Rose Float to test non-traditional decorating techniques

By Emily K. Cohen

New Year’s Day 2018 marks the seventieth time Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo have united to create their botanical covered floats using techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Trade secrets come from past rose float teams to create the float, while some other tips come from professional float creators such as Charlie Meier.

“We make a lot of friends here, it helps us branch out and meet other people who love working on rose floats too,” Margaret Kennedy, a fourth-year aerospace engineering student from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo said.

Techniques learned over time include how to utilize unexpected botanical materials to make up components of the decorations.

Notable examples of this include using shaved rice for white and different types of coconut shreds that turn shades of brown and beige when mixed with oils from hands.

“We have a station dedicated to testing dry materials in preparation for decorating on deco day in Pasadena,” Kennedy said.

There the decorating team experiments with several materials to find the desired effect for the float’s theme.

The team is trying new materials this year such as bell peppers and fruits, which becomes a challenge to find the right glue to hold and preserve the pieces onto the float.

“The best part is the hands-on learning,” Kennedy said.

The tradition of the float is not just passing decoration knowledge from year to year, but it is also the tradition of students, current, and past, coming together taking pride in the creation of each float.

“We continue the tradition because of the excellence that has come before us,” Janetta McDowell, director of the Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float Program said.

“Students reach out to alumni, and the alumni serve as mentors,” McDowell said. “We utilize skills and traits passed on from the alumni who worked on the floats.”

Each year the students combine ingenuity with history and tradition by taking old methods and implementing new technology.

“We were the first to use solar power on a mechanism, and this year we are trying a moving pod,” Orlando Cabrera rose float club chair and fourth-year mechanical engineering student from CPP said.

Even with new technology introduced as the years pass, they float team strives to continue to honor its roots.

Passport-style stamps on the current float will represent the previous floats from years past.

“The stamps will pay homage to the time and dedication put into the floats over the years,” McDowell said.

This year is going to be a great celebration of tradition, history, and success because the universities are the only colleges to ever consistently participate in the Tournament of the Roses Parade, according to McDowell.

This year, volunteers consist of a mixture of both current students and veteran rose float team members collaborating old and new styles and innovation for the common goal of commemorating the past.

“We can’t forget where we started and how that has helped us be where we are 70 years ago. We think of the first chair all the way to the students who graduate this year,” McDowell said.

This year will show a legacy of students and the community working together to create something that millions of families watch on their television on New Year’s Day.

“Cal Poly Rose Float is not just for Cal State Universities, but for all universities. We like showcase what success means for all college students,” McDowell said.

Rose Float team members and guest volunteers gathered at the lab for a mechanics and structural work day

Emily Cohen / The Poly Post

Rose Float team members and guest volunteers gathered at the lab for a mechanics and structural work day

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