Billed as a “sneak peek,” community members were invited to take a look at the progress of South Pasadena’s float currently under construction behind the War Memorial Building, as volunteers toil to get it ready to roll down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard in the 131st Rose Parade.
The annual morning mixer, hosted by the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, proved to be a great way for those on hand to kick start their Friday as fresh coffee and refreshments were provided, along with an update as workers begin to feel the crunch of New Year’s Day inching ever so close.
That when the city’s entry will be on full display for the world to see as millions will watch the spectacle on television worldwide while thousands more will take in its floral beauty along the parade route over a 5-1/2 mile stretch.
With coffee in hand, South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President Laurie Wheeler was full of gratitude to those showing their patronage just past 8 a.m., when Friday’s formalities began.
“Thank you to the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses (SPTOR) for having us here every year,” she said during her welcoming comments in front of the float – Victory at Last,” a salute to Women’s Suffrage.
“It’s always fun to see the float ahead of time without all the flowers on it,” added Wheeler.
SPTOR President Courtney Dunlap said it was a rare opportunity for guests to get beyond the barricades for “an up-close-and-personal look at the float.”
Make that a noteworthy float.
South Pasadena has been a part of “America’s New Year Celebration,” as TOR officials like to call it, since 1893 – yes, 1893 – and it holds the distinction of being the oldest self-built float in the parade. Doing the math, that’s 126 years, or simply a long, long time.
Dunlap pointed out the city’s entry will be in the front half of the parade lineup – the 40th position – just behind a 1911 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost that will carry 2020 Tournament of Roses President Laura Farber, a South Pasadena resident.
“That’s pretty cool way for our float to get the attention it deserves,” said Dunlap. “Laura has really supported our theme and float.”
A giant hat on board carries the message “Voting Rights for Women,” as the float celebrates the passing of the 19th Amendment, which gave all citizens the hope and dreams that come with being able to vote. A pen and scroll symbolize the signing of the 19th amendment while the hat, along with buttons, ribbons and jewelry signify unity at the time.
The float’s decoration chair, Janet Benjamin, and her volunteer support crew will soon be applying thousands of flowers in vials on board, including roses, of course, – Blueberry, Freedom, Cherry O, Esperance, Pink Floyd, Malibu, Titanic Engagement, and La Parisienne, joining other elements like gerberas, Tiger Lilies, hydrangea, button mums, spider mums and carnations. “We’re filling 30,000 vials,” noted Benjamin.
“Our float is plugging along,” said Dunlap, thanking those who have worked tirelessly on it behind the scenes. “From an outside perspective it doesn’t look like it’s on time. Don’t worry, on January 1st it will be ready in time. Once things start to get painted with colors, that’s when you’ll be able to visualize what it looks like. It’s hard to envision it when it’s just steel and wood. We are in full volunteer mode.”
Four individuals, including driver Steven Fillingham, animator or co-pilot Andrew Hunter, and observers Diane Giles and Lisa Henderson will be in the float’s underbelly, navigating the float from start to finish.
Want to lend a hand? Local float officials are looking for volunteers to work on the city float. Simply show up at the float site 435 Fair Oaks Avenue, wear old clothes and be ready to work. A good starting point would be to ask for Janet Benjamin, who welcomes the help. The float’s website SPTOR.com has a full calendar of scheduled work dates and times.
“We can always use help,” said Dunlap. “We have things that need painted, things that are being decorated, molded, glued. There’s plenty to do and we could use the help. With a lot of people it makes the workday a lot of fun. The more work we get done now takes off some pressure of the last week.”
Which happens to be the real crunch time, meeting the deadline of putting the city’s float on the starting line.
“Come down and join us,” said Dunlap. “We’re not going to turn anyone away.”