‘Slosh Factor’ Washes Out Trophy-Winning Float

The good news came about 5 a.m.: “Luau,” the soft drink Slice’s float, had won the Grand Marshal’s Trophy.

The bad news came just after 9:30 a.m., when the float “experienced steering difficulties and ran into a curb” far down Orange Grove Boulevard, parade officials said.

Entry No. 89 was a tropical island extravaganza of 23,000 orchids, of huge tiki masks, Polynesian swimmers, a 30-foot-long water flume ending in a real waterfall--one of the most glamorous of float builder Rick Chapman’s designs. It weighed 19,000 pounds before it took on another 16,000 pounds of water. Once it was rolling, it would circulate 500 gallons a minute.

But the float was going nowhere.


Within moments, the stall was “creating a big gap in the parade,” warned Larry Etter, a ham radio operator on the route. Noticing the break, Chapman grabbed a walkie-talkie.

“See if you can raise somebody on the Slice float and see if it’s mechanically operational,” he ordered.

Another float passed it by. Chapman puffed a cigarette and gazed off in the direction of “Luau.”

“It’s just moving slowly,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of time to get it there,” he said.

But one after the other, riders, bands and floats passed it--a serious glitch in the “order of march,” which is followed like a presidential directive.

At 9:50 a.m. a tow truck latched onto the heavy float and began to tug. At 9:58 a.m. the truck’s axle snapped. At 10:05 a.m., a heavy duty tow truck showed up.

Being towed is no special disgrace for the floats, though it is frowned on in front of TV cameras. By the end of the route Monday, three other floats--including an award winner--required tow services.

Tournament mechanic Bobby Grossman rolled up to Chapman on a scooter and reported the bad news: something had broken, and the float was veering sharply. He guessed it was the weight of the water--a “slosh factor,” as a tournament spokesman later put it.

By 10:10 a.m., street committee Chairman Jim Stivers was hurrying to lobby other officials to give it up.

“It’s impossible to get Slice up Colorado now,” he said.

“Do you want us out in the street trying to manage a break or something?” operations committeeman Don Dewey asked over the phone, as the final float moved on and the crowd began to surge into the street.

“That’s the end of the parade,” Grossman was declaring at that moment.

“I don’t agree with the call!” Chapman snapped, then, in a calmer moment he said, “It was an unfortunate set of circumstances that kept the float from the parade.”

Tournament official William Flinn said floats are “increasingly complex,” and “with these new advances comes a degree of risk.”

Eventually, “Luau” was towed down lesser streets, alone, to Victory Park. Said parade spokesman Ken Veronda, “It had its own private parade.”