The 2017 Cal Poly Universities’ Rose Float is 52 feet long and will be decorated with approximately with 60,000 flowers and other natural material. It is the job of the decorations team to figure out which flowers and plant material best convey the float’s mood and character and make it pop for the audience along the parade route and the millions of television viewers around the world.
Once the concept and float rendering are finalized, the decorations teams, composed of Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students, develops a color palette, taking into account the colors and shades available found in natural material. From there, they decide which type of material to use on each feature.
The entry, “A New Leaf,” depicts a family of chameleons exploring the world and learning by doing.
“If a chameleon is going to be green, we have to decide whether to use fresh or dried material,” explains Nykael Williams, a senior plant science major and chair of Cal Poly Pomona’s decorations team. “If it’s fresh, then we consider what texture it should have to best match the feature. For the smaller chameleon (nicknamed Rocky), we’ll use approximately 4,000 button mums to get the bumpy texture. We’ll also be using halved limes.”
For Chomper, the purple chameleon at the back of the float, the team tried several purple vegetables before finding one that would work well.
“Eggplant decomposed too quickly. Red potatoes dried out too quickly, and with purple cabbage, the leaves turned almost black. The only trooper was purple onion,” says Williams. “It keeps its color and maintains its shape.”
Chomper will also be covered in more than 3,500 mums and dried orange marigold stripes.
The largest chameleon, named Heidi, is 27 feet long, bright yellow and will have color-changing stripes.
More than 14,600 mums, 2,800 carnations and boxes of lemons will be used to give it a bumpy texture.
The float’s dragonfly bodies will be covered in dried purple statice flowers and cranberry seeds, with wings covered in rice powder.
Among the more unusual materials, tree branches on the entry will be covered in 150 pounds of ground coffee, “preferably French roast” for its color, and 110 pounds of ground cinnamon, along with accents of crushed almond and walnut shells amounting to more than 300 pounds, Williams says.
The float’s base will bloom with nearly 9,000 roses, 3,800 Gerbera daisies and moss. The plumeria blooms will be made from coconut, strawflower grown at Cal Poly Pomona and dried marigold from the San Luis Obispo campus.
“A New Leaf” will roll down Colorado Boulevard on Monday, Jan. 2 bearing three huge animated chameleons amid giant blooming hibiscus flowers as the dragonfly readies for takeoff. The Tournament of Roses Parade starts at 8 a.m.
The float will be judged on the percentage of fresh material used, the percentage of roses on the float, creativity in design and how much detail is in the decoration, says Belen Castillo, a junior in forestry and natural resources at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
The Cal Poly Universities’ team has built a float for the parade every year since 1949 and won 56 awards. Float entries have earned the Lathrop K. Leishman Award for Most Beautiful Non-Commercial Float the last two years.