Downey's float voted 'most spectacular'

DOWNEY - Some would call it a hunch, others a demonstration of the power of positive thinking.Whatever it was, the fact is that, for the second consecutive year and for the 10th time in its decorated history (pun intended), the Downey Rose Float Association has brought home the Founder's Trophy, awarded to the "most beautiful entry built and decorated by volunteers from the sponsoring community or organization." Association president Susan Domen says, "We knew we had a beautiful float. I always thought we had a good chance to win." Construction crew chief Kelley Roberts was even more positive: his earlier mental image ("In my mind, we've already won") proved compelling, manifesting itself gloriously in objective reality. As everybody knows by now, including an estimated 40 million New Year's Day Rose Parade viewers nationwide and some 140-or-more million viewers worldwide, Downey's 2010 entry was "Jewels of the Pacific," a salute to the maritime wonders off the California coast. It won over similarly self-built entries from Burbank, Cal Poly, La Canada-Flintridge, South Pasadena, and Sierra Madre. The 121st Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade featured two popular attractions: one was the smiling and waving Jackie Chan atop China Airlines' (Taiwan) float; another was the participation of the 'Hero of the Hudson' Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger as grand marshal. "This worked well with the prevailing mood. People needed an escape from reality and found comfort in having someone who was considered a national hero," offered Domen. Downey's winning design, working from the tournament theme, 'A Cut Above the Rest', was fashioned from the imagination of Jason Redfox and Thom Neighbors, who also served as decoration co-chairs. Roberts says the float used, among other things, 42,000 orchids, 10,000 roses, and 4,000 Gerber daisies. These same flowers (and other Downey Rose Float-related memorabilia), following tradition, went on sale from Monday to Wednesday with the float parked in front of the Embassy Suites after it sat on the weekend in Pasadena for public viewing. Flower arrangements went for $5, while a single fresh rose was offered for $1. The various memorabilia (T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, pins, etc.) commanded anywhere from $5 to $18. According to Domen, revenue realized thus runs to about $2,000-$3,000. In effect, this represented the association's very first fund-raiser for the next float-building cycle. She said 80 percent of the float's funding comes from fund-raisers such as this, and roughly 18 percent from donations; the city donates $5,000 towards the Miss Downey Pageant. As can be guessed, building the float is, Sisyphus-like, a never-ending task, truly a year-round affair. Already, as this interview was taking place, Domen's mind was already on the next association activity: this Sunday's Miss Downey Pageant orientation among would-be contestants, to be held at the Downey Theatre. She was thrilled, she said, at the response to the association's addition of a third category to accommodate 10-12 year-olds to its new Junior Miss competition. In the meantime, a novel fund-raising idea hatched by float mainstay and former president Gary De Remer centers around the dropping from a helicopter of assigned golf balls to a green, with holes-in-one winning substantial cash prizes. The scheme of course needs approval from the proper agencies. For now, the (partially) stripped float returns to its barn, of course, and when within the next two weeks the association is apprised of the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade theme, it will issue an invitation for the submission of design entries. The top three designs chosen are sent to the Pasadena tournament committee, which then picks the winning design. Once this is determined, the whole float construction can actually start in earnest (after the vials, the moss, etc., will have been stripped off the truck bed and frames, and all the dry materials pulled off). The actual shaping of the next float starts circa April (bending the metal figures, welding and otherwise getting the design parts together, etc.). In December, the figures will again be covered in foam, the ordering of the dry materials will be made, gluing is done, floral areas/configurations are measured and readied, etc. It was heartening to see about 1,000 volunteers turn out for the decoration phase not too long ago, said Domen, with donors supplying food and drinks. Usually, in years past, 750-800 volunteers was a good number, she said.

********** Published: January 8, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 38