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Animated Burbank float takes home award at Rose Parade

Animated Burbank float takes home award at Rose Parade
The Burbank float built by the Burbank Tournament of Roses Assn. titled "Stompin' Good Time," and winner of the Animation Award, passes in front of the grand stands at the 2019 Rose Parade in Pasadena on Tuesday. (Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

Members of the Burbank Tournament of Roses Assn. said they were pleasantly surprised Tuesday morning when Rose Parade officials announced their entry was one of the winners for the 2019 Rose Parade.

The Burbank organization took home the Animation Award for its float titled “Stompin’ Good Time,” in which several woodland creatures — including a pig playing a saxophone, a raccoon pounding a bass drum and a hound dog strumming on a banjo — were showcased having a jam session.

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The theme of this year’s Rose Parade was “The Melody of Life,” and Grammy Award-winning singer Chaka Khan was the grand marshal.

Steve Edward, vice president of the Burbank association and the person in charge of the animation for the float, said he was flabbergasted the float won for outstanding use of animation.

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“We’ve had this controller that we’ve use for the animation for many years, and after the first judging [in October], the whole thing crapped out on me,” he said. “We’ve been in a panic, but we were able to getting running on New Year’s Eve, and it worked.”

Animation has been somewhat of a sore spot for Burbank the last two years.

During the 2017 Rose Parade, one of the birds on Burbank’s float that was supposed to move up and down had a malfunction.

Then for the 2018 float, the wave mechanism on the side of the float that was supposed to simulate the motions of the ocean had mechanical issues.

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For Edward, winning the Animation Award was some redemption for himself and the numerous volunteers who help with the float every year.

“I’m still trying to take everything in right now,” Edward said. “We’ve won the Animation Award once, but that was many years ago, and I didn’t use computer programming for that one. So for this time, to show that I did some programming and got that all put together is just spectacular. I’m at a loss for words right now.”

The win for Burbank was also a big moment for Brian Cozakos, a Burbank native and lifelong volunteer who designed the 2019 float.

Cozakos said he was proud of the work the hundreds of volunteers put into his float.

Like Edward, Cozakos said he was speechless when he found out the float he designed and helped guide down Colorado Boulevard had an award banner in front of it.

“To see it all come full circle, I don’t know what else to say,” Cozakos said. “It’s a dream come true.”

For Robert Hill, dean of student services with Glendale Community College, transplants of his heart and kidney earlier this year led to the opportunity to ride on the Cedars-Sinai float in this year’s Rose Parade.

When Hill arrived at the Cedars-Sinai’s emergency department in February 2017, he was feeling ill with pains in his stomach, but he was certain he would be treated and sent home, according to hospital officials. Instead, he was told his heart was failing and without a transplant he had about 48 hours to live.

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The news led to a stay over several months at Cedars-Sinai and, ultimately, a new heart and kidney.

Hill waited in his bed at Cedars-Sinai for more than two months for a donor.

This past Friday, hospitals officials asked Hill to go to the construction site for the hospital’s float in Irwindale, Hill said after the parade on Tuesday.

Unexpectedly, members of his donor’s family — his mother, three sisters and daughter, who was 7 months old when her father became Hill’s donor — were also there. The donor’s daughter is now 2 years old.

Hill said the meeting was particularly moving for him because the donor left behind a 7-month-old daughter and Hill has seven daughters himself.

“I still don’t believe it,” Hill said, adding the donor’s mother sent him a letter soon after her son passed way, letting Hill know about her son’s interests and activities.

The donor’s family had shown up at the float site that day to dedicate a rose in memory of their lost loved one.

Today, Hill said he hopes to start an education fund for the donor’s little girl, according to hospital officials.

The La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn. also won a trophy, earning the Founder Award for its float titled “Tree Frog Night!,” a play on the classic band Three Dog Night.

Janis Peterson, who is in charge of float development for the La Cañada Flintridge association, said she had some sleepless nights over the last few days leading up to the parade because of issues with the float’s animation system.

“This year, we’re debuting a state-of-the-art animation system that was hand-built by one of our volunteers, who is a Cal Poly student,” she said. “It’s the first year that we’re going to be running it, but there [were] a few little glitches that he needed to adjust yesterday.”

Despite the technical hiccups, Peterson said she was happy with how the float turned out, adding that judges complimented association members on color harmonies and decorating balance.

The American Armenian Rose Float Assn. made its fifth appearance in the Rose Parade this year. However, the organization left the parade empty-handed after winning awards for its two previous floats.

This year’s float, titled “Chanting Stones: Karahunj,” was inspired by the stones of Karahunj, a prehistoric rock formation in Armenia considered to be the country’s Stonehenge, said Varant Tchalikian, a dancer from Northridge who was involved with the float.

At the top of the float were two men performing the yarkhushta, an Armenian folk dance.

“It shows the strength of the Armenian people,” Tchalikian said.

Mark Kellam contributed to this report.

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