South Pasadena Float Built, Deconstructed By Volunteers

It took scores of volunteers to build the South Pasadena float and it’s taking many hands to dismantle it. The only difference was the amount of time it took to do both; dismantling is faster. Photo by Henk Friezer

South Pasadena’s float from the Jan. 1 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade is back home in the parking lot of the War Memorial Building. The parade entry received the Mayor Award for most outstanding float from a participating city.

Almost two dozen volunteers returned to its construction site Saturday morning, Jan. 5, starting at 9 a.m. Instead of building and decorating, their task was deconstruction.

They removed organic materials from the float ahead of a powerful rain storm later that night. They also dismantled float-building structures in the massive open-air tent that serves as the float “barn.” 

“We made major progress,” said Janet Benjamin, decoration chair of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee (SPTOR), in an interview Sunday.

“We got all the roses and other flowers off the base, and the guitar from the float is almost done,” she said, adding, “The drum has been cleared.”

She was referring to the musical instrument replicas that were part of the design that reflected the parade theme “The Melody of Life.”

The self-built float held more than 100,000 fresh flowers, according to Chris Duenas-Metcalf, the float’s floral designer. They included roses, orchids and gladiolas. Other natural materials were eucalyptus bark gathered locally by volunteers and buffalo grass.

Fresh Christmas tree branches also adorned the float. They were donated by Lowe’s from its Christmas tree lot across the street from the float site, he said. Walnut shells, flax seed, sweet rice, sesame, oat bran flakes and seaweed were also part of the mix of organic materials.

Fruits and vegetables on the float included lemons, limes, green apples and cauliflower, he said. South Pasadena’s Bristol Farms donated most of the produce on the float, he said. The company also supplied a large trailer to store perishables.

Although the wilted flowers were discarded, some of the produce was recycled.

Benjamin, the decoration chair, said that Bob Ridley, a retired South Pasadena Police Department reserve officer, collected fruits from the float for composting. He works with the Pasadena Community Garden on Pasadena Avenue.

Although much was accomplished Saturday, the deconstruction job is not yet finished.

“We have to clean out and wash all the vials,” Benjamin said. These are the small plastic receptacles that hold the flowers in water. The vials are inserted into the float during decoration. They total approximately 40,000, she said.

“We put a little soap in buckets of water and we wash them out,” she said. “We have trays that we use to put them out in the sun to dry.”

The float itself must be deconstructed, she said. “The guys will come and hack it apart,” she said of the construction team.

She said this is the ugly part of the process, and yet numerous volunteers arrived Saturday to help.

“The crew that we have and the volunteers are just amazing,” she said.

One volunteer at the workday was Anita Scott, 87, who also served as the spotter on the float to warn the driver of any impediments along the route.

Deconstruction will continue Jan. 12 starting at 9 a.m., unless it is raining, she said.

Benjamin invited residents to join the tear-down efforts on Saturdays. These will take up to a month. Student community service hours are also available, she added.

“We’ll be there every Saturday until it’s done, unless it rains,” she said.