Rose Parade Float Close to Completion

First published in the Nov. 27 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Jon Reeves is building a dragon.
Late at night, he and between six and a dozen people gather in a warehouse at the Burbank Water and Power yard. For hours, they weld steel, carve foam and install electronics, building the 25-foot-tall beast in preparation for New Year’s Day.
That morning, millions of people will watch as the dragon glides down Orange Grove Boulevard as part of the 2022 Rose Parade.
Reeves, the construction chairman and secretary for the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association, will work the animation mechanisms for the float, titled “An Unlikely Tale.” It will depict a young knight sitting with a large green dragon, the two literary foes united by their love of reading.
“I spent years as a computer programmer,” Reeves explained in a recent interview, “and the things that I made, they don’t last. … It’s different and it’s satisfying to actually make something with my hands that also won’t last, but at least there’s something tangible.”
The culmination of a yearlong process, Burbank’s Tournament of Roses Association volunteers plan to finish construction in early December before rushing to decorate the float by the end of the year.

Photo courtesy Henry Gross
A Burbank Police Department officer accompanies the city’s 2022 Rose Parade float during a recent inspection, watching for traffic as the mass of steel, wood and foam turns around in the intersection.

One of the most difficult aspects about the build is figuring out how many flowers to buy, said Linda Cozakos, president of the Burbank association. The group has to place its floral order when construction begins, usually in the early summer, and the size and shape of the float could change by the time the flowers arrive.
“As they start to build and they [determine the] dimensions, we try to add to our flower count if we can — or we go another way,” Cozakos said.
This year, the team went another way. They had originally planned to the cover the dragon with green mums, but flower prices have skyrocketed, with growers charging twice as more for flowers half the size.
To stay within their budget, the Burbank association decided to substitute ground-up split peas for many of their flowers. More than 1,000 pounds of the legumes are stacked in the warehouse, ready to be applied to the float.
But it’s not just the cost of flowers that have risen during the coronavirus pandemic, volunteers said. Steven Edward, the Burbank association’s vice president, explained that in 2019, a box of aluminum window screens cost $72. When the group returned to their supplier this year, the price was $146 a box. The association eventually found another vendor selling the screens at $103 per box.
The association receives a grant from BWP, Edward added, but has to rely on fundraisers and donations for much of its budget.
Still, barring a surge in community transmission of COVID-19 in the next month, the volunteers are looking forward to returning to Orange Grove Boulevard. Many of the members have been around for years: Edward’s first parade was in 1991, while Cozakos has played a role with Burbank’s association for about five decades — she started helping out when she was in middle school. So when the coronavirus pandemic forced parade organizers to cancel the event this January, they both felt compelled to drive to Pasadena regardless.
“The three of us have been doing it for so long that none of us knew what do on New Year’s Eve,” Cozakos said. “We’re supposed to be there.”
The volunteers are also hoping to bring home another award. Parade judges will announce the winners shortly before the event begins, and Edward thinks Burbank’s float has a good chance of getting recognized in the humor or fantasy categories. In 2019, the city’s entry earned a public spirit award for its floral display.
But while the vice president admitted that not winning an award would be disappointing for the people who have worked on the float since before the pandemic began, he’s excited that they will once again represent Burbank to millions of viewers.
“It’s such a thrill to share this creation with everybody in Burbank, and with the world,” Edward said. “It’s just really neat. It’s one of the original things that kind of grabbed me in the very, very, very beginning. This is a worldwide-televised event.”
Until that event, Edward and the other volunteers will spend more evenings wielding, carving and installing. On New Year’s Day, the door to a warehouse in the BWP yard will be thrown open, releasing a sculpture of steel, split peas and mums onto Olive Avenue.
And in a hidden compartment under the grinning faces of the beast and its knight companion, Reeves will ride a dragon.