A depiction of Glendale’s famous Meatball the Bear will be the centerpiece of the city’s next Rose Parade float, council members decided Tuesday.
After he was caught devouring frozen Costco meatballs from a garage refrigerator in Glendale last year, Meatball gained celebrity status for frequent jaunts through the city's hillside neighborhoods.
He was relocated to a San Diego County wildlife sanctuary in August.
Titled “Let’s be neighbors,” the Glendale float will feature the 400-pound California black bear’s animatronic likeness popping up and down inside a trash can — its lid teetering on his head — as he's surrounded by wildlife companions, including a waving raccoon, skunk, deer and red-tailed hawk.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the $155,000 project, concocted by a panel of city workers and float-builder Phoenix Decorating Co., the Glendale News-Press reported.
Mayor Dave Weaver noted Meatball’s star turn has already sparked widespread enthusiasm about the float.
“I never thought [the float] would take off like that. People have associated with Meatball so strongly,” said Weaver, a longtime booster for the city’s Rose Parade entries.
The float will be the city’s 100th in the Rose Parade, a record of participation second only to Los Angeles, Glendale Community Services and Parks Director Jess Duran said.
“I think it’s a really cute float and very topical, and really the first one in a long time that speaks to people,” Councilwoman Laura Friedman said.
While many of the city’s past floats have privileged style over substance, “this one kind of says something,” Friedman continued. “A lot of us would like to work it out with wildlife and live side by side with them.”
Despite voting for the design, Councilman Ara Najarian shared a less-than-rose-colored view of Meatball’s removal from Glendale after two attempts to relocate the persistent visitor deep within the Angeles National Forest.
Najarian said state wildlife officials should have made more attempts to release Meatball into the wild and was critical of his temporary placement in a fenced concrete enclosure.
Meatball “is not running free; he’s in a wildlife Guantanamo, as some have called it,” Najarian said. “I hate to be a spoilsport, but does anyone out there find it ironic that under the caption of ‘Let’s be neighbors’ is the centerpiece of Meatball, a former resident who was deported from Glendale in chains and is now in a wildlife prison?”
Friedman applauded Glendale residents for mobilizing a fundraising campaign to help move Meatball into a more spacious outdoor habitat, though the effort hit a snag when he was denied entrance to a Colorado animal sanctuary.
She and Councilman Frank Quintero instead focused concern on the float’s six-figure price tag and the city’s slow progress in raising $75,000 from corporate donors and the community in order to reduce the financial burden for the city.