Are you a fan like me of the world renowned Rose Parade Presented by Honda? Ever wonder about the process of what it takes to get a float in and on the parade? Meet Bonnie who has been involved with the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association, an award winning organization, for the past 15 years.
January 2, 2017 found me in the VIP grandstands for the 128th Rose Parade, surrounded by float builders and sponsors for the 2017 parade. I was invited to go by my sister-in-law and her friend who got us tickets from another friend who just happens to be an executive with Shriners Hospitals for Children in Los Angeles, one of the Rose Parade sponsors and consistent float entrant. It was super fun to sit among the people who had made the float decisions for their companies, Northwestern Mutual, Rotary International, Ragu, and Fiesta Parade Floats.
One lady sitting directly behind us was offering commentary about the history of the parade as the floats went by. I asked her how she knew so much and Bonnie replied that she has been working with the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association for the past 15 years.
The Sierra Madre Rose Float Association has been pulling floats in the parade since 1917. Today, it is an independent association. That means that it receives no financial aid from the city; all funds for their floats come through donations.
Bonnie moved to Sierra Madre in the fall of 2002. A few weeks after she moved in, Bonnie went to recycle her cardboard boxes and noticed a lot of commotion going on at a building up the street. She went to see what was happening and was told that they were building a float for the Rose Parade and invited her to help. Bonnie and her husband joined the organization and became active members immediately.
What jobs have Bonnie held with the association? At first, she helped with everything. After 3 years, the president mentioned at the annual election meeting that he thought Bonnie would make a good volunteer coordinator. The position had been open for a few years and Bonnie agreed to start it up again. While her role has changed over the years, in 2016, she replied to inquiries about volunteering from their website, monitored the online signup program, and helped arrange for staffing the sales booth, arranged for food, and supervised the volunteers for deco week. Ideally, the deco week tasks should be done by separate people instead of one, Bonnie. Needless to say it was “very overwhelming” for Bonnie to handle all those responsibilities on her own.
Bonnie explained the process of getting a float into the Rose Parade:
Concepts for parade floats are presented to the Tournament for approval by the second week in February.
Once a design is approved, work begins immediately on making the concept into a float design and choosing materials for deco. Because the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association has a “very small core group” (just 10 or so people come together almost every Sunday during the whole year), there are no “true committees.” Business regarding the float is often hashed out over lunch, with final decisions usually going to the head of construction and the head of deco –who just happened to be married to each other!!!
When construction for the Sierra Madre Rose Float begins, Bonnie says, “It gets real loud.” As the construction progresses, the deco people will be checking on supplies and prepping the dry materials.
Occasionally, a few volunteers will help out during the year, but the bulk of volunteering ramps up in November and December. The week before the parade is the busiest. Bonnie says there is “A lot of adrenaline, little sleep, and sometimes some personality clashes.” And every year, there is “usually some kind of disaster” to deal with. But as Bonnie reports, “we get through it.” The trickiest part of float building? The live flowers. They aren’t put on the floats until the day before the parade– but must be in place for final judging. Bonnie says, “It’s always an issue to find the proper timing.”
Bonnie’s favorite memories of the past 15 years working with the Sierra Madre Float Association is “meeting wonderful people and hear(ing) their stories.” Bonnie says she is usually exhausted by the time of the parade, and often sick as well. But she is always very proud of what their small group has accomplished.
For the 2017 Tournament of Roses Parade, the Sierra Madre float won the MAYOR’S TROPHY – Most outstanding city entry – national or international for “The Cat’s Away.”
Bonnie said that this was her favorite float of all the floats she has worked on. She hopes she can stay involved with the Sierra Madre Float Association until her husband retires.
When you watch the 2018 Rose Parade presented by Honda, either from the comfort of your home or in person, I hope you have a greater appreciation of how the floats get in to the parade, especially from small groups like the Sierra Madre Float Association. I know I will!!