First published in the Jan. 6 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
Two turbulent pandemic years came to fruition last week for the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association as it won the Crown City Innovator Award for its 43rd float entry in the Jan. 1 Rose Parade, called “Who Says We Can’t?”
Since its formation in 1978, the LCFTRA has now won 32 awards: 10 of them for humor, six for animation and eight Founder’s Trophies. This year is the first time it has won the Innovator Award, having the “most outstanding” use of imagination, innovation and technology.
This year’s entry was a nod to symbolize the power of “yes, we can” by portraying old dogs that dream and believe in achievement. It featured skating dogs constructed from fruits, vegetables, flowers and other natural materials, and was designed to be fun and whimsical, which is part of the LCFTRA’s annual commitment to build humorous animated floats.
“It was great news, we were really pleased with the award,” said LCFTRA President Mike Davitt, who will step down this year as the organization’s leader after serving four years in the role. “It’s always amazing to see the amount of effort that all the volunteers put into the float, the sheer amount and hours of work over months of time. It’s a year-round process.”
After the iconic parade was canceled last year due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, the LCFTRA rolled over their design concept to match the Tournament’s theme for the 133rd Rose Parade: “Dream. Believe. Achieve.” Davitt acknowledged the difficulties spurred by the pandemic, including the shortages of flowers and materials.
“Our team was really on the ball early on with the construction and [decoration] crew making sure all of their orders were in well in-advance to avoid problems with delivery,” he said. Incremental weather — frigid temperatures and torrential rains — combined with COVID fears dissuaded some volunteers from showing up, he noted. In the end, however, “everyone came through and put in double time.”
LCFTRA construction co-chair Grant Delgatty said he was thrilled with winning for innovation, especially since the group is only the second “self-built” float to win it. The “self-built” floats are volunteer-led only and usually have much smaller budgets than those of the corporate organizations.
“One of the judges told us we went ‘above and beyond’ this year, so that was exciting to hear,” said Delgatty, who professionally is chair of product innovation at USC’s Iovine and Young Academy. The float’s design was a challenge to keep all the moving parts, er, moving.
“We almost bit off more than we could chew with this one,” he added, noting that the mechanics of the track which moved the skateboarding dogs around the rink kept breaking down in the weeks leading up to judging day.
“Each time it was a new problem. We’d get it working to go around about five times and then something would lock up. It was a nightmare. We were really, really worried about it not working during the judging and during the parade.”
Ultimately, the team put their determination and professional skills to work, with Delgatty spending between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. on Jan. 1 inside the float with a cordless metal grinder to fix the problem: “I didn’t sleep for about 48 hours leading up to the parade. … I just couldn’t bear seeing us putting in all that work of the last two years and then it not working on the parade route.”
Ultimately, the float came through. Even though it did break down before and after judging, it drove perfectly along the entire parade route.
“I think there were some prayers spoken and answered,” Delgatty said, laughing.
Despite the grueling hours and work, he said he looks forward to next year’s float building process.
“It is something that I find great joy in,” he said. “People put in thousands of hours each year; it’s just a great team and great community-building experience. There’s so much tradition here, you meet people who’ve been doing it since the first float in ’78.”
The LCFTRA is encouraging the LCF community to come visit its float this Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m, at Memorial Park. Visitors will be able to take home flowers and meet the float development team.