During these unusual times, Brant Dunlap, like others, can’t wait to get back to anything that resembles normal.
Dunlap, the president of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee, looks forward to the day when he and his other committee members can reconvene meetings, making plans for the next Rose Parade – like those before the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the 2021 event.
A dedicated bunch hopes to someday make the City of South Pasadena’s entry the best it can be, building on the success of the 2020 “Victory At Last” and 2019 “Three Little Birds” floats which both garnered the highly regarded Mayor Award.
“Many would say an extra year to plan can be a bonus,” said Dunlap. “Yes and no. The extra time has allowed us to brainstorm some extra projects but we have lost three of our four fundraisers resulting in a major lack of funding for those projects.”
Until the parade in 2022, Dunlap and committee members are in a waiting pattern, anticipating to get the green light to meet.
“We haven’t touched the float since last February,” said the anxious SPTOR president. “My personal state of mind is that of eagerness. I’m eager to want to get back to normal. What is normal? Will this forever change some of our mental landscape? I’m eager to be apart of a solution not a problem. Soon I hope that we may be allowed in some way to start prepping for our 2022 entry.”
He’d like to meet as a group by Zoom, like some city commissions are currently doing, but the effort has seemed to hit a roadblock. “Many of us are confused as to why our city management will not allow us permission to start,” said Dunlap.
At the outset of the year, the SPTOR committee gathered regularly, on a monthly basis at South Pasadena City Hall until the virus stepped in the way of large groups meeting. Feeling the brunt, perhaps most, were plans for a series of fundraising events that came to a screeching halt. Among them were an annual golf tournament, end-of-the-year Crunch Time Dinner, and others designed to monetarily support the longtime tradition, which gives South Pasadenans immense city pride.
While the Rose Parade won’t take place on January 1, the Tournament of Roses has announced a New Year’s Day celebration, including live-to-tape musical and marching band performances. The TOR has partnered with six broadcasters to air a two-hour TV entertainment special airing during the time slot traditionally reserved for live coverage of the Rose Parade.
According to Tournament of Roses officials, it will feature a reimagined segments related to the Rose Parade, celebrity guest appearances, special Rose Bowl Game football highlights, equestrians, floats from years past, and a behind-the-scenes look into the making of a float.
“The regular parade has been paused for 2021 and will restart with the same theme in 2022,” further explained Dunlap, noting that the Rose Bowl Game for January 1 remains on the table with, as of now, no spectators.
While volunteers look to the day to building the next city float – “Dream. Believe. Achieve” – well ahead of the next parade, Dunlap questions how it will be paid for when major fundraising has stopped. Dunlap says the cost of flowers is roughly $32,000 depending on the design and steel, along with other materials is about $30,000. “Covid-19 has affected many growers this year that could impact our costs substantially,” he warned.
“Our float represents the impossible,” he said, talking about its theme. “Something that is not reality. But it will represent that if you have a dream and you believe in it then you can achieve it.”
“Dream. Believe. Achieve” could be the motto every year among those who put their sweat equity into building it. A core team of about 20 volunteers, including design, decoration and construction crews, are responsible for putting the floral masterpiece together in time for the parade. In normal years, the team works in various stages year-round.
“Starting in October we start seeing an increase in volunteers on Saturdays, sometimes as many as 20. When we hit the final week leading up to the event, AKA ‘Crunch Time,’ we typically can have 60 folks all day long performing various tasks,” Dunlap said, noting what it takes complete the task of getting it finished in time for the big day.
“We can always find something for someone who wants to help,” he added. “We can always use extra help in construction and decorating.”
With time on his side, Dunlap knows what he likely will be doing when New Year’s Day finally arrives. Sadly for him it won’t be watching South Pasadena’s float roll down the 5-½ mile parade route to the applause and wonder of millions of TV viewers and thousands more taking it in as sideline viewers.
“I might play golf or just sleep in – or both,” he said with a laugh.