South Pasadena’s float in the upcoming Tournament of Roses Parade is a creation long in the making, dating back some 10 years.
Its original design turned in by Brian Ewing, “was a nice concept,” said Alan Vlacich, a member of the local committee responsible for putting the city’s entry on the parade route, “but we didn’t think at the time it would be a good fit. We didn’t think we could build it or decorate it so we saved it in our archives.”
Following each Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee (SPTOR) goes back to a collection of suggested or drawn ideas later in January for the next one, and organizers were delighted when the 2022 entry finally checked all the boxes after a long wait for its approval.
The late Paul Abbey, a dedicated volunteer who was highly instrumental in the construction of city floats over the years, along with designer Richard Carlow, were key to making the necessary design changes so it could be built and decorated.
“That’s how it works,” explained Vlacich. “Many times we get an idea or rendering, nothing in detail, but then it’s massaged, changed and improved.”
SPTOR President Brant Dunlap said as the committee looked for submissions of proposed float designs from the public, “We really didn’t see anything that grabbed us right off the bat from the community for this year’s float,” he said. “We found the original one by Brian Ewing, redone by Richard Carlow and Paul Abbey, and it worked!”
Like Vlacich, he said the original submission “wasn’t necessarily buildable. It looked great, but it would have been difficult to construct with steel. So Carlow and Abbey modified it so it was buildable. The big difference was currently it’s an ostrich flying off a mountain. The original design had the South Pasadena water tower [in the Monterey Hills] – the ostrich flying off the water tower. The structure would have been very difficult to build that big. So that’s why the design was modified.”
The city’s newest float – “Sky’s the Limit” – touches on South Pasadena’s history, recognizing the Cawston Ostrich Farm, which opened in town back in 1886. Its nine acres marked the first ostrich farm in America, and was located near the Arroyo Seco, just minutes away from downtown Los Angeles. Frolicking in the wilderness on board the floral masterpiece under construction will be five ostriches, once wearing a jetpack, along with a pair of raccoons and a rabbit.
Putting together South Pasadena’s float is a year-round effort, starting in January with float idea submissions, and ending with a massive amount of flowers blanketing it in the final hours of December leading up to its 5-1/2 mile journey down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena.
“After the parade each year we look all the archive designs and some come to light,” said Dunlap. “This year we have a 10-year-old submission. Once we have design ideas, we never forget them. It takes about six people on our committee, laying all the designs out on a table, spending hours, holding four or five different meetings, two to three hours for each, talking, tossing the concepts around to each other until we come up with the current year’s theme, putting us in a position to hopefully bringing home will be an award-winning float for our city. We spend a lot of time coming up with a design, and it’s a lot of fun.”
SPTOR committee members are pleased with the 2022 float’s construction and decorating efforts behind the War Memorial Building in town, some saying it’s ahead of schedule. The city’s entry was recently rolled out onto Fair Oaks Avenue for a test drive in front of Tournament of Roses officials and received high marks.
As president, Dunlap, grateful for the many hours volunteers put into the city float’s construction, is crossing his fingers South Pasadena will walk away with another award from the Tournament of Roses on New Year’s Day. The city’s float – “Three Little Birds”– won the Mayor Award in 2019 and earned the same honor in 2020 for “Victory at Last.” Last January’s parade was cancelled on account of COVID, so nothing would make Dunlap happier than kicking off the new year collecting the city’s third high honor in four years.
“We’re going to have a great float this year,” assured Dunlap. “I hope we come away with an award.”