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Rose Bowl Floats Promote Brands, Causes

Volunteers are busy decorating floats for the Rose Parade, which will take place January 1 in Pasadena, California. Dozens of organizations and companies are ready to promote their causes and products with the rolling displays covered with petals, leaves and seeds.

One California warehouse is a sea of color, as volunteer decorators like Anita Vandervelden place flowers, seeds and other vegetation over each square centimeter of every parade float.

“A lot of work, but it's a lot of fun. You get a job given to you and do you do it and move on to the next,” she said.

Volunteer Virginia Brownworth came all the way from Minnesota to help out.

“We work with seeds, we work with flowers, we work with glue, we work with pins, just a variety of materials,” she said.

For Meg Farrell, the parade provides a chance to tell the story of her mother, and of 1,000 other members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II. The volunteers flew aircraft from base to base to free up male pilots for combat.

“We feel that putting a float in the Rose Parade is one way to get the message out that these women served our country and helped to successfully conclude the war,” Farrell said.

The aviation-theme float has flowers in the shape of 38 stars, in memory of the women who lost their lives in training or transport accidents.

Others also are using the Rose Parade to make a statement. Gay couple Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair will celebrate their marriage atop a float shaped like a wedding cake, an entry sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

“This is the first same-sex marriage on top of a float in a Rose Bowl Parade,” Leclair said.

“In front of millions of people around the world, so it's exciting,” said Loots.

A non-profit group is promoting animal welfare and another will highlight the role of police dogs. An entry from the SeaWorld amusement parks depicting orca whales has sparked some controversy, drawing protests from an animal welfare organization that alleges the parks abuse those sea creatures.

The Dole Food Company is promoting its brand of fruits and vegetables with a tropical-themed entry. Dole executive Dave Spare says that for three years in a row, the company has had award-winning parade floats.

“The biggest prize in the parade is called the Sweepstakes Award. It's for the most beautiful entry, and we've won it the last three years, and God willing, we'll win it again,” he said.

But there is more decorating to do, as the hours tick down to the start of the parade. On Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of people will line the parade route, and tens of millions more will watch on television.