“Shock N’ Roll” driving down Colorado Blvd. during the 135th Rose Parade displaying its Crown City Innovator award.

CPP Rose Float celebrates 135th Rose Parade

By Andre Davancens, Jan. 23, 2024

Darren Loo | Shock N’ Roll” driving down Colorado Blvd. during the 135th Rose Parade displaying its Crown City Innovator award.

The Cal Poly Rose Float made its 75th stunning appearance on Jan. 1 at the 135th Rose Parade in Pasadena, California with the “Shock n’ Roll” float, the result of the collaborative efforts of both Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

The Cal Poly Universities took this year’s parade theme of “Celebrating a World of Music” underwater with a coral reef themed float.

Shock n’ Roll began in the spring semester with preparations beginning before the float theme was announced in late September with the “big design” meeting happening in March 2023, which is where the float goes from artistic concept to workable design.

“How are we going to get across the message we want to get across, how are we going to point to the theme of this year’s parade?” said Matthew Rodarte, president of CPP’s Rose Float team. “The concepts we receive, we prefer them to be relatively loose, not necessarily vague, but a more fleshed out concept doesn’t give you as much room and takes away from the design team’s ability to get at the guts of that concept and really elevate it to something that we could be proud of.”

Darren Loo | Matthew Rodarte, president of the CPP Rose Float, measuring pod elements on the float.

After the “big design” meeting, the team met again at Cal Poly SLO for the “DDC meeting” — design, decorations and construction — where the design created in big design was reviewed by all design teams. During DDC, everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinions and start planning how to start making the float a reality.

Once all the components are designed, the float is ready to start being constructed. The float starts with the same blank chassis, ready to be covered in pod components.

Alejandro Barlow | The Rose Float chassis lays mostly barren, ready to become a canvas for steel, hydraulics, flora, and music.

“Basically, what my job is, is I’m in charge of creating the base of the float,” said Allyson Castillo, pod coordinator. “Pod is what I like to describe as the base or the platform. So, if you can imagine the element leads and the mechanism leads, they create a performer that performs on the stage during the parade. Our job is to create that stage and allow our performers and our elements to shine during the parade. So, we kind of set the scene for what the environment would be.”

Darren Loo | Pod Coordinator Allison Castillo supervising the construction of pod structures on the float.

In the case of Shock N’ Roll, pod sets the coral stage for the massive manta ray to dance, followed by three friendly eels that wag their heads to the beat. Above the animals dancing below, the clam opens and closes unveiling not a pearl, but a record player. The rear of the float is flanked by massive piano keys which move to serenade the surrounding audience with Dengue Fever’s “Lake Dolores.”

While pod components are constructed in the main lab, the other smaller labs are hard at work preparing its components, testing hydraulics and preparing decorations. In one of the labs, volunteers are hard at work sorting dried flora and experimenting with different combinations, new and old.

Andre Davancens | Decoration team members creating test pieces to see how certain decorations interact with different adhesives.

“Historical types of flowers have been used on the float, obviously roses, carnations, cushion mums. These are the major flowers that have been used in the parade historically,” said Bailey Beene, decorations chair at Pomona. “We’re kind of able to decide what colors go with what flower, so it’s a lot easier to decide when you have this history, the 75 years of this float.”

Andre Davancens | Bailey Beene, decorations chair for CPP Rose Float, holding a tray of carnations.

While Shock N’ Roll uses traditional decorations, like roses and straw flower, they also innovate and experiment with new flora.

“There is a lot of fresh going on the float this year. Luckily, we’ve been able to get donations and we’re very grateful for that,” said Beene. “A lot of produce is also going on the float. We have a donation of dragon fruit that are going to go into the encrusted coral coming from Hawaii, that’s something new.”

After the structure of the float is completed, hydraulics and electric components are added to support the mechanisms that make the float come to life. The structure of the float is prepared for deco week being covered in a combination of fabrics and foam creating a base for the flowers and other plants to be stuck into and glued to.

Once all work is completed in Pomona, the float is slowly transported over night to the Rose Parade lab to be completed in Pasadena.

The year of labor comes to a close with one final push in Pasadena, where all floats are decorated in the same building filled with hundreds of volunteers and workers scrambling to create a finished product in one week.

Andre Davancens | It’s all hands on deck during deco week, where the rose float gets completely covered by hand in fresh flowers, fruit, dried flowers, various leaves and seeds.

All this effort to celebrate one day, the New Year. Shock N’ Roll joined the Rose Parade spreading joy to all in attendance in celebration of the new year. At its core, the Rose Float is more than just an engineering project. The Rose Float is a family who gets together every year to help other families celebrate the start of a new year.

“I was looking for a place on campus to feel accepted, kind of like a family,” said Beene. “Being from Fresno and then moving here was kind of a big shock because I’m from a small farming community. Moving to Pomona and going to school here was like a culture shock for me just because everything was so close. There’s a lot of people versus how home is. So, coming to this campus and finding rose float and finding where I belong on campus really helped me.”

Feature image courtesy of Darren Loo 

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