La Cañada Flintridge again gained national attention during the Dodoas a local float won a special award and a student from LCF was prominently featured as a Tournament of Roses Royal Court member.
The LCF Tournament of Roses Association float “Dodo Bird Flight School,” which drolly depicted playful, colorful birds, received the Bob Hope Humor Award. Meanwhile, city resident Emilie Risha could be seen at the televised parade with her fellow Rose Princesses and the Rose Queen.
Television coverage host Leeza Gibbons had kind words about “Dodo Bird Flight School” as it made its way on the 5.5-mile journey on Jan. 1 in Pasadena. The bright yellow and red float featured a number of avian characters, including one on a separate auxiliary float. The float proceeded along the route as Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away” boomed in the background.
“The goal for La Cañada Flintridge is always animated, humorous, whimsical. Once again they hit the mark this year. Congratulations,” Gibbons said.
In a phone interview this week, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s Risha said she vividly remembers checking out the LCF float the morning of the parade when she and the other court members were getting ready and again when the event was wrapping up.
“It was very exciting,” said Risha, who was on the Royal Court float with Rose Queen Camille Kennedy and the five other court members. “I think La Cañada’s floats always have a good story behind them, a good humor. I remember when it was a frog [for last year’s ‘Tree Frog Night’]. They’re always so animated, so lively, so fun. I’m definitely very happy we got the Bob Hope award.”
This year’s win adds to the association’s trophy collection. Starting in 2016, the group won the Hope award three consecutive years. In 2019, it received the Founder Award for most outstanding float built and decorated by volunteers from a community or organization.
Risha carries on the tradition of LCF residents on the Royal Court. Last year, then-Flintridge Prep student Helen Rossi and then-La Cañada High School student Rucha Kadam were selected to the court.
At 1:45 a.m. on Jan. 1, while most people were asleep, Risha and the other women were picked up and driven to a hair salon before going to the Tournament House for further preparations, makeup and interviews.
“Just the whole atmosphere of the day was so special,” Risha said. She was later able to watch herself on television after attending the Rose Bowl game.
“I didn’t want to just see myself — I wanted to see all the amazing bands and the floats and everything, because I like to watch the parade and I didn’t get to do that this year,” Risha said. “So I did watch it on TV and it was so fun to see myself, and I just kind of relived the happiness of being there.”
Risha was seated just below Kennedy on the court’s float. She said she could see everyone sitting on the street as well as people in the highest windows on tops of buildings.
“I would say I got to see everyone,” Risha said. “But every seat on the float is pretty much a good view because it’s rather unobstructed.”
Meanwhile, float observer and animator Dwight Crumb was in LCF’s small satellite float — an ostrich attempting to fly by gathering momentum on a pedal vehicle — with the driver. Chuck Terhune, the association’s construction chair, said earlier the satellite was about 9½ feet tall and weighed about 1,000 pounds, and the main float was about 16 feet tall and weighed about 30,000 pounds.
Crumb said the beak on the bird moved up and down and his job was to manually squeeze the beak to make it honk.
“The parade route was about 2½ hours,” Crumb said. “It actually wasn’t too bad. I expected my hand to give out and it didn’t. But it was very tight inside the satellite.”
A month before the parade, Crumb said, he would have described getting an award as doubtful.
“The reason why I doubted it was the float had a lot of wonderful things going on and a lot of great characters up top,” Crumb said. “It didn’t look too well from a judges’ perspective when you got up close to it. But we got it all together and it came to light. If you’d asked me the morning of Dec. 31 and the evening of Dec. 30, I’d say, ‘Yeah, we got a fighting chance’” to win an award.
Before taking the journey down Colorado Boulevard, the LCF team learned there would be about a four-minute pause mid-parade as a live performance by cast members from the Disney musical “Frozen” took place. Ernest Koeppen, driver of the main float, said the LCF team was selected to park the float on Colorado near the performance and entertain the crowd with the satellite float so Disney had time to get people on its float.
“We got great extra air time,” Koeppen said. “It was awesome all around. It was one of our best years ever … all the [television station] lead-ins seemed to be [about] our float. And we won the humor trophy, which was justified.”
Terhune thanked float designer Ted Baumgart, who helped turn the idea into a reality with his friends Tony Gleeson and Grant Delgatty.
“[Baumgart] laid out the plans and we strived to execute them the best way we could,” Terhune said. “It was a really neat float. It grew on you as you built it. There were so many parts to it. … When you got it all together and working, you sort of had to laugh. It hit the mark and seems to be one of the real favorites of the parade this year.”
Association President Michael Davitt said he was thrilled with the honor.
“I thought this year we did really well with the ‘Dodo Bird Flight School.’ The fact that they won the award is a great honor and a good representation of their efforts, but it’s a nice representation of our community, too. I think that’s important,” Davitt said.
To submit an idea for the LCF Tournament of Roses Association float in the 2021 Rose Parade and win two grandstand tickets, visit lcftra.org.