By mid-afternoon on New Year’s Eve, the Cal Poly Universities Rose Parade float, “Sweet Shenanigans,” will be covered in more than 46,000 flowers and natural materials that include crushed walnut, silver leaf, melaleuca bark, rice powder and toasted sesame.
The next morning, “Sweet Shenanigans” will make its debut in the 127th Tournament of Roses Parade, an event broadcast live to audiences around the world. In Pasadena, hundreds of thousands of people will line the parade route to cheer their favorite floats, bands and equestrian teams.
The only float built completely by students, it is also one of only four entries to use at least 85 percent California-grown flowers. The eight giant gummy bears will be covered in more than 15,000 chrysanthemums. The super-sized scoops of ‘ice cream’ will be covered in more than 10,000 roses and almost 15,000 gerber daisies.
The Decorations Committee is the group in charge of selecting the flowers and natural materials that will cover the float once the dimensions have been decided.
Anh Ngheim, a civil engineering student from Huntington Beach, is the chair of CPP’s Decorations Committee and works closely with her counterpart at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on the flower selections.
“We do have a master list of flowers by colors and shades,” says Ngheim, “but it really only covers the things that you can commonly find and use, for example roses and daisies. My counterpart and I filter through those to find the perfect shade and style of roses, daisies, or lilies that we believe would perfectly match a certain aspect of the float. My team and I also take frequent trips to the LA Flower Market to see what else is out there and to make sure that the flower we want looks the way it does when we researched it on Google.
“Texture is extremely important to convey and get right. It’s our team’s job to make sure that what we’re trying to convey comes off as cleanly and simply as possible since the audience only really has five seconds to view our float during the parade.”
Hearing about a possible strawflower shortage this year, the Pomona contingent grew their own pink strawflower for the float’s lollipops. Cal Poly SLO grew white statice that will be used to outline parts of the lollipops and add detail to different parts of the float.
“Statice is dried, so we can use this material for years to come or even trade it with other float builders for materials we may need,” says Ngheim. “It’s a great item to trade with since it’s such a versatile material, but it’s a huge hassle to procure and process. In years past, we’ve traded it for things like onion seed, which is expensive and rare to find since it’s the only organic material that is truly black.”
A life-long fan of the Rose Parade, Andrea Jimenez is working on her second Cal Poly Universities float. Last year, she worked on the castle rooftop on the “Soaring Stories” float. This year, the animal health sciences student from Victorville is a member of the Decorations Committee and has learned even more about flowers.
“I didn’t know there were so many types of roses. On our trip to the flower fields in San Luis Obispo, there were about 50 types,” says Jimenez. One of her favorite materials on Sweet Shenanigans is the golden flax seed for the sled, which she reports, “feels just like graham crackers.”
Sweet Shenanigans is the 68th Rose Parade entry from the two campuses and is perhaps the most well-known example of their learn-by-doing philosophy. Through the years, the partners have earned 55 awards. In 2015, Soaring Stories won the Lathrop K. Leishman award for Most Beautiful Non-Commercial Float.
“My favorite thing about working on the float is seeing the immense progress we make in the last two months,” says Ngheim. “The amount that we get done in that time always amazes me since we’re all full time students.”
For information on how to volunteer to work on the float in Pasadena, visit www.rosefloat.org.
Tournament of Roses Parade
Jan. 1, 2016
Start Time: 8 a.m.
Live on ABC, KTLA, NBC and Univision