By Lesly Velasco Guerra, Aug. 24 2021

Following more than a year-long absence and canceled New Year celebrations, Cal Poly Pomona students were granted authorization by the university to get back in the lab this summer and begin production on 2022’s Cal Poly Rose Float.  

Every year, CPP and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo work jointly to create a float to enter into the annual Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade. Production usually runs from January to December as the two polytechnic campuses undertake a specific theme and tackle the float’s construction, design and decoration. Due to the pandemic, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses canceled the 2021 parade for the first time since the end of World War II.  

Now, as in-person activities gradually resume, the Cal Poly Rose Float team is picking up where it left off.  

Gauri Mhamunkar, CPP construction assistant chair, explained her excitement for returning and resuming work on next year’s float. 

“When you are seated on Colorado Boulevard right where the parade starts and the floats pass by, it’s a really rewarding feeling, and you also get this feeling of, ‘Wow, I’m part of something much bigger than myself,’” said Mhamunkar. “So, the fact that I couldn’t see that this year, it was pretty disappointing.” 

In accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, the team began to meet in the lab early August and resumed where they left off back in March 2020. The theme for the 2022 parade remains the same — “Dream. Believe. Achieve.” — with some additions.  

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses states that next year’s theme “will expand beyond the initial focus on education and will include a celebration of perseverance and strength, science and scientists, health professionals, first responders and essential workers.” 

For the Cal Poly team, the float theme remains essentially the same in accordance with the parade’s theme and the design has just been slightly altered.  

“We had a lot more time to think about our concept, and all of the team really feels like we have something that looks great and still is a really good product despite how COVID impacted us with our production,” said Mhamunkar. 

While the theme and design from last year has remained constant, CPP’s team is now working from the recently opened Don Miller and Ron Simons Rose Float Lab. The lab is named after CPP alumni Don Miller (’52, horticulture), who first jumpstarted the program in 1949, and Ron Simons (’64, agronomy; ’69, food marketing and agribusiness management) who maintained it. 

The $5.5 million project contains 4,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor workspace, design workspace, storage facilities and a courtyard. As opposed to the previous lab, it is enclosed and allows for temperature control.  

Decoration Chair Katherine Garcia is excited to have a brand-new place of production, especially during their two busiest weeks: design and decoration week which begin after finals in December.  

Garcia added that she and her team are ready to have “all hands on boat” and pick up on production.  

Every department has begun work on the various aspects that make up the float. Mhamunkar and the rest of the Construction Department have been tinkering with prototypes and smaller-scale versions of the mechanisms to ensure they will function when put on the float. The Design Department has been manufacturing smaller components of the actual float while the Decoration Department has been preparing inventory and maintaining the flower fields.   

While classes and clubs went virtual, constant communication remained strong, not only among CPP team members but between their San Luis Obispo counterparts. Now able to meet in person, Pomona’s team members plan to meet every Saturday up to the last week of fall semester. Communication with San Luis Obispo’s executive team will continue through Zoom meetings until October, when the northern campus brings its part of the float to Pomona and the two Cal Polys begin working jointly.  

As a new academic year begins, and in-person classes resume, the team is expected to have many new members. This is one of the concerns Pomona’s Construction Chair Samuel Linkchorst has. 

“One of the biggest issues that I think we might face this year is how new our team is,” said Linkchorst. “We have very few people that have gone through an entire process from beginning to end of building a float just because we had a year basically cut out.”  

However, Linkchorst remains hopeful that the new team members up. He plans to reach out to alumni for assistance and provide team members with instruction manuals written by previous chairs.  

“I look forward to it,” added Linkchorst. “It has always been just a better experience, especially with the polytechnic aspect of our schools. It’s important to be able to have that hands-on learning.” 

Feature image courtesy of the Rose Float Team.


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