As New Years Day draws near, the sights and sounds of flowers and marching bands converge on Pasadena for final preparations and a pre-parade blowout.
Twenty five marching bands from across the country will march in Friday’s the Rose Parade. Meanwhile, across town near the Rose Bowl, float builders worked with flowers, seeds and lots of glue to assemble the marvels that will drive down Colorado Boulevard Friday morning.
The city of West Covina's float will honor the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American pilots who escorted bombers through dangerous airpsace during World War II. The float will be hard to miss: a giant American Eagle led by two P-51 airplanes. The tails of the planes on the float will be painted red, as they were during the war. Frank Scalfaro of the West Covina Rose Float Foundation says how planes piloted by Tuskegee Airmen were identified.
"The white pilots got to know them real well by that," said Scalfaro. "In fact, the stories that I’ve heard, they even asked for the Red Tail airmen."
Sixteen surviving Tuskegee Airmen will ride on the float, which will also feature portraits of 8 airmen.
The float's floral designer, Tom Bowling, says even though the float has a military theme, it is a Rose Parade float, so it must encorporate roses and lots of other flowers and plants.
"There's a lot of hidden nuances on it, " said Bowling. "We're using some tropical flowers that came in from Hawaii, we're using ginger and orchids."
As Bowling and volunteers decorated the float under a tent in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl, a group of Tuskegee Airmen autographed postcards for visitors.
On the other side of the tent, students, faculty, and alumni from Cal Poly Pomona and San Luis Obispo
decorated their float. The two campuses hold a competition each year for the float design. Jonathan Jianu said the theme of this year’s winning design is is “Jungle Cuts”
"It’s actually a monkey barber shop, so we have a whole bunch of different animal hairstyles going on from mullets to beehives to mohawks," said Jianu. The mechanical engineering major then highlighted all the moving parts. "The hippo moves, the zebra moves. Monkey arms are moving, we’ve got a working waterfall which is a lot harder than you think it would be. A lion tail swaying back and forth," he said.
At Jackie Robinson Stadium at Pasadena City College, the marching bands marching in the parade this year played tunes at Bandfest.
"The goal is to make every single band feel like a million bucks when they’re here," said middle school music teacher Jim Hahn of Placentia, who is band advisor to the Tournament of Roses Music Committee. "We just want no matter where they’re from in the country, what style marching they do, we just want every kid to feel like they’re the best thing out there."
Hahn has worked with the Tournament of Roses music committee for six years. Some of his former students, including his son, play in the El Dorado High School Marching Band. It’s also scheduled to march in the Rose Parade.
The 121st Rose Parade will take place on Friday, Jan. 1, 2010 at 8:00 a.m. (Pacific Time) featuring marching bands from throughout the nation, floral floats, and equestrian units.
All dates, times and prices are subject to change and you are encouraged to call the toll free Visitor Hotline, (877) 793-9911; the Visitors' Information line, (626) 449-ROSE; or contact the Tournament of Roses office, (626) 449-4100.
For seating and ticket information please visit the Tournament of Roses Parade tickets page.