Cal Poly Rose Float perseveres despite parade cancellation

The Tournament of Roses announced late last month it will host a two-hour Rose Parade television special on Jan. 1, 2021. Instead of the usual live broadcast of the parade, the special will consist of highlights from previous years, musical performances and celebrity guest appearances.

The Cal Poly Rose Float, a joint venture of Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has been a staple of past years’ events and will be participating in the special though its role is yet to be announced.

Despite the cancellation of the traditional 2021 rose parade, the Cal Poly Rose Float team continued meeting virtually throughout the semester in preparation of the 2022 float construction.

While the sudden cancellation of the parade may have caused others to give up, Pomona Design Chair Ralph Agbayani, a fifth-year industrial engineering student, said the rose float team is tougher than that and shared what the team has been focused om this semester.

“The fall semester has mostly been recruitment, planning for the future, and doing other learning activities, virtually,” said Agbayani. “One thing we started a few months ago was the Home-Brew Float Competition, where we take leadership members and participants through the design, construction, and decorations processes virtually, and have teams do their own projects at home.”

Officials estimated that 700,000 people attended the Rose Float parade in person on New Years Day, while about 50 million watched from home. (Courtesy of Christina Manuel)

Adapting to change became constant this year as the Cal Poly Rose Float team was not able to return to campus to work on the physical float.

Cindy Dice, a fourth-year English literary studies student and president of the CPP team, said that after working hard to try and get everyone back to campus, the team eventually decided against it citing “stress and dangerous risk” as too much of a danger.

“I was relieved after that decision and have zero regrets. Our health is much more important than a parade float,” Dice said. “Unfortunately, I cannot mention any of the details of the float that we were working on these past few months as it will be rolled over to be showcased in the 2022 Rose Parade, assuming everything is back to ‘normal’ by then.”

According to Dice, the Cal Poly Rose Float puts their members first focusing on their development and wellbeing. The participants also made sure everyone was ok mentally and physically by meeting regularly despite the lack of work to be completed.

Cal Poly Rose Float alumni like Shawna Swanson who graduated in 2009 from San Luis Obispo believes the experience helped shape her future.

“During my float tenure I learned to apply the skills of my art and design major outside the classroom and onto the global stage,” Swanson said. “I also learned how to work with and communicate with students outside my major with different skills and abilities.”

Boasting 72 consecutive entries into the Rose Parade and earning awards like the 2020 Director’s Award for Outstanding Artistic Design, the team has long exhibited a commitment to the parade.

Swanson said, “The Rose Float program truly embodies the Cal Poly motto of learn by doing and provided me with more ‘real world’ hands-on experience that I could have ever gained in the art department. Rose Float defined my college experience, and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.”

To find out more visit The Tournament of Roses website or The Cal Poly Rose Float website.

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