Jolene Constance can now check one more item off her bucket list.
The DeQuincy, Louisiana resident came a long distance last week to work on South Pasadena’s float – “Booster Club” – that rolled down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena for the 129th Rose Parade.
She and her friend, Angela Cutrera, made plans last summer to head to Southern California in December and volunteer on a float and purchase tickets for the parade. As the clock wound down on 2017, they found themselves working under a giant tent behind the War Memorial Building on South Pasadena’s entry just prior to the New Year’s Day spectacle. “We signed up for eight hours but ended up working 16,” said Constance, followed by a laugh. “It was just a wonderful experience for the both of us.”
As a new year dawned, they watched from the bleachers the city float, the one they helped decorate, come down the parade route.
Chris Colburn, the construction chair on the city float, said his crew knew from the start what the “end goal was, and we hammered it home. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”
The end goal, stressed Colburn, was to construct a float that would win the hearts of the community. He’s convinced it did.
Janet Benjamin, president of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee (SPTOR) and the head decorator, said the final product looked just like the design rendering. “It was a fun float,” said Benjamin, who shed a few tears after it was finally finished following a year of planning, construction and decorating. “Anytime you work on something so hard, so many hours, you do get emotional. It’s like one of your kids.”
Resident and SPTOR Board Member Bill Cullinane described South Pasadena’s float at “beautiful, clever, it’s just a remarkable job.”
As a result of high temperatures leading up to the parade, with concerns of flowers drying out, volunteers were forced to wait until the final two days before putting them on the float and in anticipation to final judging by Tournament of Roses judges. “It made for a mad dash, but they did it,” said Cullinane of the controlled chaos of finishing the float on time.
A member of the “mad dash” team was Anita Scott, who spent countless volunteer hours on the float, and was there in the final hours when the clock was ticking. “Nobody slept, very few people ate and there was a lot of excitement and activity,” she said. “And we got it done!”
As the judges roamed around South Pasadena’s float, assessing it in the hours before it headed for the Rose Parade starting area on Orange Grove Boulevard, Susan Amador called it “spectacular and a source of community pride. It’s one thing to see it on TV, but in person it’s a whole different experience, especially smelling the flowers. That’s something you don’t get on TV.”
The city’s 2018 entry, which came up short this year of an award, depicted a group of animals, some waving pennants, in a roadster headed to the big game. In tow was a trailer full of supplies, including a smoking barbecue, for a tailgate party.
“It really looks like a big car coming down the street,” noted South Pasadena City Councilmember Robert Joe. “It really is fantastic. I’m really impressed with what they have done with this float.”
Accolades came from everyone who took in the floral masterpiece. “It’s always so awe-inspiring that this can get done,” said South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Richard Schneider, “because I see it so many times during the year and you just don’t realize the amount of work it takes to get it finished by December 31st. I’m just amazed.”
Schneider, a longtime resident of South Pasadena, remembers those days about 30 years ago when the city nearly considered abandoning having the float built by volunteers, but rather having it commercially constructed instead. “They managed to get through that year and built it back up again,” he recalled.
Annie Au, a 40-year resident, was among those observing South Pasadena’s float the day before it was viewed by thousands along the parade route and millions more on TV around the globe. “A lot of people worked really hard to finish it, especially the last couple of days,” she said. “It’s great to see so much community support.”
Colburn said about 1,000 volunteers, averaging 5-hours per shift, pitched in to decorate the city float. That adds up to 5,000 hours on the decorating side, along with another 3,400 construction hours.
Residents from South Africa, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Washington, Virginia and North and South Carolina all worked on South Pasadena’s float entry.
Fran Luallen, who gave up her Saturdays to be a part of the float since early October, said she was in tears when it was finished, saying the float was “amazing.”
Looking back on its construction, an emotional Colburn thanked his crew for their long hours of work and dedication. “They really knocked this one out of the park,” he said. “They did an awesome job.”