By Emily K. Cohen
More than 50 million people were expected to view 129th Tournament of Roses Parade on Monday, featuring the 70th Cal Poly Rose Float: “Dreams Take Flight.”
The 2018 theme was ‘Making a Difference,’ and was intended to honor those who selflessly help others within their communities.
The float, which was completely designed and built by students, represented the work of hundreds of students from both Cal Poly campuses.
The Rose Float design team offered parade viewers a challenge to find “hidden” objects and scenes on their float, which included items honoring the universities’ past 70 years involved in the Rose Parade.
A few of the hidden objects were featured in the form of postage stamps with a component from the designs of a previous year’s float in each one.
These stamps were placed randomly throughout the float on the sides of the airplanes featuring this year’s characters and among the other decorations to represent the many places and ideas visited by the team in years past.
There was one from the 2017 float with a chameleon on it among others paying tribute to the long-running history and dedication of the Cal Poly Universities to this cherished program.
Each year, the team begins work on the next float shortly after the previous Tournament of the Roses Parade, but the famous botanical decorations that make these floats iconic do not actually get placed onto the float until seven in the morning on Dec. 26 at the earliest.
“It begins by cutting petals off 1,000 plus flowers with our volunteers,” said Margaret Kennedy, a fourth-year aerospace engineering student from Cal Poly San Louis Obispo.
“Some of our volunteers come back every year and are very experienced. They even bring their own tools.”
The floats in the parade traditionally feature a majority of floral and botanical components but this year a common trend in the decorative designs were citrus fruit rinds and small fruit or vegetable seeds with the Cal Poly float included in this trend.
Decorating a float of this size still comes with challenges and difficulties that even the most experienced design and volunteer team cannot avoid or foresee.
“The orange section was supposed to be covered in ilex, then we had to change to red cranberry seeds and we didn’t end up having enough of those, so now we decided to use red lentils, but we are now running low on those,” said Kennedy.
More stresses and tensions built in the air during decorations week as the deadline for judging, Dec. 31, drew closer.
“The heat set us back,” said Sergio Dimas, fourth-year Animal Science student from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and member of the Cal Poly rose float team.
“The mums will wilt in the heat, and it is supposed to be even hotter tomorrow, so we are going to have to hold off on those. Normally it isn’t this hot,” Dimas said on Thursday, Dec. 28, less than three days before judging.
“We started to pop the heads off the mums to use them, and with the heat, it just wasn’t working,” said Kennedy.
“It is important that we use them because they are donations from the CCFC, the California Cut Flower Commission.”
The CCFC certifies that the flowers on the float are grown in California, thus certifying the float as “California Grown,” and this year the Cal Poly Rose Float was projected to be decorated with 97 percent certified California grown flowers.
Kevin Lin, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student at Cal Poly Pomona and rose float design assistant, experienced a different set of challenges.
“I’m in charge of the big koala head in the front, and I was concerned the buffalo grass we used on it wouldn’t come out looking right, but, luckily it did,” said Lin.
I think we’ve all just had a big challenge sharing the space with the other floats here in addition to the typical Southern California December heat.”
Despite several challenges that unexpectedly presented themselves to the team members, they resisted becoming discouraged.
“I get super excited each day we get closer to being finished, everyone here gives me the energy to keep going,” said Kennedy.
“The volunteers who signed up this year to help us with the float are great, too, and have been a fantastic support for our team.”
Volunteers ranged from people who had worked on the Cal Poly floats for several years to people who were there for the first time.
Susan Fiske, who has been a volunteer several times over the last 25 years, Simone Carsey, an Oregon State student volunteering for her third time and Frances Loye who was volunteering for her first time as a “bucket list item” sat picking seeds out of cotton which was to be used on the clouds.
“I like seeing it come together in a common effort,” said Fiske.
Loye, who had picked cotton as a child in San Joaquin Valley, sat picking cotton for Cal Poly and said, “It’s hard work picking cotton. It’s not easy. It makes you value hard work, and that’s what I see in the students here. They’re not pansies. They work hard, and they take pride in what they do.”
This year, the students have an even bigger reason to take pride, as it is the Cal Poly Universities’ seventieth entry in the Tournament of the Roses Parade.
“This is our seventieth entry and we have won 57 awards. It shows we can compete with the professionals,” said Kennedy.
“I heard the theme this year and I just loved it,” said Lin, “I’m so in love with the float this year. I just want to show the rest of the world what we can do.”
Chelsea Mazer / The Poly Post
The center component of the float was an otter in a yellow mum-covered airplane and a stamp representing the 2014 float
Chelsea Mazer / The Poly Post
Many varieties of botanicals including cotton, flowers, vines, branches and seeds decorated the float.
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