When asked how she came up with the concept design for the La Cañada Flintridge self-built Rose Parade float, “Panda-monium,” Ella Jacobs, 12, said, “last year when we were talking about float ideas, I kind of just blurted out, ‘panda float’ because I really like pandas.”
Aside from being one of Jacobs’ favorite animals, pandas serve as suitable mascots for the theme of this year’s parade, “Making a Difference,” said La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association President Chuck Terhune. About 50 years ago, he explained, China and 20 other countries started coordinating programs to breed pandas, and they’re finally starting to release some of these pandas into the wild.
“Our float celebrates this huge effort of human cooperation across boundaries and over so many years,” Terhune said.
The original idea, of course, was Ella’s. She’s the daughter of Brian and Danelle Jacobs, who have been decorating La Cañada Flintridge’s floats since they were teens.
According to LCFTRA, the float will depict “three mischievous baby pandas” who have escaped from a breeding facility in China “to discover the wonders of nature,” as well as a monkey, snake and butterflies.
Local artist Renee Hoss-Johnson worked with volunteers to develop a full-color rendering and detailed sketches that would allow the construction crew to shape and weld steel rods into large three-dimensional outlines for the float and its many characters.
The float will be erected atop a specially built chassis, powered by two V8 engines and an electric generator, all of which run on clean-burning propane. This will allow the 30,000-plus pound float to be driven from its staging site in LCF on Dec. 31 to its assigned place along the parade route — unlike many floats that are towed to the parade, which starts at Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards.
The decorations will include approximately 260,000 flowers — including more than 3,500 roses — as well as dry materials, fruit and vegetables.
Aboard Panda-monium, one panda rocks forward and backward in a tree, another plays with a dizzy monkey and the last one chases a turtle splashing in a stream below. Several butterflies “powered by windshield wiper rotors” also flap their wings.
More than 1,300 volunteers will donate a total of 45,000 hours to create the float, 10,000 of which take place in the final “deco week,” when 600 volunteers will be responsible for “flowering” the float between Dec. 26-31.
Aside from clusters of high school students fulfilling community service hours, the volunteers are mostly local families. Sometimes, decorators from across the state and country also come to contribute to the float’s assembly.
According to Sarah Marshall, volunteer organizer and 16-year veteran float decorator, LCFTRA’s entry is one of only six “self-built” floats in this year’s parade, meaning it was built and decorated entirely by volunteers.
All that hard work and time donated will be on display for the world to see when Panda-monium graces the Rose Parade route on New Year’s Day.