On one wall inside the South Pasadena City Council chambers hangs a picture reminding those who toiled long hours, giving up their weeknights and weekends, working hot summer days, rainy winter nights, about the sacrifice it took to make it happen.
Yet, nearly every volunteer contributing to its effort will tell you it was time well worth spent.
Looking at the photo of the city’s float in the 2022 Rose Parade, as it gets set to roll down Colorado Boulevard for its 5-1/2 mile journey, South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee (SPTOR) President Brant Dunlap knows better than most what it takes for the city to be in the national spotlight each year.
“I think of the City of South Pasadena and our City Council,” said Dunlap, reflecting on the image, gazing up at the float on display for the public to see. “I think of the SPTOR board members. I think of the hundreds of volunteers. I think of history and community pride. I think of our local business support. I think of all the submissions over the years for float designs.”
And he thinks about the awards the city has garnered for its entries in the prestigious and highly anticipated parade, traditionally kicking off the new year, the most recent honor achieved last January – the coveted Founder Award, going to the most outstanding float built and decorated by volunteers from a community or organization.
Committee members currently are finalizing the city’s newest float design, working on the final colors, as they soon plan to unveil the 2023 color rendering. Construction of the city’s entry will continue over the coming months, wrapping up with decorating and covering it with thousands of flowers in the final days leading up to the big event. South Pasadena float builders like to call it “crunch time,” recognizing time is quickly running out to complete the task.
South Pasadena, with its roots going back to 1893, proudly has the oldest float in the parade. It ranks second in featuring the longest running entry, behind only the Valley Hunt Club, which doesn’t feature a float.
“It’s an ongoing tradition I hope never ends,” said Dunlap. “We need to keep this going for generations to come.”
Dunlap and his crew are always looking for additional help from community members and visitors to the city to chip into building the float, saying: “Follow us on our Facebook and the web. We are 100% self-built/funded. Without volunteers we don’t have a float.”
Additional information can be found at SPTOR.org, searched by many around the country, some making it a bucket list item to come out west each year to work on the city float.
“The friendships that I developed over the years are incredible,” said the float president when asked what keeps him coming back each year to work on it behind the scenes. “Learning something new every year about what goes into building/designing a float is a never ending journey of knowledge.”
Paying for the city’s float takes plenty of willpower from members of the committee. A yard/rummage sale at the War Memorial Building in town recently “was truly incredible,” said Dunlap. Spearheaded by Steve Fillingham, who sits on the SPTOR board, his team carried out a myriad of duties leading up to two-day effort that Dunlap said received “fantastic local support.”
Another one just like it could be on the way, insisted Dunlap, pleased with its outcome. “The outpouring of support and words we heard about it have led us to consider the possibility of doing it again during the fall,” he said.
Raising dollars for a float that can cost organizers some years $100,000 or more depending its size and what it entails seems to never end. Registration is underway for the SPTOR’s next fundraiser, the 2022 South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Golf Tournament, slated for Saturday, June 25, at Arroyo Seco Golf Course in South Pasadena.
Signups starts at 7 a.m. with a shotgun, best ball start beginning at 8 a.m. on the 18-hole, 3-par course. Entry fees include lunch, awards, and a drawing following the tournament. In addition, $10,000 is up for grabs going to a golfer sinking a hole-in-one on a designated hole, sponsored by Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta, a favorite South Pasadena locale where seemingly everyone knows your name.
For more information, including t-sign advertising, and to reserve a tournament spot, email the event’s chair, Alan Vlacich, at email@example.com
Float production has become a way of life and yearlong focus by a dedicated group laboring on South Pasadena’s floral masterpiece. Meeting monthly for planning sessions, spending countless hours in relative obscurity over many months, crews sometimes only hear the rush of traffic going north and south along busy Fair Oaks Avenue as they work their magic in the back parking lot of the city’s War Memorial Building, the float’s worksite.
“We wouldn’t have a float if it weren’t for those who give up so much of their time,” said Dunlap, who first began contributing in 1996, backed off from volunteering for a number of years as his children took part in a variety of activities growing up, and now has returned, enjoying the leadership role as president. “I can’t thank them enough, but I try. They are very special.”
Just as special are the awards SPTOR has racked up over years, made possible by those who enjoy the camaraderie and spirit of putting a top of the line float on display for all the world to see come January. “There is no better feeling than knowing that we won,” said Dunlap. “We always say our goal is to make it down the parade route without any mechanical failures. But the bonus is to win an award. Every competitor wants and expects to win. That is SPTOR. If and when we don’t, we get right back up, dust ourselves off the next year, and focus on another successful float.”
Volunteers are always welcome to be a part of the South Pasadena float building process. To learn more, contact SPTOR President Brant Dunlap at firstname.lastname@example.org