"Dinner's On... FIRE!"

or "How our float ended up in the Rose Parade" - by Bill Cotter


On January 1, 2005 I had the thrill of seeing a float I helped design make its way down Colorado Boulevard during the Rose Parade. This happy event was the result of thousands of hours of work by a devoted band of volunteers who had worked all year on the project. This web site is a look back at the events of the year and the results of all that work.

The float was built by the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association (BTORA - web site http://www.burbankrosefloat.com). BTORA is an all volunteer organization, and exists solely to design and build the City of Burbank's annual entry in the Rose Parade. While the city is the major sponsor of the float, all of the work is performed by the unpaid members of BTORA.

My wife and I had joined BTORA a number of years ago. Each year Carol would spend part of the summer and fall cutting up dry flowers, then devote the week between Christmas and New Year's to gluing flowers to the float. My job usually kept me on the road too much to actively participate in the effort, but I was always impressed by the results.

Each of the floats is based on designs submitted by the BTORA members. Carol began submitting designs and found herself getting good receptions to her ideas. Aided by our good friend Stacia Martin, a talented staff artist at Disneyland, she got closer and closer to getting one of her ideas chosen. In 2003 Carol and Stacia got the good news that one of the ideas we had all worked on had been picked for the 2004 float, so everyone was on Cloud 9 - at least temporarily. It seems that another entry for a different city had a similar design element, and by the luck of the draw, the other group won the pick. Undaunted, Carol and Stacia regrouped and submitted designs for the 2005 entry early in 2004.

The parade theme was to be "Celebrating Family", and they had some very clever ideas. At the last minute I decided to resubmit an idea I had originally suggested for the 2001 parade but which garnered little, if any, interest back then. Carol had helped flesh out my initial idea and Stacia had done some beautiful artwork, so I had kept the design since I liked it so much, even if no one else did. Well, to make a long story short, of the 80+ entries submitted to BTORA, we had 3 of the 7 semi-finalists. When the voting was over that reject from 2001 was the winner. The City of Burbank entry for 2005 was to be "Dinner's On... FIRE!"

  Here's the initial artwork by Stacia for the float. The 2001 parade theme had been "Fabric of America", and I had though that a picnic was a typical American event. Having my own share of barbeque mishaps over the years, I thought a group of bears bedeviled by a pesky bee would be a hit.

As can be seen, Papa Bear is so absorbed in trying to swat a bee that he has forgotten all about the meal now burning behind him. Mama is rushing there to put out the fire, oblivious to the havoc she is causing to the picnic spread. Brother Bear and Sister Bear can only look on in confusion at the antics of their parents.

After the design was chosen it had to be approved by the Tournament of Roses Association in Pasadena. We were nervous about this step, as this is where we had been eliminated the prior year. Happily we beat out another city that wanted to use bears in a picnic and got the hoped for green light. Work could now begin in earnest!

  One of the first steps was to get approval of the design from the Burbank City Council. This interim design was prepared by Stacia for use in a presentation to the Council and shows some of the things we were quickly learning on our way to getting the float built. The barbeque was now a brick design, so there would be a place for the float driver. The "Happy Face" was gone from Papa's apron just in case there were any copyright issues to the design. The float was done in two levels to enhance the view for parade viewers. Overall, though, the basic design would stay very consistent through the actual construction of the float.

What was next? What else but another approval! While the folks in Pasadena had okayed the initial design, they still had to okay the final design after we had set a budget and locked down exactly what we intended to build. This led, inevitably, to another design by Stacia.

  A few more changes can be seen in the final version. The picnic basket has been moved forward to provide a spot for the safety observer on the float, while the overall setting has been changed to a more gradual slope. The tree trunk has been bulked up to include a sophisticated hydraulic system, as the tree would be too tall to get out of the construction building or under the bridges in Pasadena unless it could be tilted to lower the top.

With the design done, it was time to begin detailed designs.

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