It’s name told those on hand all they need to know why the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee hosts a year-end community get-together designed to raise funds for the city’s float in the annual Rose Parade.
Local business owner John Vandercook sized it up perfectly, taking the guesswork out of the reason the War Memorial Building was filled to capacity Saturday night for one of the signature yearly events in town.
“It’s a real crunch because the float is going out of the barn in a couple days,” said Vandercook, nailing it as he talked about the importance of the Crunch Time Party, featuring dinner, silent and live auctions with the purpose of raising what organizers hope will be $30,000 in net proceeds to help pay for the city’s entry set to roll down Colorado Boulevard in Tuesday’s floral spectacular.
The event has earned its distinction by the mere fact dozens of volunteers were working feverously against the clock to finish decorating the city’s float entry in time for final judging taking place the morning of January 31, with the parade looming the following day.
It’s a crunch to finish the task on time, but no float in the long history of building them in the city has ever missed the deadline.
“It’s one of those rare community gatherings where everyone comes together to celebrate our long tradition of 126 years and have a good time at the same time,” summed up Vandercook, when asked what the Crunch Time Party means to him.
Floats like South Pasadena’s cost in the range of $100,000, say organizers, and Vandercook, a member of the SPTOR committee, thanks those who came out to support the big bash by purchasing $50 dinner tickets and generously bidding on auctions items, especially the live one that included cases of fine wine, a signed jersey by former Dodger Manager Don Mattingly, a helicopter ride, hotel stays, trips to far away places and much more.
Former South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne and his wife, Joan, offer their cabin in Big Bear each year to a high bidder and look forward to the event that brings in thousands of dollars.
“We always have a blast at the Crunch Time Party,” said Payne. “This is one of the greatest events in the city every year.”
Dr. Richard Schneider, who serves on South Pasadena City Council, calls the float, “the pride of the community and it’s nice to see everyone come out and support it.”
Interim Police Chief Brian Solinsky agreed, calling the Crunch Time Party “a fantastic cause,” knowing that all proceeds go directly to the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses for construction costs, mostly steel and flowers.
“It’s a great float,” he said. “It’s what really sets South Pasadena apart. When you look at all the people here, the excitement and the support, this is what it’s all about.”
Solinsky’s children, Lauren, 24, and Irish, 22, like to compare South Pasadena to a Hallmark holiday season film. “When they watch one of those movies they say the events shown are just like our city – a community that really comes together.”
Fresh Gourmet provided the food for party guests, which featured oven roasted tri-tip served with horseradish, red wine demi glaze, along with potato au gratin, green bean almandine, BBQ ranch salad and cream cake with berries.
SPTOR President Courtney Dunlap, who also doubles as the Crunch Time Party event chair, told audience members, “We’re the oldest entry in the parade,” drawing a huge applause. “We’re super excited about that.”
On board the float is a mix of flowers, from 400 hanging heliconia (one plant costs $75), 8,000 roses on the guitar, to 6,000 more on the drum. “When you add up all the numbers, it’s a lot of money,” said Dunlap. “If we don’t have enough to pay for it, we don’t have a float.”
Containing all the flowers on South Pasadena’s entry are 28,000 vials. All the eucalyptus bark used on the float’s guitar came from South Pasadena. “We’ve literally got a part of our city on our float,” she said, noting that it was designed by Mike Mera. “Not many floats can say that.”
Overseeing the Crunch Time Party, Dunlap’s staff came up with the most items ever for the event, including 80 for the silent auction, 18 for the raffle, and 21 more for the live auction.
“I’m shooting for about $32,000 after all of my expenses,” she said. “I’m pretty confident we can do it.”
After tabulating all the numbers, Dunlap said she should know in about a week if her goal has been reached. She’s enormously thankful for all the support around her, from construction and decorating chairs, “the amazing” Crunch Time Party committee members, to the dozens of volunteers who came out and worked on the float during the finals days leading up to the parade.
“It has been a great year,” Dunlap insisted.
She likes the look of South Pasadena’s float and is confident it will win an award before it goes down the 5 ½-mile parade route in the 130th running of the Rose Parade.
The city’s latest entry is based on the song “Three Little Birds,” a song made famous by Bob Marley and the Wailers back in 1977.
The three birds are animated as their heads and beaks move and wings flap. “They look so realistic,” she said. “It’s incredible.”
Those lucky enough to get a spot along the Rose Parade route will be treated to a two-hour spectacle of magnificent floral floats, talented marching bands, and high-stepping equestrians.
“We are really a unique community because we have our own Rose Parade float,” said Gary Pia, the city treasurer and Crunch Time Party emcee. “There is no city that has been building a Rose Parade float longer than South Pasadena. We have the oldest running self-built float in the Tournament of Roses Parade. The residents of this city help build this float through their labor and donations. The Crunch Time Party is the capstone event. We celebrate the fact we build our own float, raise money for it and come together and have a wonderful time.”
Alan Vlacich, who handles some other fundraising efforts for the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee, likes the idea that Crunch Time Party brings the community together for a common goal.
“This is one of our best fundraisers,” he said. “It’s always fun.”
South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesian presented the annual Image Awards to author Sam Quinones and Singer/Songwriter Brad Colerick. The awards honor those who enhance the image of the city.
“The Crunch Time Party is an important tradition,” she said. “It’s a combination of art, creativity and in bringing our community together.”