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Behind the Scenes at the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade Floats

Reported by Maria Del Pinto

2012 Shriners Hospital for Children Rose Parade Float

One of my favorite family traditions is to work on the Rose Parade Floats for the “Tournament of Roses” which is held every year in Pasadena, California.  While everyone else is out doing their after Christmas activities, there are hundreds of volunteers working on those wonderful floats that you can see during the Rose Parade.

2012 Loyola Marymount University Rose Parade Float

So how do you get from the metal base float to the finished “Loyola Marymount University” 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade float in the photo above?  Well it is a very well organized system that is powered by both the float building personnel and volunteers from all walks of life.

2012 Tournament of Roses looking down at the Rose Palace Work Floor

The work floor may look a bit chaotic but it is actually a very organized process.  There are flowers, floral supplies, scaffolding, power tools, and equipment. Additionally, there are people everywhere all

working in a unique harmony to create some of the most breath taking pieces of floral art that I have had the pleasure to enjoy first hand.  Every flower that comes goes through a process that can vary in accordance to the type of flower it is.  The volunteers then begin the processes of gluing wooden sticks to the stem of each carnation bud.
Petal Pusher Volunteer Gluing toothpicks to the Carnation Buds
Once the adhesive is dry, each bloom is carefully hand fluffed by the volunteers
Fluffing the Carnations
and then put onto Styrofoam base to be lined up by color and type of flower.
Then they are labeled to be placed onto the float in accordance with artist diagram directions.
Once they are labeled, the flowers are lined up next to the float they are going to be placed on. 
This allows the volunteers to begin the process of placing the flowers 
2012 City of Glendale Rose Parade Float
onto the floats, one by one.

Every part of the float is covered by flowers, leaves, stems, seeds, and other natural materials.  Some of the float signage is covered by a process of using individual flower petals which are glued onto the surface one-by-one by the volunteers.

This is slow and sticky process. The glue has to be strong enough to hold the petals onto the signage throughout the parade route.   We usually end up with glue all over our hands and clothing, most of the seasoned volunteers will advise new volunteers to wear their oldest clothing (since it will probably get trashed during the float decorating process).

Additionally, we glue seeds, dried orange slices, and other natural materials to various surfaces and

signage.  In the photo below, you can see a volunteer working on the “City of LA” plaque using these types of materials.

You can see how tiny the natural materials used in the process can be.  Each seed has to be attached with the adhesive.
More examples of the various materials used.  The wagon wheel has dried and fresh flowers, seeds, beans, and more on it.
2012 City of Glendale Rose Parade Float

The beautiful portrait below, is composed of seeds, ground pepper, ground flower petals and other natural materials which were applied by hand (one-by-one) by various volunteers.  It is amazing to see this time consuming process create such an interesting portrait in person.

HGTV 2012 Rose Parade Float
Here is a look at some of the different floats and the cool features you may not get to see when you see the floats in the Tournament of Rose Parade on television.
The 2012 HGTV Tournament of Roses Parade float sported a very cool cobblestone road,

which is made with by using potatoes that are cut in half

and covered in spices and ground seeds.

The Lions Club International 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade float was an amazing example of the creative use of crushed natural materials and florals.  The center of the flower is dried lentils.

Which were individually glued on to create the center of the flower bud.  All materials used on these floats must be organic in nature and cannot be dyed.  They are fresh, dried, crushed and/or pureed and then applied individually by the volunteers onto the float surface.  All visible parts of the float must be covered in these floral or natural materials.

These bud were attached to the float.  The floating ribbon on the float is completely decorated in crushed natural materials and cut up leaves.

2012 Lions Club International Tournament of Roses Parade float
Seeing these amazing works of art emerge from their beginning stages to end product is an amazing experience.  Being that they are built in large empty buildings that have to be large enough to house these amazing pieces of work, volunteers do get exposed an interesting variation of temperature conditions.  This year we had a very warm week (70 plus degrees), so it was rather warm in the daytime.  Then it switched to cool in the evenings (50 degrees and below), so if you decided to volunteer to work on these in the future, just layer your gear because getting to work on these floats and seeing the end result is so worth the extra effort.  

If you live in or are visiting California,  I highly recommend checking out the Tournament of Roses Parade Float display which sets up at the end of the parade route (on Sierra Madre Blvd).  Currently they charge $10 for adults and children are free.  I find that it is worth the traffic and parking challenges to see these floats in person and see how the designers and volunteers have used natural materials to create the Tournament of  Roses Parade floats.

We would love to hear from our readers what type of activities they participate in during the holidays.  What are you looking forward to in the new year?

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Maria Del Pinto

Maria Del Pinto

I have been crafting since I was a child and I love seeing what others create. I live near the beach so everything around me inspires me. I also enjoy activities where I re-purpose something old & discarded & make it into something cool. My favorite mantra is "Re-use, recycle, and re-make".

8 Responses to Behind the Scenes at the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade Floats

  1. Avatar
    Kayla and Samuel January 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Wow, beautiful, I had no idea. I have only seen the parade a couple of times when I was little. What an insane amount of time given by those dedicated volunteers!

  2. Avatar
    Dee in N.H. January 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    This is absolutely incredible!!! I’m speechless! What an amazing opportunity to see this up close! Thanks for this look behind the scenes!

  3. Avatar
    dorism6220 January 14, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    I’ve always wanted to see the parade (being 3 yrs old doesn’t count) – but doubt that my dh would ever take me – very pretty.

  4. Avatar
    Bonnie Weiss January 14, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    Nothing short of UNBELIEVABLE!

  5. Avatar
    Karleen January 14, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Thanks for this inside look at the parade prep. I wish I lived there as I would love to be involved.

  6. Avatar
    meredemaison January 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m going to show it to my 12 and 10 y.o. children! I’m sure they’ll be as impressed as I was! You’re wonderful to participate in this – how do you keep your camera from getting ruined?

  7. Avatar
    Jan Castle January 14, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Thank you fo the behind the scenes look…It takes my breath away each year – and I’m only watching on TV! Hope to get there in person someday.
    During the holidays I enjoy singing with a 100+ voice choir and orchestra in a Christmas Concert for our community at a beautiful Victorian theatre here in Salem, OR. It is a combined effort of two churches and the two performances are well received.

  8. Avatar
    Cindy O January 14, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    What fun to have a crafter’s eye view of the float details! Thank you for writing it up. Great photos, too.