60th Rose Float Wins Fantasy Trophy

60th Rose Float Wins Fantasy Trophy
“Guardians of Harmony” won the Fantasy Trophy in the 2008 Tournament of Roses Parade.
Alumni Dixon Davis and wife Alexandra hand out flowers on the parade route before it started.
Ron Simons, Chrystal Tipping, Matt Yeseta, Janetta McDowell and Marla Franco with 60th anniversary banner before the float left for Pasadena.

Sixty years of tradition and a year of hard work boded well for the Cal Poly Universities' Rose Float. The fanciful creation “Guardians of Harmony,” won the Fantasy Trophy in the Tournament of Roses. The award marked the 46th occasion the universities have earned a top honor in the esteemed New Year's Day parade.

Towering 21.5 feet high and spanning 55 feet long and 18 feet wide, the float prominently featured a red dragon that spun like a corkscrew, a running waterfall, jumping carp and a bright yellow phoenix.

“It's a big year, and for many of us it's our last float as students. We decided we're going to do everything we can to make sure it's special. We wanted to branch out and challenge ourselves,” said Matthew Yeseta, Rose Float chair at Cal Poly Pomona.  

The float is currently on display at Voorhis Park between the CLA Building and the parking structure.

More than 1,000 volunteers aided Cal Poly Pomona and San Luis Obispo students in decorating the float during the week leading up to the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. More than 900 carnations; 300 orchid blossoms; 7,000 silver dollar eucalyptus leaves; 12,000 red croton leaves and 2,000 red anthurium petals brought the float to life in vivid color and texture.  

The float's Chinese design was in line with “Passport to the World's Celebrations,” the theme of the 119th Rose Parade. Students have designed, constructed, decorated and financed entries in the parade every year since 1949. The Rose Float is the longest, perpetually running tradition at Cal Poly Pomona, and is the parade's only float designed, built, decorated and financed by college students.

“The Rose Float is one of those things you pass on to someone else – to that next group of students – and you know it's in good hands,” says alumnus Bob Pettis, who was a Pomona Rose Float Committee chairman in 1962 and co-chairman in 1963.

The year-long process from concept to creation is challenging at best. Since the late 1970s, half of the float has regularly been built at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and connected with Cal Poly Pomona's portion in October or November. The float must adhere to strict safety and design guidelines from the Tournament of Roses – tasks not taken lightly by the student volunteers.

Over the years, the floats have received 46 awards, including nine Founder's trophies for the best volunteer-built float. This year marked the first time the float earned the Fantasy Trophy, which is given to floats with the most outstanding display of fantasy and imagination.

Eight television networks/channels broadcast the Rose Parade worldwide to millions of viewers. In addition to the regular parade coverage, this year's Rose Float benefitted from a variety of focused media attention. HGTV featured the float in “The Making of the Rose Parade 2008,” which aired before the parade on New Year's Day. The Los Angeles Newspaper Group and the San Luis Obispo Tribune ran many stories about this year's float. Additionally, KTLA featured the float on its morning show and mounted a webcam at the Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float Lab in early December and then in Brookside Pavilion in Pasadena during Decorations Week.

For a glimpse of the media coverage, please see “In The News,” on the right-hand column of the PolyCentric homepage.