‘Rookie’ Helps Behind the Wheel of City Float

Joss Rogers, in his first year as a member of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses construction crew, will be the co-pilot in South Pasadena’s entry during the 130th running of the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | SouthPasadenan.com | Committee chairs and those who volunteer by working on South Pasadena’s float that will take part in the 2019 Rose Parade are joined by Pasadena Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny, center, front row, and members of the Rose Court.

A self-proclaimed “rookie,” Joss Rogers will find himself in a highly instrumental role as he climbs into the depths of South Pasadena’s float for the 130th Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.

Rogers, a bit bemused by it all, thought there might be some sort of pecking order to become the co-driver or second in command on board South Pasadena’s float as it rolls down the 5½-mile parade route along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena.

When told he was being tabbed to ride in the tiny control center, beneath a mountain of flowers, while seated alongside main driver James Jontz to manage the float’s animation, Rogers thought he was so new to the organization it couldn’t be possible for a first-year volunteer to get such a high profile assignment in, perhaps, the most prestigious parade in the world.

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“I’m the rookie,” said Rogers, when asked if he would consider the position. “I’m not sure I should be given that privilege.”

He accepted the task, but now jokingly wonders if he made the best decision. “As the weeks have gone on, guys who have done it before have come up to me saying, ‘I’m never doing that again,’” said a good-natured Rogers before adding with a laugh, “All the people who are more senior are smarter.”

In other words, those who have assumed the position in the past now know better.
Jokes aside, Rogers will be under the hood, so to speak, of South Pasadena’s entry, “Three Little Birds,” a float showcasing – you guessed it ¬– three little birds resting on the neck of a guitar as Bob Marley and the Wailers are heard singing the 1970 hit single by the same name over loudspeakers on board.

The lyrics are catchy to those of that era who will recall the lively tune that reminds listeners “…Don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright…”
Much like the repetition of “Yo ho a pirates life for me” from the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disneyland, it might be awhile after the Rose Parade before Rogers gets the music from “Three Little Birds” out of his head as it plays over and over.
While he might be whistling along with song, he knows he’s getting an opportunity few will ever have. “It does sound like it’s going to be an interesting experience,” he said of the unique way of ushering in the new year by helping get the float to the finish line as its viewed by thousands along the parade route and millions more watching worldwide on television.

As Jontz and Rogers are in command below, Anita Scott, another SPTOR volunteer, will be somewhat hidden among the flowers on top of the float, directing it down the parade route as a “spotter,” using proper parade vernacular.

“She’s there (communicating through a headset) to warn us if we’re getting too close to something, if we need to move a little more to the right or to the left,” explained Rogers.

“She is our eyes.”

Surviving extreme heat inside the tight quarters and overcoming potential boredom, are two areas of concern for Rogers as he plans for the big day. He has suggested setting up closed-circuit cameras on board the float to observe the crowd and surroundings along the way. “You have nothing to look at the entire time you’re inside the float,” he said. “All you’re looking at are the backs of flowers, the stems.”

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | SouthPasasdenan.com | Showing the city’s rendering – “Three Little Birds” – are, from left, South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Decoration Chair Janet Benjamin, Construction Chair Chris Colburn, Design Chair Paul Abbey, Rendering Designer Mike Mera and SPTOR President Courtney Dunlap.

Rogers is also in favor of installing air conditioning units or some sort of ventilation system inside the small chamber to help keep it cool.

Never seeing any of the steps of how the city’s float comes together, from conception, design, to construction, and decoration, has been a highlight for the float’s key volunteer.
Rogers is just glad to be a part of the crew that is responsible for building the city’s entry, joining others like him who continue to put in long days and nights at the float worksite in a giant tent behind the War Memorial Building in the 400 block of Fair Oaks Avenue.

“That’s the most rewarding part of this,” he said. “Watching it go from a bare chassis and then turning out a guitar is pretty remarkable. Guys like Chris Colburn and Paul Abbey have been doing this for years.”

The “rookie” is captivated watching Colburn and Abbey, two of the float’s most dedicated volunteers on the planet, in action. “It’s been amazing just watching how talented they are,” said Rogers. “For them it’s like (ho-hum, no big deal) today we’re going to build a Gibson guitar.”

In keeping with the overall parade theme, “The Melody of Life,” selected by Pasadena Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny, South Pasadena’s float will also feature a drum, tambourine, keyboard and microphone to symbolize some of the instruments used during the reggae scene in Marley’s day.

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | SouthPasasdenan.com | Joss Rogers, a first year volunteer working on South Pasadena’s entry,“Three Little Birds,” has been selected to be the co-driver for the city’s float in the 2109 Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.

Abbey and Colburn, on the construction side, along with Chris Metcalfe and Janet Benjamin on the decorating end, are at forefront of South Pasadena’s entry, coupled with dozens of helpers, all chipping in to bring Mike Mera’s design rendering come to life with another float to remember. Overseeing it all is South Pasadena Tournament of Roses President Courtney Dunlap who has known all along what one of the newest volunteers is just now discovering.

“The culture of this group is really neat,” said Rogers, proud to be part of the float’s inner workings. “How it’s all put together is pretty incredible.”