It’s on pace for completion in less than two weeks, but as the deadline nears, tensions often rise, nerves fry, and anxiety mounts leading up to the start of the annual Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.
It’s known as “crunch time” around South Pasadena’s float, being built in a giant tent behind the War Memorial Building in the 400 block of Fair Oaks Avenue.
“Oh yes, it can be stressful,” admits Chris Colburn, the construction chair for the latest entry called “Booster Club,” in keeping with the overall Tournament of Roses theme of “Making a Difference.”
Yet, Colburn quickly points out, “We have a good crew and always get it done.”
“What’s a better depiction of ‘Making a Difference’ than the hometown Booster Club,” Colburn explained, noting that the 2018 float features a carload of revelers heading to the big game. The car is pulling a trailer full of tailgate supplies as the passengers – all animals – wave pennants in support of their team.
Over the years, Colburn has worked on roughly 26 floats, saying he enjoys the sense of pride and community involvement it brings. “Not everyone gets the opportunity to say, ‘I advertised my hometown to a world stage.’ Yay South Pas – that’s what we are all about. It’s a very long tradition, so we want to keep it going.”
The city’s float will be viewed by millions of television viewers, and thousands more along the parade route as it takes its 5.5-mile journey down Colorado Blvd. in the 129th edition of the parade.
On a recent Saturday, a crew of about 10 volunteers – mostly welding steel on various parts of the float – worked on the float throughout the day while another eight decorators were busy gluing seeds and dry materials into place.
“It’s a pretty massive undertaking,” explained Colburn. “But we enjoy it. A lot of us wouldn’t be around here for 25 to 30 years if we didn’t think it was important and got something out of it.”
The SPTOR construction chair was holding a welder in his right hand while a hammer was only a short distance away. It would soon come to good use. “I come out here and take out my stress by beating on metal all day,” he said with a laugh.
Mary Jane Juranek has been working as a volunteer for the Tournament of Roses for more than 20 years, doing a variety of jobs. Her current task is supporting the decorating team. In the final days and hours just before the float rolls down the parade route, it’s all hands on deck as Juranek will join about 100 volunteers, including some from outside the state, to place a massive amount of flowers on the float to create a floral masterpiece.
Building a float is a year-round effort, beginning with a design concept in February to match the overall theme of the Rose Parade, which comes from the Tournament House in Pasadena. Much of the work on the chassis and fine-turning the engine are generally completed during the spring before construction starts in earnest at the beginning of September when the tent goes up.
“I enjoy working on the float very much,” said Juranek. “I always say it’s going to be my last year of volunteering, but somehow I keep coming back. It’s fun.”
Others agree. Joined by her husband, Mike, another volunteer, Fran Luallen, has been lending a hand at the local float site for the past five years, driving approximately 40 miles from Santa Clarita to be part of the excitement. “We just love everybody here,” she said. “We’re part of the family now. I do whatever needs to be done.”
Longtime volunteer Bill Hudson, a member of the welding crew, was busy doing “some shaping,” as he calls it, by bending steel and forming parts of an animal that will be on board the float. In another corner of the tent, Anita Scott, who has been helping decorate the float for seven years, talked about how much she enjoys being around other like-minded people who are passionate about making a contribution to the city. “When I first started working on the float, I wanted to get a sense of what the community was all about, who these people were and what interested them,” she said. “I thought the best way to do that was to get involved in a creative endeavor.”
Sharon Mitchell is working on her fourth float in town and keeps coming back, like Luallen, “because it’s a nice family,” she said. “There are marriages that have come out of this. A lot of people take pride in the float and it’s fun to watch it go down the street.”
Chris Metcalf, the head florist on South Pasadena’s parade entry, calls his longtime participation on the float “ a way of life,” noting he’s spent thousands of hours behind its success over the years. “I really love it.”