When Take Two went to visit Cal Poly Pomona's Rose Float Project, it was almost unrecognizable.
"It looks like a giant glob of yellow foam at the moment," said Jon de Leon, design chair for Cal Poly's Rose Float Project. "We recently got it foamed by a professional. That is so we can stab flowers into it."
On a warm day in early December, the float looked nothing like its artistic rendering. De Leon and his teams at both Cal Poly Pomona and San Louis Obispo were just getting started on the hard work for their schools' entry into the 2018 Pasadena Rose Parade.
"We have three young animals in cardboard planes," De Leon said, "flying in a sea of clouds, typically colored in pastel sunset colors."
A koala, an otter and a red panda are the visual backbone of the float's theme — "Dreams Take Flight." It's a school tradition that's been ongoing for almost 70 years, and this year is no exception.
Creating rose floats year after year is a big idea and a big task since the conditions the students and volunteers work in aren't ideal.
"Our current lab, it's been standing well over 50 years and it's not an enclosed space," said Cal Poly's Rose Float director, Janetta McDowell. "So, when it's raining, when it's really windy, when it's dusty from our surrounding area that we're in, we get all of those elements into our lab space."
At least there's a light at the end of this cold and windy tunnel. A brand new rose float lab will break ground in 2018 with lot of the money for the $3.7 million dollar project coming from proud alumni.
"There's no money coming from campus. It's essentially donations from alumni and supporters of Cal Poly Rose Float. "
The new facility will include an updated work bench, space for a forklift to travel the circumference of the lab, a secure location for the students' mechanical and welding tools, and an outdoor communal area to share meals and breaks.
But for students like Jon de Leon, it was never about the possible perks or promises of fancy facilities. It was about the work itself.
"I believe I'm going to be one of those alumni that keep coming back because I definitely love being here. I'm itching to be back this weekend because finals are killing me. I just want to be done and be back already."
De Leon is just one of the thousands of students who's taken part in the Cal Poly floats program, and with the new facility breaking ground next year, there are sure to be thousands more.