Downey's float voted 'most beautiful'

DOWNEY - The Downey Rose Float Association (DRFA) is on a roll: winner of two Founders' trophies the last two years, it garnered its third award in a row, this time the more prestigious Lathrop K. Leishman Award for its float, A Stroll Down Memory Lane.It was adjudged "most beautiful non-commercial entry" at Sunday's 122nd Tournament of Roses Parade. The Leishman is deemed second in importance only to the top-rated Sweepstakes Award, given to the "most beautiful commercially-produced entry," won this year by Dole's entry, Living Well in Paradise. The Lathrop K. Leishman Award is said to have been named after the Tournament of Roses president in 1939. Tournament theme this year was "Building Dreams, Friendships and Memories." The DRFA now boasts two Leishmans, having won its first in 2001. Indeed, this year was an extraordinarily fruitful year for the six cities/organizations that compose the self-built float group. Besides Downey, three won different awards: the Sierra Madre Rose Float Association won the Governor's Award for its "best depiction of life in California" with its entry, Suenos de California; Cal Poly Universities won the Fantasy Award for its Galactic Expedition entry; and the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association grabbed the Founders' Award with its Centennial Celebration entry, for "most spectacular float built by volunteers." Only the associations representing South Pasadena and La Canada-Flintridge didn't win. "Easily more than a thousand volunteers worked on the (Downey) float in its last stage alone," said Downey Rose Float president Susan Domen, referring to the intensive last week of preparations spent gluing on the thousands of seeds and fresh flowers and otherwise decorating the float before the New Year's Day parade. "There were lots of groups involved. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Key Club and InterAct group members, church groups. They all pitched in, as well as individuals and families, of course." A total team effort, the 45-ft. long, 17-ft. wide and 17-ft. high award-winning float originated from the imaginations of Jason Redfox and Tom Neighbors. It depicted an early 20th century park with a gazebo modeled after a park in Medina, Ohio, along with a fountain supported by three women. It cost some $80,000 to build, the funds raised through sundry fundraisers, donations, bake sales, etc. Construction crew chief was Kelley Roberts, who has been chief float builder the past 16 years. Having the float available in front of the Embassy Suites hours post-parade not only for local viewing but also for the sale of its flowers, artistic float parts and various float memorabilia has become a tradition, to allow those who couldn't view the float on Colorado Boulevard to see it up close, as well as initiate another round of fundraising for the next float construction. The denuded float has now returned to its barn on Erickson Avenue, on the south edge of the sprawling Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center compound. The DRFA expects the Tournament of Roses committee to announce its next parade theme in a week or two, after which an invitation will go out to the community at large to send in their design proposals. A DRFA committee will decide on the three finalists, whose designs will be submitted to Pasadena. The Pasadena committee will then decide which one design they deem the best in reflecting its adopted theme. Domen's two-year tenure as DRFA president ends in mid-February. She considered the float, A Stroll Down Memory Lane, "spectacular." Looking back at the two years of her tenure, she said: "I've had a great time meeting all the people involved in our activities. The volunteers have been great, I like the sense of community you get out of it, all the support you get, and the court was also great." Expected to succeed her is Roberts, 41, who said: "This was one of our best floats ever. It was perhaps also the cleanest."

********** Published: January 6, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 38