Making sure the Rose Parade entries will float safely along
Sarah Soriano started yelling just after the parade float rounded the corner.
“Fire! Fire! Fire!”
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Rose Parade float stopped suddenly in the middle of Adelante Street in Irwindale early Saturday morning, its riders hustling down through a massive white cake and to the ground below.
“OK, 22 seconds!” Soriano, a Tournament of Roses volunteer, hollered before the riders climbed back onto the float and rolled away.
They did well, she said. In a fire drill like this one, the float must be stopped and all riders evacuated within 45 seconds, the Tournament of Roses stipulates — one of hundreds of rules each float must abide by.
Saturday was the final day of road and safety tests for numerous entries built by Fiesta Parade Floats and Paradiso Parade Floats in Irwindale.
Long before the parade’s 46 floats make their way down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard on Jan. 1, each will have been inspected three times by a team of six Tournament of Roses mechanics, who started checking floats in April, said Christopher Link, the chief technical inspector.
The inspectors, Link said, are volunteers retained by the Tournament of Roses who specialize in hydraulics, electrical engineering and heavy-equipment operations. Link, a senior engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, has volunteered for more than three decades.
“We’re behind the scenes,” Link said of the inspectors, who climbed all over the floats Saturday in white jumpsuits, checking brakes, motors, the ability to turn corners and myriad other mechanical details before the flowers are applied to the vehicles.
As two enormous pinwheels started turning on the Stella Rosa Wines float, Link hustled around its Honda generators, checking them and the float’s framework with a flashlight.
The inspectors are guided by the Rose Parade Float Manual, which is packed with regulations. A float, for example, can be a maximum of 16 feet, 6 inches tall. If it exceeds that height, its parts must collapse so that it can pass under the 210 Freeway.
One float showed showed 563 things that had to be checked over the year, including that the fire extinguishers are all in place and that the driver’s controls are clearly labeled.
“It’s a year-round process,” said Tim Estes, president of Fiesta Parade Floats, which is building 13 entries this year. “The whole premise is to make sure the floats have been built safely.”
Estes said his floats have safety redundancies so that if something breaks down during the parade, the float can keep moving. There are two fuel pumps so that if one stops working, another will kick in. There are two batteries.
And the tires are filled with a thick foam or are solid rubber so “you could pound a hundred nails into it and not get a flat,” he said.
Tape measure in hand, Stanley Maack, a member of the Tournament of Roses judging committee, measured the length of each float, which determines which category it will be in for awards. There’s the under-35-foot category, the over-55-foot category and the everything-in-between category, said Maack, who has worked with the Tournament of Roses since 1986.
The safety tests are so thorough, he said, because “each of these things is a unique vehicle, unlike anything you’d see on the road. It’s not a car; it’s not a truck.”
As the float sponsored by the Lucy Pet Foundation — which runs spay, neuter and adoption clinics — performed its fire drill, the human riders grabbed the dogs onboard and hurried down a ladder. The float will feature a lengthy stretch of grass on which rescue dogs will perform tricks.
As the float rolled down the street, trainer Chris Perondi grinned as the canines did handstands, Frisbee tricks and jump-rope stunts.
Doug Grossman, a technical inspector, leaned onto the float to check one of its fire extinguishers. A pooch named Crazy Confetti, just finished with jumping rope, walked over and licked his face.
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