pasadena generations have worked on the city’s float, not to mention thousands from around the country who have viewed it over the years. “This float represents the City of South Pasadena in a way that no other single piece of our city’s history can,” he said. “It is self-built, self-funded and nobody is paid. It’s a true labor of community love that has been maintained for future generations to be a part of.”
As the oldest float in the Rose Parade, the man guiding the local parade committee says proudly: “Not many things are still around since 1910,” he said, not completing his sentence until adding, “but our float is.”