First published in the Dec. 22 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association is working hard to uphold its closely held tradition of producing a self-made float for its 2023 entry for the 134th Rose Parade.
This year’s float, “Secondhand Shenanigans,” is the 44th entry from LCF and features a family of racoons that takes over discarded boxes of old toys and clothes that belonged to a La Cañada High School graduate, who spots the rambunctious animals from his bedroom window.
The whimsical scene is a playful take on the Tournament of Roses theme “Turn a Corner,” making the LCFTRA’s float concept and design an awards hopeful.
Since LCFTRA’s formation in 1978, the organization has won 32 awards, including 10 for humor, six for animation and eight Founder’s Trophies. Last year marked the first time it won the Innovator Award for what the judges deemed the “most outstanding” use of imagination, innovation and technology.
A notable feature this time around is the use of a satellite float — a robot that will be able to take the shape of a car and revert to its original form alongside the main unit of the float. The satellite will appear to be controlled by one of the racoon characters holding a remote.
The La Cañada float is built from the frame up with the help of volunteers — it’s one of only six floats in the parade to be so constructed within driving distance of the parade route, providing the community with a unique opportunity to do what other towns are unable to do.
The float is built by the community, for the community — a principle that is the bedrock of this heartfelt tradition that continues to fuel the spirit of the Rose Parade. But since fewer than a dozen volunteers consistently show up during the week and on weekends, the LCFTRA is seeking more hands to help as the construction phase of the float nears its end, particularly people with specialized skills like welding.
“To make this a success, you have to have volunteers, funding and drive,” LCFTRA President Ernest Koeppen said. “It’s really a community event, and it’s a prideful thing, because at the end of the day there are only six towns that are self-built that can do something like this — tie the community together, show their wares and welcome in the new year for the entire country on New Year’s Day. I think it’s fabulous. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
John Wolhaupter, LCFTRA construction co-chair, attributes the timely completion of the float each year to the level of volunteers’ support.
“The volunteers are critical,” he said. “We don’t have enough time and volunteers during the week to try to build a whole float. If we get more people on Saturdays during the year, that’s great because it takes a load off.”
As the float’s decoration phase quickly approaches, LCFTRA construction co-chair Pam Gossoo said this is the time everyone’s hard work gradually brings the design to life and fulfills the organization’s intended vision.
“It’s nice to see what you’ve helped build turn into something beautiful, fun and whimsical,” she said.
The organization typically receives support from more than 1,000 volunteers that help hand assemble the float’s materials onto its screened and cocooned base. The list of materials to be used as embellishments includes roses, silver leaf, lentils, asparagus and poppy seeds.
When the LCFTRA float turns the corner onto the parade route in Pasadena each year, Gossoo takes pride in seeing emotion wash over parade-goers’ faces, she said.
“On parade day, I’m looking forward to seeing the reactions of the people in the crowd when it goes by,” Gossoo said. “Hopefully, they’re excited about it. That would mean that we had a successful float.”
Though Koeppen said he hasn’t done anything “specific, unique or different” in his role, he is happy to lead the LCFTRA.
“We’re keeping this tradition going, and to preside over a group of people that have an unbelievable dedication to the community, it’s honestly just an honor,” he said. “It’s a team effort, a community effort, and I’m lucky to be called their president for a little while.”
This coming year, Koeppen said, LCFTRA has plans to host a community shop class and work to bring more public awareness to the float year-round.
“I don’t want to be the best-kept secret in town, I want us to be the organization that you want to hang out with and learn from,” he said.
So Koeppen encourages local residents to “bring it on, join us and volunteer — be a part of the community.”