Asked how she felt following the announcement that South Pasadena’s float in Saturday’s 133rd Rose Parade had garnered an award, a beaming Janet Benjamin gave a two-word response, simply saying: “Very happy.”
It said it all, as Benjamin, the decoration chair for the city entry, wasn’t alone in her thoughts as she was surrounded by a group of volunteers who had spent long days and nights getting the float ready for its 5 1/2-mile journey down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Day.
South Pasadena, getting used to the high recognition, walked away with the Founder Award, going to the most outstanding float built and decorated by volunteers from a community or organization. While there was no parade a year ago on account of COVID, the city has now been honored in the past three New Year’s Day spectacles as it won the Mayor Award in both 2019 and 2020.
Tournament of Roses President Bob Miller made the latest announcement, recognizing twenty-four award winners about two hours ahead of Saturday’s 8 a.m. parade. Just before sunrise, about 100 people, many hopeful float builders anxious to hear if their float would be honored, awaited the news at the footsteps of the Tournament House in Pasadena.
Among them were about 10 who had labored on South Pasadena’s float – “Sky’s the Limit” – feeling a sense of relief and mostly joy that their mission was accomplished.
“This is the icing on the cake for all the hard work we did this year,” said Benjamin, who oversaw a team decorators responsible for crafting the float’s beauty, applying a wide variety of dry products along with thousands of roses, most of the former placed in the hours leading up to last Saturday’s parade.
“Thanks to all of our volunteers,” she said, beaming a bright smile. “We can’t do it without them.”
In an email to supporters, Benjamin added: “It took a lot of teamwork to raise the money, construct and decorate our float.”
The city’s winning entry was on display at Floatfest on the grounds of Pasadena High School after the parade on Saturday. It remained at the site throughout the day before returning to South Pasadena during the evening hours. Community members are encouraged to visit it this week at its building site in the 400 block of Fair Oak Avenue behind the War Memorial Building before deconstruction of the float begins on Saturday, January 8.
“This float was fun, it was whimsical and it’s great to win,” said Brant Dunlap, president of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee (SPTOR), upon hearing that the city had banked another award. “It especially feels good because the float represents the volunteers and all the hard work they put into it. The Founder’s is so fitting because we have great volunteers. I’m super excited. It’s fantastic – three in a row!”
South Pasadena’s float is the oldest in the parade as the all-volunteer organization has been constructing and decorating them since 1893, three years after the Rose Parade tradition began.
Like Benjamin, Dunlap knows it wouldn’t happen without the support from those who give up so much of their time to make it a success. “The award is secondary, but boy when you get it, it sure becomes primary,” he said. “This was a good one.”
South Pasadena’s float showcased an ostrich wearing goggles and scarf, fueled by a jetpack, blasting off from a mountaintop as four other ostriches, two raccoons, a bunny and turtle enjoyed the ride on board. It was joined by 42 others, 20 marching bands and 18 equestrian units making the turn down Colorado Boulevard to the cheers of thousands watching from the sidelines and millions more viewing on television screens worldwide.
Hesitant, due to a dramatic surge of coronavirus cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant, fewer were in attendance lining the parade route in what has become a way of life for those welcoming in the new year. Tournament of Roses officials took every precaution, saying they felt safe hosting an outdoor event while putting in necessary safety measures, including proof of vaccinations and or negative coronavirus case results 72 hours ahead of the start for the estimated 6,000 seated in the grandstand area. Outside that perimeter, parade-goers were not asked to follow the same protocols.
Among the floats receiving the loudest ovations were the UPS Store, titled “Rise, Shine, and Read,” earning the Sweepstakes Trophy, the most beautiful for encompassing design, floral presentation and entertainment.
Wetzel’s Pretzel’s, a Pasadena owned company, was another crowd pleaser, walking off with the Golden State Award, for its most outstanding depiction of life in California. Featured were a day at the beach in the 1950’s with a car, giant umbrella, surfboards, a Route 66 sign and more as smiling employees on board took in the fun.
Other standout entries drawing rave reviews were Reese’s University, the most whimsical and amusing float, receiving the Bob Hope Humor Award; Cal Poly Universities for its “Stargazers entry,” netting the Animation Award; Sierra Madre’s Judges Award for most outstanding float design and dramatic impact; and La Canada Flintridge’s “Who Says We Can’t” for netting the Crown City Innovator Award.
After learning she had been selected to the 2022 Tournament of Roses Royal Court in October, South Pasadena’s Ava Feldman had plenty of time to practice her wave, which she did well, joining six others, including Queen Nadia Chung, riding along in a lavish float constructed by the Phoenix Decorating Company. Following the parade, Feldman and the others attended the Rose Bowl Game, a thriller won by Ohio State over Utah, 48-45.
It won’t be long before local committee members begin taking aim at winning another of the prestigious awards handed out by Tournament of Roses officials when it starts holding monthly meetings in anticipation to the 2023 parade. It’s a year-round effort working on the city’s floral masterpiece.
When it comes to building a float, Courtney Dunlap, a past-president for the SPTOR, said: “We have the best community for doing it with so many great volunteers. I don’t think anybody can do that like we can.”
Her father, Brant, actually called it about a month ago, telling a group of Chamber of Commerce members gathered at the worksite as part of a yearly breakfast event that he believed South Pasadena was a solid candidate to win the Founder Award.
“There’s a corps of about eight people who really do a lot of the work on our float from the decoration and construction side,” he explained. “They are the glue that keep it together. It’s quite an accomplishment to get any award, but this one is all about volunteering and that’s what we are. This is a super great moment – proud, happy – and today we’re celebrating. It’s truly wonderful.”