Ernest Koeppen strongly believes that the 2020 La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association float “Dodo Bird Flight School” will take home an award from the upcoming 131st Rose Parade.
Koeppen, the driver of the main float — the LCF entry has two components — said he liked the “unusual” nature of the theme — celebrating birds that can’t get off the ground, including penguins, kiwis and ostriches.
“What we have is a whole bunch of flightless birds — things that can’t fly,” Koeppen said. “But look, they found a way to get in the air anyway. Isn’t that amusing? There’s the whimsy. So we got this cool steampunk Dr. Seuss thing. Look, how could you not like that? It’s the most characters we’ve done in forever.”
Koeppen, who ran for the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board in 2009 and 2011 and mentored the La Cañada High School Engineering Club, and thousands of others have been steadily working on the float to get it ready for its trip down Colorado Boulevard on Wednesday, Jan. 1.
Chuck Terhune, the association’s construction chair, said recently the main float will be 16 feet tall and weigh about 30,000 pounds. A separate satellite float — an ostrich attempting to fly by gathering momentum on a pedal vehicle — is about 9 1/2 feet tall and weighs approximately 1,000 pounds, he added.
The association’s Facebook page displays video of “Dodo Bird Flight School” being driven on a local street recently as Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away” is heard in the background.
Terhune said the float passed its second inspection on Dec. 16 and was ready for the parade.
“The times of real worry passed about a month ago,” Terhune said. “This year we had to do a lot of renovation on the base of the float. We had to put in a new exhaust pipe system. … We did a lot of major revamp on it.”
Terhune had earlier said it typically costs about $125,000 to build the association’s float.
He added the organization always thinks about winning an award but that wasn’t the objective.
“The purpose of this thing is to create a float that’s whimsical and funny and that the kids enjoy,” Terhune said. “It’s a community float.”
Association board member John Wolhaupter could be found painting the main float yellow last week.
“I’m only doing the upper portions” of the float, said Wolhaupter, who will be a float observer for Koeppen, helping the driver navigate the New Year’s Day course. Wolhaupter said it will be his first time on the float, but he has worked on it for the past four or five years.
“It’s something not that many people can say they have done,” Wolhaupter said of being an observer.
Terhune said the float won’t be officially completed until Dec. 31.
“We won’t put on the carnations until the day before,” Terhune said.
Those who wish to volunteer to help finish the float can check in at 4510 Hampton Road in LCF to see if they’re needed, but all of the preliminary slots have been filled, Terhune said.
“Usually we have something they can do,” said Terhune of potential volunteers.
Wolhaupter said he, Koeppen and another observer, Dwight Crumb, would take over as co-construction chairs next year for Terhune, who will focus on building the float.
“None of us felt we could put enough time into it,” Wolhaupter said. “But all three of us can cover for each other.”