For more than 10 years, Myrna Hershman has volunteered to help the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association’s float in the Jan. 1 Rose Parade take shape.
On Friday, she was painting the body of the more than 23-foot-tall structure named “Tree Frog Night” wearing clothing nearly covered in paint from the previous times she helped out.
“It’s great to see the start to finish,” Hershman said while painting the float, which also measures nearly 50 feet long but was still being constructed. “You really get to appreciate all that goes into it. If you’re watching it on TV, you don’t realize all the work that goes in from the ground up.”
The “Tree Frog Night” float is La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association’s 41st entry in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade set for Tuesday, Jan. 1.
The float has won awards for the last seven consecutive years. In the last three years, it has won the Bob Hope Humor Award for most comical and amusing.
In the previous 40 years, the float has won 29 awards, according to the LCF Tournament of Roses Association.
The float will celebrate the parade’s theme of “Melodies of Life” and center around three frogs that play instruments surrounded by a Louisiana swamp bayou.
The float’s background will feature two fish dancing in water as well as dragonflies, lily pads, lotus flowers, floral waterfalls and more.
The process to build the float, which includes — for the first time — a computer-controlled animation system, began after Memorial Day and includes a large contingent of volunteers. The volunteer construction crew has about two dozen people, said animator Aram Dergevorkian. Around 1,200 people typically volunteer to decorate the massive float, said Barbie Eland, the LCF float chair.
Hershman, who lives in St. Louis but stays with her son Brian who lives in LCF, said she began her float volunteering career about 15 years ago.
She said her son purchased tickets for her and her husband to watch the parade but a rain storm cancelled their plans. The following year, she said, they went to Pasadena to see the floats but instead found a booth seeking volunteers to put flowers on a commercial float.
Her son, who was living on the west side of Los Angeles, moved to LCF soon after and they spotted people decorating the float and went to learn more.
“They said they needed help,” Hershman said.
Painting floats is not all fun, however. Hershman said she lost her balance on Thursday and as she braced herself for the fall, she got some extra paint on the float.
“It’s an occupational hazard,” Hershman said with a smile.
The idea for this year’s “Tree Frog Night” float began in December 2017 when the LCF Tournament of Roses Association started a contest for concepts illustrating the 2019 theme of “Melodies of Life,” organizers said in a statement.
Welders, according to the statement, created skeleton figures, and screeners added a skin of mesh screen that provides a base to be painted and provides a map for volunteers applying the floral decorations.
Dergevorkian, an electrical engineering major at Cal Poly Pomona, said in his eight years, things have generally gone well building and finishing the floats.
During the parade, Dergevorkian will be on his back inside the float controlling the animation system.
“It’s the debut of our new animation system, which we just finished putting together a couple of months ago,” he said.
Under the frogs and the bayou, a space has been created for Dergevorkian where he plans to lie on some pads and monitor the animation elements with cameras on the float and an intercom for talking with others.
“Unfortunately, it’s 2 inches too short to sit upright,” he said. The entire parade route takes somewhere between two and three hours, but he hasn’t had to use the bathroom before, he said.
Tournament judges view the float on Monday afternoon, Dec. 31, before it heads to Orange Grove Boulevard to make the 5.5-mile ride down Colorado Avenue.