Cal Poly Rose Float

Cal Poly Rose Float students to be featured on national New Year’s Day broadcast


The Tournament of Roses, unable to host the traditional Rose Parade® due to the COVID-19 pandemic, announced it will produce a New Year’s Day celebration to be broadcast in its place. The two-hour TV special will feature live-to-tape musical, marching band performances, celebrity guest appearances, and “heart-warming segments about the Rose Parade” including one featuring the students of Cal Poly Rose Float. Cal Poly has been involved in the annual Pasadena classic since 1949.

Students began planning for the 2021 parade last January, just weeks after “Aquatic Aspirations” received the Director Award for the most outstanding artistic design and use of floral and non-floral materials at the 131st Rose Parade®. The Rose Float Leadership Team, made up of about 60 students from Cal Poly campuses in San Luis Obispo and Pomona, fully designed their float entry virtually in the spring and even began some construction before the parade was officially canceled in July. Since returning for the start of the 2020-21 academic year this fall, these students have worked with the Tournament of Roses television producers to create a special segment highlighting the Cal Poly Rose Float experience. The segment will provide a glimpse into the yearlong student process of designing, constructing, and decorating the Cal Poly float for the annual Tournament of Roses Parade presented by Honda. Old and new video footage will be combined with interviews of student float leaders to create a one-of-a-kind production.

“It (the television production) has been a great opportunity to represent the Cal Poly Rose Float Program and show the world a more behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to design and build a Cal Poly float,” said Madison Toney, president of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Rose Float team.

“Rose Float is a special program where you are able to be a part of something bigger than yourself,” said the senior studying business administration and integrated marketing communications from Redding, California. “It is a 13-month project that in the end is viewed by millions of people around the world. The gratification that you get from being a part of a whole year is spectacular.

The Cal Poly Rose Float is one of only a handful of privately built floats in the Rose Parade® and has been invited to participate for 73 consecutive years. Since the birth of the Cal Poly Rose Float program which is managed by Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) in the fall of 1948, students from both campuses have been bridging the 240-mile gap to create the only student designed and built float in the parade. Since then, the two schools’ entries have earned 57 awards. In addition to the Rose Parade® trophies, the program has earned countless accolades for introducing innovations into its float designs later incorporated by professional float builders that include computer-controlled animation, hydraulic systems, and cleaner emissions with propane.

Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto is exemplified in all facets of the float program, as students from throughout all six of the university’s colleges get hands-on experience welding, metal shaping, machining, foam carving, woodworking, painting, and flower harvesting — ultimately competing against professional float builders with corporate sponsorships.

The New Year’s Day television special will air on ABC, NBC, KTLA, Univision, Hallmark Channel and RFD-TV at 8 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2021. For further information about the parade, visit the Tournament of Roses website.

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