The design for “Far Out Frequencies,” Cal Poly Universities’ Rose Float, includes six green aliens playing music with two giant astronauts. On Saturday, with less than three days until the parade, it was clear that there weren’t enough green button mums to cover them all.
“That’s Deco Week,” explained Summer Blanco, Cal Poly Pomona’s decorations chair, and a senior majoring in biology with a botany option. “We plan the whole year, and then the magic happens… [But] you get a lot of curveballs thrown at you and have to make lots of on-the-fly decisions. Last year, we had to change the color of the front airplane. This year, it’s the aliens.”
The team quickly acquired and began testing new plant materials. The Tuba-Head, Lucy and Mufasa. Ketchup, Scarlett and Lucy were given additional colors and textures using purple, orange and yellow mums; and salsa ingredients – tomatillos, purple onions, lemons and jalapeños.
The changes, Blanco said, give the aliens more interesting textures and wonderful color.
It was one of the latest challenges for the student-run Rose Float team during Deco Week in Pasadena, the intense six-day period between Christmas and New Year’s Day when all dried and fresh material are added to the float.
Saturday night mechanics testing also revealed that Morgan, one of the astronauts, was actually strumming the guitar strings. ‘This is not good if you want material to stay attached to the surfaces,” noted Jairo Rosales, a mechanical engineering senior. The next day, members of the design team were on the scaffolding lowering the guitar’s bridge and strings.
“The interesting thing about Deco Week,” said Kerim Andrawis, a junior mechanical engineering student, “is that the float can transform, and decorations can change in hours. So yesterday, the aliens changed colors, patterns and materials.”
Fortunately, Blanco likes the high intensity of Deco Week. “It’s an organized mess of high energy and a lot of fun. Watching what was a line drawing turn into a giant Rose Float is amazing.”
The Decorations Committee begins their specific tasks once the line drawing is final, beginning with decisions about the coloring and brainstorming ideas about textures and materials.
Prior to Deco Week, the guitar seemed to be the most challenging element. Students had planned was to cover it with at least eight materials, including dry shredded coconut for the pick guard; melaleuca bark on the neck; flax seed on the front; silver leaf for the tuning keys; and lettuce seed on the pencil steel guitar strings.
One of the harder decisions was what material to use of the guitar’s sides that would look the most like wood. The team settled on using the base of shaved, sliced palm fronds. Blanco estimates that Rosales probably spent 30 hours trying to get the pieces flat enough and the right size.
For the rock crystals, Deco team member Wolfgang Breitenbach, a junior majoring in manufacturing engineering, suggested pink Himalayan sea salt. Hours of testing found that a combination of packing tape base and a super strong glue would work best though patching might have to be done with super glue. Accented with lunaria seedpods, the translucent materials will sparkle with LED lights during the parade.
To create a “lumpy, weird alien landscape,” the base will be covered in blue irises, succulents, protea and exotic flower arrangements. When finished, more than 90 percent of the fresh floral material will be California grown, courtesy of growers from the California Cut Flower Commission.
As dozens of volunteers snip, glue and attach flowers to the float, Rosales surveys the hubbub with a smile.
“It’s like watching a pop-up book come to life,” he said. “You start with nothing, and it grows to a metal frame. Then you begin layering things on top. It’s great seeing all of the volunteers smiling as they work.”
Throughout Deco Week, hundreds and perhaps more than 1,000 volunteers came through the Rosemont Pavilion to help the Cal Poly Universities’ team make their plans a reality.
On Tuesday, Jan. 1, “Far Out Frequencies” will be in the ninth entry in the parade. Piloted by Cal Poly Pomona senior Chris Maciosek, the float with play the song “Trip” by the London-based duo Still Corners.
The Tournament of Roses will announce the award-winning floats before the parade starts at 8 a.m. In its 71-year history the combined Rose Float team from Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has won 58 awards.