First published in the Jan. 8 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
One week ago today, in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, as final preparations were being made for the 133rd Rose Parade’s journey down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard, Tournament of Roses President Bob Miller stood on the front steps of Tournament House.
Looking out to where the 43 floral-covered floats were staged and waiting to make their worldwide television appearance, Miller announced the 24 floats that would be bestowed with awards of excellence. That announcement included the city of Burbank’s entry, “An Unlikely Tale,” which took the Mayor Award for the most outstanding float from a participating city.
Less than 20 hours before, this year’s judges, Janet Gallagher, a floral industry educator and designer; John Piper, who used to oversee the design and production of all balloons, floats and elements for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; and J. Keith White, a floral designer and educator, arrived at the home of the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association.
BTORA President Linda Cozakos, the organization’s committee members, volunteers, community members and local dignitaries stood in silence as the trio of judges perused and rendered judgment on the Jonathan Friday-designed float that depicted a knight reading a book with an unlikely companion, a smoke-spewing dragon.
Among those who anxiously watched as the judges circled the float were Janet Diel, who has been working with BTORA for 32 years, and Erik C. Andersen, who was marking his 40th year as a “petal pusher.”
“I volunteered for the first time when I was 14, which is the same age my granddaughter Payton Ryan is now,” Andersen said proudly. “This year she is working on her first float. So the family tradition continues.”
Steve Edward, who serves as BTORA’s vice president and has worked on more than three decades worth of floats said the thing that compels him to come back year after year is the never-ending challenges.
“Working on the floats now represents 35 years of my life, and I learn something new every year,” Edward said. “Each float brings new challenges — the use of animation, fire, smoke or water. When I think back over the years, it has been the floats that have really challenged and pushed me that are my most memorable. Each year it has been my goal to not only create a great float for Burbank, but to also inspire others to get involved with building and decorating our floats. I want us to be Burbank’s premiere volunteer organization.”
Cozakos, who sported a white work coat that bore patches representing the 50 floats she has worked on, while placing a rose on this year’s float in memory of actress Betty White who had died that morning, said she does have two floats that are her most memorable.
“One I’ll never forget was our 1982 entry, ‘Feudin’ Friends,’ which was a disaster,” she laughed. “On the way to Pasadena we hit a tree branch, and then a drunk driver hit us. If that wasn’t bad enough, during the parade the float caught on fire. In the official photo of that float you can see a guy next to it with a fire extinguisher.”
The other float Cozakos remembers the most was the 2016 entry, “Are We There Yet,” that she herself designed.
Asked what it is about building Burbank’s floats that has made her do it for half a century, Cozakos was quick to answer.
“I have to do this or I would have nothing to do on New Year’s Eve,” she said. “Last year, with the parade having been canceled due to the pandemic, I was lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I actually went over to Pasadena and drove the entire route, from Tournament House all the way down Colorado Boulevard. That New Year’s Eve, without a parade, really made me realize how grateful I am to have had this be such a special part of my life for so many years.”
Since 1914, three years after becoming an incorporated city, Burbank has been represented by an all-volunteer constructed and designed float in the New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade.
Beginning with Burbank’s first float, “Goddess of Plenty,” it has become a tradition for the mayor to place a ceremonial rose on every float.
This year, with the Burbank City Council composed of three members who have served as mayor, current Mayor Jess Talamantes was joined by former mayors Bob Frutos and Sharon Springer, each placing a rose on the city’s 2022 entry.
After placing their roses, Talamantes, Frutos and Springer were each asked about their resolutions and hopes for 2022.
Mayor Talamantes said his goal is to get through the pandemic and the economic hit it has had on the city’s businesses and residents.
“The safety and economic strength of our community are the things that are my top concerns and priorities in 2022,” Talamantes said. “From a personal standpoint, my wife Sandy and I have just become grandparents again. Our newest granddaughter was born two weeks ago. So my resolution is to spend a lot of time with her and all of our children and grandchildren.”
When asked about his hopes for the New Year, Frutos said his resolution is to drop some weight.
“Isn’t that what everyone resolves to do,” he laughed.
From the city’s standpoint, Frutos said he will resolve to continue to be a champion for the city, every individual community and all residents.
“I want to breathe love into all I do and be even more open-minded than I have been when it comes to serving our community. I want to do everything I can to understand the perspective, needs and desires of our residents.”
Springer, who served as mayor in 2019 and 2020, said that she plans to focus on gratitude and maintaining a positive and persevering attitude in 2022.
“I want to continue to support and represent our diverse community, including residents of all disabilities and abilities, in a collaborative and open way so that everyone has equal access and benefits [and] no one is left behind,” Springer said.
Resolving to continue to support and protect local control so that Burbank neighborhoods are safe and economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, Springer also wants to proactively support housing needs, the homeless, economic recovery, sustainability, city services and quality of life issues.
On a personal level, Springer said she wants to be the shoulders for other women to stand on, just as many have been for her.
“Personally, I want to master the subjunctive tense in Spanish and one other language,” she said. “I also want to expand my edible landscape, add a gray water system, and encourage and help other residents to do the same. I will also resolve to continue my adventures in using public and alternative modes of transportation as an example for others.”
If you would like to get involved with constructing and decorating next year’s float — and, perhaps, even make it a longstanding tradition — visit burbankrosefloat.com.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.