or "Wow! A second float for the Rose Parade?"

Per an old saying, lightning never strikes twice. Following our success in having an award-winning float in the 2005 Rose Parade I didn't think we would ever be able to repeat that experience. It turns out I was wrong, for January 1, 2008 saw our float "Oktoberfest" win another award for the City of Burbank.

The overall parade theme that year was to be "Passport to the World's Celebrations." Our prior float had featured a barbecue, so I didn't want to go with a 4th of July type theme, but having to been to Munich for several of the real Oktoberfests I thought we might have some fun with a float based on that well-known international event. I had an office and staff in Munich for many years and used some of the pictures I had taken there to mock-up what a float might look like. Happily Stacia Martin was available again and she, Carol, and I joined forces to submit an entry to the design contest for the City of Burbank entry.

The contest is conducted without anyone knowing who has submitted the entries. A design committee whittles down the 80 or so entries received each year to 6-8 that have the best chance of actually being able to build them, as well as win a prize in the parade. The general membership then votes on the top three choices. If the top choice can't be built for some reason, it's on to number two, etc. There was some worry if the city would approve a float celebrating alcoholic beverages, but in the end, the group picked our Oktoberfest design as the top choice. A lot of work and many changes would follow before the float came down the parade route.

Initial concept art

This was Stacia's original art that helped us win the design contest. A happy party-goer waits as a smiling Fraulein pours him another stein of beer. I had enjoyed many a large pretzel while working in Germany, so that was used as a backdrop, with the rear of the float featuring a snow-capped mountain and a pair of squirrels in traditional Bavarian costumes playing alpenstock horns.

First modifications

The next step was to form a design committee to make sure all of the design elements can actually be built, and if anything needs changing to make the float more competitive. It was quickly decided that the mountain was an issue. How could we make it look like an impressive alpine mountain and not a pile of dirt, keeping in mind how large the two human figures would be?

We finally decided to scrap the mountain, so I instead suggested replacing it with a traditional Bavarian chalet and a bandstand. The chalet would allow us to add a significant amount of height to the float, as it could lowered to go under the bridges easier than a mountain could be, and the stage could be used for live musicians playing some oop-pah band music as the float traveled down the parade route.

Having live performers on the float was quite a break from past designs for Burbank. Floats years ago often had featured live performers - usually the mayor or some other politicians - sitting and waving to the crowd, but overall we didn't feel that set us apart from the many other floats that featured exactly the same thing. And it's not like most viewers would know or care who these people were, right? Instead the floats from the past several years had used that space for more comedic or floral elements. We would be making a major design change here but one we felt would work well to our advantage.

Stacia was traveling for work at this time so our friend Janet Rosen graciously stepped in to help craft some potential new layouts for the float.

Second modifications

The design committee liked the new concept but felt the building looked a bit too severe, so I found some photos of buildings that looked a bit more suitable and Janet reworked that part of the drawing. We were getting close but would soon be making one last big change to the design.

During all of this discussion we decided to go one step further with our live performers. In addition to having musicians on our stage, we added live dancers who would perform in the street on both sides of the float. These "out-walkers" would become a welcome addition to our overall design.

final concept art

One big worry we had at this point was that the float would be too long and that there wouldn't be enough interest in the back section with the building. We were also worried that the roof on the gazebo would block views of the musicians from the higher reaches of the grandstands - which is where many of the television cameras are. Happily Stacia returned to town and came up with a wonderful new design that combined the stage and building together in a way that made sense. The feeling was now that we were watching a show in a beer hall, with the building being a set piece behind the stage.

Final color concept art

Once we finally had a design everyone liked, and one that be built on our budget, Stacia prepared the final color concept art that would be submitted to the city and to the Tournament of Roses Association for their approvals. After all of the work up to this point we certainly shared a collective sigh of relief when we got a "Yes" vote from both.

Now all we need to do was actually build it.

More about the design and building of the float