Alejandro Barlow | The Poly Post

CPP Rose Float lab begins construction

By Alejandro Barlow, Oct. 10, 2023

As the Cal Poly Rose Float club celebrates its 75th year as a part of the Rose Parade, it is unveiling new responsibilities for students in the context of the 2024 Rose Parade theme, “Celebrating a world of music: the universal language,” through the presentation of Rock and Shock.

Plans of the underwater Shock n’ Roll showcases a 16-foot-wide manta ray swaying above coral and animated electric eels powering the electric instruments. The club has to stay on schedule and motivated with only about seven or eight weekends before decoration week.

“Deco week,” as its known, is the week right before the parade between Christmas and New Years, where the club enlists the help of all members, students and volunteers to put flowers on the float before it gets judged and set on its way down Colorado Boulevard.

Matthew Rodarte, an  electrical engineering student, is the club president on the Cal Poly Pomona side with a counterpart at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Both work to have each side on the same schedule and timeline before they meet and work together every weekend.

“Right now it’s just a bunch of pencil steel and steel struts,” said Rodarte. “And then you start seeing it come together, and then you start seeing the elements go on. And you’re like, ‘Oh my God. I did it. We did it. There’s something there. There’s something tangible and my hands helped.’

Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo collaborate to create the Rose float each year, from choosing the design to placing the last flower. Despite the separation of 216 miles, both campuses come together in person every weekend until the float is done Jan. 1.  The busiest week is deco week

“I described deco week as the hardest time of my life,” Rodarte said. “I can’t wait to do it again.”

Putting the final touches on the float and coordinating deco week is not the only thing overseen by Bailey Beene, a landscape architecture student and decoration chair at Cal Poly Pomona. All organic material that goes onto the float goes through her and her counterpart in San Luis Obispo. Decoration tests the materials, processing, sourcing plants and produce from farmers and cultivating flowers at Spadra Farm.

“We try to have 60/40 percentage when it comes to fresh versus dry,” Beene said.

The decoration department also works closely with the design department to see where the fresh produce and flowers go and where dry processed ones should go. Due to the desire to have more fresh flowers, design must accommodate additional weight in specific areas, making collaboration necessary.  The crops and flowers cultivated by both CPP and Cal Poly SLO rely heavily on weather and water. If  there is a bad yield, then they may need to source a different flower for that specific color.

A student helping construct the Rose Float | Alejandro Barlow

The on-float designs and decorations are seen by the public; what is not in the eye of the public is the operations department. Alex Jamgochyan, an electrical engineering student who is the first operations chair and oversees everything unseen on the Rose float. He is responsible for providing food every weekend, quality of life, social events and supporting the merchandise.

This is the first year operations is seen as an official department inside the club leading to more slots to be filled.

“We’ve always been open to all majors, but especially now with the operations department, it really gives an opportunity for other majors to work here in their own major,” Jamgochyan said.

Rock n’ Shock brings new positions to the club as well as new mechanical functions. The club is introducing pneumatics to the float to move and animate the keyboard to have a different feel compared to the movements of the Manta ray and electric eels.

“Something about this year is electric,” Rodarte said.

Feature Image Courtesy of Alejandro Barlow

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