In a testament to his unwavering and dedicated support, the centerpiece on South Pasadena’s float in the 133rd Rose Parade on New Year’s Day has been given the name “Theodore Fahrenheit” – a giant ostrich blasting off from a mountaintop.
Theodore, or Ted for short, is a tribute to the late Ted Shaw, who was a former South Pasadena mayor and longtime local business owner who devoted much of his life to many civic projects, perhaps none greater than the city’s entry in the parade down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard each January.
With the same high regard, South Pasadena’s 2022 float – “Sky’s the Limit” – is dedicated to another local float legend, the late Paul Abbey, a major contributor to the committee responsible for building it over the years, and a person who also played a big part in redesigning the original concept by Brian Ewing so it could be constructed today.
Shaw and Abbey will be remembered for their, loyalty, commitment and desire to make the float the best it could be as it makes its way down the 5 ½-mile route to the applause of thousands taking in the parade live and millions more watching it on television screens around the world.
Both Shaw and Abbey loved calling South Pasadena their home, and what the float meant to the town’s image.
The towering ostrich, aboard the float currently under construction, lifts up some 20 feet, soaring high in the air and is the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses (SPTOR) Committee’s way of saying thanks – thanks, that is, to a man who spent much of his life focusing on the success of the city entry.
“We wanted to pay tribute to Ted because of what he meant to the city and did for our float,” explained SPTOR Chair Brant Dunlap. “Ted was the float. Anytime there was an idea or shortfall of income or volunteers, Ted was so instrumental in saying, ‘Let me make some phone calls. Let me get some donations, let me get some people to show up and help. There was a time when I don’t know if this committee would have survived without him, to keep it going. Ted meant everything to us.”
In dedicating the 2022 float to Abbey, who owned a printing business, Dunlap was quick to point out that few volunteers have ever made the kind of effort Abbey did to make the float a symbol of the city and appreciated by so many. He was a past SPTOR construction chair, handled all of the organization’s printing needs, and was a force behind the organization’s digital marketing. On top of that, Abbey was a welder, often giving up his weeknights and weekends to work on the float. “Paul had an incredible talent, and taught so many people how to do things on the construction side,” said Dunlap. “His contributions were immense and he’s sorely missed. What an unbelievable person he was…He can’t be replaced.”
Tickets and flyers for fundraisers, including an annual golf tournament or to win Rose Parade and Rose Game tickets through a $100 raffle were designed and printed by Abbey. Signage, including a colorful rendering of South Pasadena’s float on display at the float’s worksite behind the War Memorial Building, was a result of Abbey Graphics, the successful company Paul built.
“Anytime we needed something printed, it was an easy call to him and he would deliver,” continued Dunlap. “It was amazing all the things he did for us. Dedicating the float to him in the next parade was a slam-dunk. He was a massive supporter in so many ways.”
So, for Shaw, Dunlap said giving the main character on the float the name “Theodore” was a way to appreciate and acknowledge Ted’s many contributions, and for Abbey, he’s being honored for redesigning the 2022 float, and its ability to be constructed. The original design turned in by Ewing 10 years ago was a good one indeed, but local float builders expressed concern on how to build it until Abbey and others successfully reworked it. The result of his input is another potential award on New Year’s Day for South Pasadena, SPTOR committee members hope, joining those it has received in the past two Rose Parades.
“We think this float is pretty special,” said Dunlap, “and probably would not have built had it not been for Paul Abbey.”
Over the past five years, a turtle on board named Sheldon, created by Abbey before he died, has been a part of South Pasadena floats. In the 2022 parade, Sheldon will be holding a sign reading “Thank you Paul!” saluting Abbey as the floral masterpiece heads to the finish area.
Mentioning Shaw and Abbey’s impact over the years, Dunlap recently talked about the float’s history, what it takes to built it and some of the fundraising efforts held each year to pay for flowers and steel during South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce mixer at the site where it’s under construction.
Many on the committee he oversees have been dedicating time to the float 20-plus years. Like other longtime volunteers, Dunlap, recognizing it’s a labor of love, says with sincerity: “Once the float is in in you’re blood, you can’t get it out.” That’s why he, and others just like him keep coming back for more each year to get the job done. Shaw and Abbey were once among them.
“It takes a lot of people who refuse to quit,” said Dunlap, when asked what it takes to put the float at the starting area in time for the next parade. “We experience extreme heat in July and August when we start the construction in earnest with welding, to decorating when it’s 40 and 50 degrees or colder outside in December. It just takes a lot of self-pride and dedication to want to see it come to fruition representing the City of South Pasadena and, most importantly, going down Colorado Boulevard. It’s just everybody’s vision and want to see it go down the route.”
A whimsical design, South Pasadena’s float features, eight characters, including a group of ostriches. “Theodore,” the main character and much larger than the others, is wearing a Jetpack, leather helmet, scarf and goggles as he takes off from the top of a mountain while below is an ostrich with its head buried in the sand, another snapping photos while one more is holding a sign reading, “You Can Do It!” A pair of raccoons and a rabbit round out the float full of critters on board. Dunlap is “beyond pleased,” he said, after learning the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee has gained the licensing rights to play the song “Danger Zone” from the movie “Top Gun” as the float goes down its path.
Last January’s parade was called off on account of COVID-19, so “I don’t even know if excited is the right word to describe how I’m feeling,” said Dunlap, waiting with great anticipation to January 1. “We’ve anxiously awaited this moment. There’s a lot of time building and decorating, a lot of planning, a lot of discussion, a lot of arguing. That’s what good families do, right? When families argue they agree to disagree. That’s what it takes to put a float like ours together. Our family came together and it’s working really, really well. We can’t wait to put our float in the next parade. We think it’s going to be great!”