La Cañada Flintridge’s long-established relationship with the Tournament of Roses Parade was further bolstered by its participation Monday, Jan. 2, in the 128th rendition of the rosy procession through Pasadena.
As LCF residents Brad Ratliff and Natalie Petrosian enacted their roles with enthusiasm and grace, the community’s self-built float tickled the parade’s judges, who sent it home with another piece of hardware.
With this year’s “Backyard Rocketeer,” a colorfully playful tribute to the inspiring work of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses’ Association won its sixth consecutive trophy and claimed the Bob Hope Humor trophy for the fourth time in that span.
In its 39 years of participation, LCF’s entries have floated off with an award 28 times — a testament to the devotion of residents who come together and contribute more than 45,000 hours to creating the float and more than $100,000 to pay for construction, materials, insurance and more.
“It’s one of the definers of La Cañada Flintridge,” said Chuck Terhune, LCFTRA’s president. “It’s one of the things that La Cañada Flintridge does every year that goes out to the world and says, ‘Hey, we’re here.’ It’s sort of a world advertisement. And it’s the holiday and Christmas season tradition around here.”
Weather permitting, the Backyard Rocketeer will be available for viewing Saturday morning at Memorial Park.
Ratliff strove to soak up every note of enjoyment during his year serving as president of the Tournament of Roses Association, and he did it with his father, Dick Ratliff, nearby. The elder Ratliff was the Tournament president in 1999, when his chosen theme was “Echoes of the Century.”
That family history inspired Brad Ratliff to give this year’s festivities the theme, “Echoes of Success.”
“Initially, when you come up with a theme, you wonder how it’s all going to play,” Brad Ratliff said. “And it takes on an evolution of its own. It was different when we thought of it than it is today; the concept was there, but it became more special when we started hearing stories from people about how other folks affected them and made their lives better.”
Over the course of the year, Ratliff — a self-described “band geek” — sat in and played trumpet, trombone or French horn with each of the bands selected to perform in the parade. He even traveled to Japan and Mexico to meet and make music with the Gifusho Green Band and the Escuela Secundaria Tencica Industrial band, even speaking to both groups in their native languages.
“In my opinion, that’s what I needed to do,” Ratliff said. “I needed to show the respect for these kids who come out and make these sacrifices because it was important that they knew we really, really value what they do.”
The same goes for some of the young participants from closer to home, including the members of the Royal Court, on which La Cañada High School senior Natalie Petrosian was a princess.
“Natalie’s awesome,” Ratliff said. “She is so articulate, so bright, so charming, you can’t help but want to stand next to her and just feel the goodness that comes from her.”
Told that Petrosian has designs on joining the Tournament of Roses organization after college, Ratliff wondered if she might not be the first to go from princess to president.
On Wednesday, Petrosian was focused on preparing her final college application for submittal, after which she planned to enjoy the final week of her holiday break.
She was already missing life as a princess, she said, but she planned to stay in touch with her “sisters” on the court. The seven young women bonded during the past three months, when together they attended more than 100 functions and met thousands of people before taking their place on the float that transported them the five magical miles down Colorado Boulevard.
“Let me tell you,” Petrosian said, “when you see someone you know, or hear someone calling your name, or see faces light up when you wave at them, any numbness [from the cold] totally goes away and all your energy and focus is on those people.
“It was unbelievable. I’m never going to forget it.”