The Cal Poly Universities’ 2015 Rose Parade float captures the power of reading and imagination while also embracing innovation and sustainability.
The float, “Soaring Stories,” depicts a fairy-tale castle and mythological griffin springing to life from the pages of storybooks, reflecting the parade theme “Inspiring Stories.”
In a first for the universities, the float will employ photovoltaic panels, which will animate flags on the castle’s three highest towers. In another first, the rear part of the float will have a wall of living flowers that uses the full plant instead of the cut flowers that traditionally adorn Rose Parade floats.
“When it comes to floats, the Cal Poly Universities have a history of innovation,” says Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float Program Director Greg Lehr. “Every year, we try to do something new.”
The Cal Poly Universities’ float builders have embraced sustainability in other ways: they have long used cleaner-burning propane to fuel the float instead of gasoline or diesel.
In addition, this is the fourth consecutive year that the float has earned the designation of “Californian Grown,” a distinction bestowed by the California Cut Flower Commission. At least 85 percent of the flowers and plant materials used to decorate the float must come from California. By using locally grown flowers, the students reduce the float’s carbon footprint.
“Soaring Stories” also will feature a waterfall with recirculating water. Other elements that will be animated include the griffin’s wings, the castle’s drawbridge, a fish jumping out of the castle moat, the flame on a candle that will “flicker,” and a quill that will move as if someone is writing. The tallest tower will be 30 feet.
The Cal Poly Universities’ float is the only student-designed and built float in the annual New Year’s Day event.
The students put thousands of hours into building the float – on weekends during the academic year and then full time in December after final exams. It’s the only float in the parade built in two sections 250 miles apart; the sections are joined as one in Pomona three months before the parade.
Although the students may lack the experience of their professional float-building competitors, they have the advantage of numbers and ingenuity.
Last year, the students from Pomona and San Luis Obispo took home the Crown City Innovation Award from the Rose Parade for their work on “Bedtime Buccaneers.” The float used 1,800 computer-animated vials to animate flowers and create the illusion of rippling waves at the front of a children’s bed-turned-pirate-ship.
In the 66 years that the Cal Poly Universities have participated in the Rose Parade, they have been among the first – if not the first – to use computer-controlled animation and hydraulics. The students have even used landing gear from a fighter jet to serve as steerable front legs for an elephant float.
The Rose Float is a unique hands-on experience. It draws students from different disciplines and allows them to learn skills outside their areas of study, such as welding, marketing, robotics, bartering and floral procurement, electronics, design and hydraulics. Their success is reflected in the more than 50 awards the students have earned over the years.
The float is moved from Pomona to Pasadena before Christmas. Students and volunteers will begin decorating the float with seeds and flowers on Dec. 26 in Brookside Park near the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Tournament of Roses will judge the float on Dec. 30 and 31.
To volunteer to decorate, sign up online.