Getting an early start to the day, Gayle Anderson, not lacking enthusiasm, had questions – plenty of them, in fact – and volunteer workers and members of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses (SPTOR) Committee were on hand to provide answers.
Anderson, a Golden Mike award winning reporter and producer for KTLA-TV along with her cameraman, Bob Keet, paid a local visit Tuesday morning to get the lowdown on the city’s float under construction in a giant tent behind the War Memorial Building in the 400 block of Fair Oaks Avenue.
During the 6 o’clock hour of the KTLA 5 Morning News, Chris Metcalf, the SPTOR floral director, told viewers that South Pasadena has the longest running float in the parade, participating for the first time back in 1893. It’s also the oldest self-built, meaning it’s not commercially constructed, instead put together entirely by volunteers, far and near – many coming from out of state each year to fulfill an item on their bucket list to work on it. Other self-builts, totaling six in all, are constructed in the cities of Burbank, Downey, La Cañada Flintridge, Sierra Madre and Cal Poly Universities.
Talking in front of a color rendering of the city’s 2022 float that will roll down Colorado Boulevard on January 1 to kick off the new year, Anderson told Metcalf, “This is your baby,” as the camera panned the area where a massive amount of work has already been completed. The final stages include painting the float’s base, characters on board, before decorating it with natural products and applying thousands of flowers in the final hours leading up to the parade, ultimately creating a floral masterpiece. As Anderson was speaking to Metcalf, a crew was busy gluing pinecones – lots of them – to one side of the float.
A whimsical design, the float features five ostriches one – towering over the others – wearing a Jetpack, leather helmet, scarf and goggles blasting off from a snow-covered mountaintop. Adding to the humor, one ostrich on board has its head buried in the sand, another is snapping photos while one more is holding a sign reading, “You Can Do It!” Frolicking in the wilderness are a pair of raccoons and a rabbit enjoying the merriment of it all. All the critters, molded and sculptured by Buz Carter, have been given names.
For the thousands watching the parade from the sidelines and millions more seeing it on television screens, Metcalf told Anderson that the main song from movie “Top Gun,” sung by Kenny Loggins, will be played as the float rolls down the 5-1/2 mile parade route. The South Pasadena Tournament of Roses has gained the licensing rights to play “Danger Zone,” Metcalf thanking Loggins, Paramount Studios, Sony Music Publishing among others for the approval.
“How did you pull that off?” asked a curious Anderson. “That’s some expensive business,” to which Metcalf explained that all the proper steps were taken to get to play the music, saying: “They really championed it, saw that it really fit the theme. And the [new “Top Gun”] movie is coming out soon, so it’s kind of a kick off for them.”
In a Facebook post he added: “It truly takes a village to make this happen. We never thought we would get the ok to use such an iconic song, let alone for free. We know this is not the case for most requests, but we really appreciate it beyond words.”
South Pasadena’s float is called “Sky’s the Limit,” Anderson telling Metcalf on camera and those within earshot, “This is adorable,” before inquiring about the pinecones used on board. “You asked for pinecones and people showed up.”
Metcalf agreed, explaining: “They sure did. They showed up with truckloads. We probably have 150,000 to 200,000 pinecones that are going to be on the float. We started in March asking for them and they showed up all summer long – bags and bags of them.”
In her second segment during the 7 o’clock hour, Anderson was quick to praise the team of volunteers working on the city’s 2022 entry. “So much detail, so much work, so much dedication,” she told those watching as a picture of its rendering came up on the TV screen. “It is magnificent.”
Janet Benjamin, the decoration chair, standing next to Metcalf, explained to Anderson the year-round effort to put a float in the starting area for the parade is “a labor of love.”
No stranger to winning, South Pasadena’s 2019 float “Three Little Birds” won the Mayor Award and the city’s entry picked up the same honor in 2020 for its “Victory at Last.” Last January’s parade was cancelled on account of COVID and officials from the top down at the Tournament House in Pasadena to committees like the one in South Pasadena are eager for the next one.
Floats like South Pasadena’s don’t come cheap. Organizers say this year’s float will cost somewhere between $80,000 and $100,000. A bulk of the funds are collected through a series of fundraisers like a golf tournament, candy sale, raffle tickets for parade and Rose Bowl Games seats and a year-end Crunch Time Party featuring a silent and live auction. But contributions are also made through the generosity of others.
With supply chain issues these days, Benjamin told Anderson that, “Everything has gone up. I’m ordering seed right now that used to cost me $72 for 50 pounds. It’s now $155.”
Metcalf once paid an average of $14 for a bunch of roses and he told Anderson they have gone up $24-$28 a square foot.
Workers are busy a couple of nights during the week and all day Saturday and much of Sunday behind the War Memorial Building as the clock ticks down on the big event.
Behind the wheel of a test drive early Saturday morning will be Andrew Hunter, accompanied by Diane Giles, who will work the animation on board the float. Seated in the depths of it, the two, joined by other volunteers, will take the city’s entry out for a spin as Tournament of Roses officials look on, ensuring it’s in good working order. A fire drill, asking Hunter and Giles to exit safely, will be part of the inspection.
“It’s so fascinating to me,” Anderson said, looking at the camera. “This is done with donations and volunteers.”
To that, Giles responded: “It takes a lot of hard work. It’s amazing how it all comes together.”
South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee President Brant Dunlap thanked those who were at the float site at 5 a.m., preparing for Anderson’s arrival, telling them in an e-mail: “If it wasn’t for you we would not have been able to pull this off. Thanks to all that were involved.”
Dunlap said he “can never say thank you enough to our community, our volunteers and our supporters. There are millions of other things people could be doing with their time, but they’ve chosen to help build our float. That means a lot.
Individuals wishing to lend financial support can go to email@example.com or sptor.org. Guests are welcome at the float site, 435 Fair Oaks Avenue, in South Pasadena. For more information about the float, contact SPTOR President Brant Dunlap at firstname.lastname@example.org.