South Pasadena’s entry into the Tournament of Roses Parade is already being constructed by volunteers. Additional builders are needed to complete the float that will roll down Colorado Boulevard Jan. 1.
The “construction battalion” of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee creates the float’s structure and core elements. This all takes place prior to its floral decoration and starts in July. A logo on the group’s T-shirts summarizes its duties: “WELDING MECHANICAL ANIMATION FABRICATION.”
Crew members work atop a recycled basic chassis that is parked under a large tent. This is located adjacent to the War Memorial Building at 435 Fair Oaks Ave. All building and decorating occur at this site.
South Pasadena’s 2024 float is titled “Boogie Fever.” On it, animals are depicted as joyful and congenial band members playing along with a number one hit record of the same name from the 1970s.
Construction Chair Rob Benjamin welcomes more volunteers for his dozen-member team. He has worked on the float since 2011. He is employed by a company that performs construction materials testing and inspection.
Benjamin explained what volunteers can expect when building the structure, characters and features for the float. He said that they mostly work with light-gauge steel, steel rod and wood.
“A lot of it is taking basic steel, cutting that and welding it together, and then shaping it into the different elements that we need,” he said during a recent workday at the site. “Some of the work, like metal sculpting, takes artistic skill.”
“Various metal and wood-working tools are used,” he said, “including welders, saws, drills and grinders.” Drawings by the float’s design artist Renee Hoss-Johnson help guide their efforts, he added.
Construction members are currently creating the structure of a giraffe and an orangutang, he said. Next to fashion will be an elephant, a toucan and a snake, he added. Such objects as drums, a pair of maracas, records and a vintage turntable must also be built, he said.
Benjamin said current projects include completing the deck’s “skirt” and deck, applying chicken wire to structures and designing and creating various animation effects.
When asked about qualifications to work on the crew, he said it is ideal if volunteers have experience in welding, set building or construction. Experience is not required, though.
“We will take someone who is willing to learn,” Benjamin said. “We can provide the training.”
“Two high school students started working with the crew recently,” he said, “and are learning how to weld and sculpt metal flowers.” Volunteers are provided with welding hoods, gloves, hearing protection and safety glasses, he added.
Benjamin said that building a float is more interesting and enjoyable than the typical production project.
“Usually, you are given a set of plans and told to assemble something,” he said. “Here you’re given a picture, and you must figure out how to build it in pieces. There’s some freedom in doing that.”
In addition, he said, “There’s an opportunity to express artistic creativity and the ability to create something that millions will enjoy.”
Not many people are able to see their own work viewed worldwide.
Construction takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during the week and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. This provides flexibility for those who work or who have other responsibilities. “The average volunteer works at least eight hours a week,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin emphasized that volunteering for construction is a major commitment. “We want people for the long haul,” he said. The building season is long, starting in the summer, and the team wants to retain volunteers they’ve spent time training.
For more information about volunteering for construction, email firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the float site.
The “deco (decoration) squad” has also begun working at the site on Saturdays. For more information and to sign up for shifts that start Oct. 7, visit www.sptor.org (click on Volunteer tab).