Cal Poly Rose Float team adapts to 2021 Rose Parade cancellation

“Dream. Believe. Achieve.” That was the intended theme for the 2021 Rose Parade—one the Cal Poly Rose Float team was excited to showcase through a float that celebrated the power of education. However, due to COVID-19, the Rose Parade has been canceled causing an abrupt change of plans for the Cal Poly Rose Float.

Construction of the new Rose Float Lab and Design Complex which will likely be finished in October. (Blanca Gonzalez|The Poly Post)

The theme’s focus on education meant a lot to the students from both Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, as the universities’ joint effort is the only student-built float included in the parade. i

“We have the opportunity to show the world we’re a school (with a) learn by doing philosophy and we make this float through our education and through our hands-on-learning,” said Ralph Agbayani, a fifth-year industrial engineering student and the Pomona design chair for the Cal Poly Rose Float.

For 72 years, CPP and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo have collaborated in designing and building a rose float for the annual Pasadena Rose Parade, which has been hosted annually since 1890. According to the Pasadena Tournament of Roses website, the event has only been canceled on three other occasions: 1942, 1943 and 1945 when World War II was taking place.

“I’d say most of us are saddened but really understanding. Throughout these last couple of months, we saw this coming, but health and safety comes first, definitely,” Agbayani said.

When classes went remote in March, the team held online meetings to continue planning for the rose float. Ava Hansen, a third-year plant science student and Pomona decoration chair for the Cal Poly Rose Float said that the team got “almost all the planning done” for the float but have not begun building anything yet because they have not been able to return to campus.

She said that in previous years, around August, they would already be starting to build some parts of the float and the decorating team would be processing some of the campus-grown flowers to incorporate in the float.

Hansen added that she would like to encourage more students to get involved in the Cal Poly Rose Float which she says, has something for everyone of every major.

“I think a lot of people don’t know that we actually grow our own flowers, so this isn’t just a program for engineers; this is a program that incorporates pretty much every major, ” Hansen said.

Cindy Dice, a fourth-year English student and Pomona president of the Cal Poly Rose Float explained that the team is still in the process of gaining approval from the CPP administration to work in the Rose Float Lab and continue designing and creating the float.

Dice explained the team needs to get approval from the Strategic Enterprise Risk Management department on campus and from the Emergency Operations Center which have held discussions with university President Soraya M. Coley.

MaryAnne Boice-Ceja, who is the risk manager in the Strategic Enterprise Risk Management department at CPP  was contacted to comment on the subject but there was no response.

The Rose Float team at CPP has put together a plan that will help them stay safe in the event that they get approval from the university administration.

“We have about 30 members on the team; now we will have about 10 to 12 members present at the lab. They will take turns working from the lab,” Dice said.

“We have a proper safety protocol with regards to the pandemic and we’re going to social distance at our lab, making sure everyone has hand sanitizer on hand, masks, gloves, making sure all the tools and equipment are thoroughly sanitized,” Dice added. “Even when we break out for lunch, we can make sure everybody is socially distancing and also make  sure everybody is entering and exiting the lab in certain areas so that there is fewer contact with people.”

Dice stated that she is hoping for a quick approval since sister school and collaborator, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has already received approval from their administration to work at their Rose Float Lab.

However, one reason that the team at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has already received their approval could be because San Luis Obispo county has reported less COVID-19 cases than Los Angeles County. As of writing this article, the confirmed cases for San Luis Obispo County are still under 5,000 while LA  County has over 200,000 confirmed cases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

With regard to the new Rose Float Lab, Dice said that the pandemic has not hindered the progress and construction of the lab. The new lab, which was fully funded by third-party donations, will likely be finished in October according to Dice.

More information about the Cal Poly Rose Float can be found at

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