“Meatball,” the bear who gained fame for dining on meatballs that he dug out of a refrigerator in a garage, has brought Glendale another Governor’s Trophy.
Our city has brought home the trophy at least three other times in the 100-plus years since we joined the Tournament of Roses Parade. Ironically, the third win, in 2007, also featured a bear, foreshadowing this year’s winner.
Our first Governor’s Trophy was awarded in 1960 when Sam M. Coleman, son of legendary float designer Isabella Coleman, created “Tales of the 49ers,” featuring a covered wagon pulled by two oxen.
A prospector, panning for gold, centered the float while California state flags, made of white, yellow and red chrysanthemums, were prominently displayed at the front of the float, according to documents on file in the Special Collections Room at the Glendale Central Library.
Gov. Pat Brown and his wife were at the parade that year, perhaps to accompany Vice President Richard Nixon, who had been selected as grand marshal. Nixon and his family led a procession of 61 floats down Colorado Boulevard on a very chilly morning. A low temperature of 31 degrees kept overnighting parade-goers shivering, but with the dawn came clear skies and a view of the San Bernardino Mountains 40 miles away.
In 1965, Glendale won another Governor’s Trophy for “Romance of the El Camino Real,” depicting the ill-fated love story of Ramona and her Indian sweetheart, Alessandro.
That New Year’s Day was sunny, but again very cold as the 63 floats lined up for the nationally televised parade. In addition to the float, Glendale was also represented by an all-city band. The members warmed themselves up with a hearty breakfast of ham and eggs, plus pancakes (prepared by Bob’s restaurant) before they began their 5.5-mile march down the parade route. The 105 students in the band came from Hoover, Glendale and Crescenta Valley high schools.
Many years passed before Glendale again brought home the prestigious trophy. In 2007, “Bear Essentials” depicted a bear, carrying a knapsack of honey, and a raccoon, both traveling down river in a canoe. It was chosen from 20 designs submitted by Phoenix Decorating Co.
At the time, a citizen’s group, the Glendale Rose Float Assn., led by President Joyce Sokoloff, worked closely with the Glendale Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission to select the theme and a design.
Sokoloff told the News-Press she was taken by the bear’s “goofy expression” and added “we haven’t seen a bear in the Verdugo Mountains for quite a while, but still it ties in with the theme of native wildlife in the area.”
She credited then parks director George Chapjian with suggesting a design related to our surrounding forest and its native wildlife.
Sean Bersell, vice president of the rose float association in 2007, summed it all up when he told the Glendale News-Press, “We don’t do it for the awards, we do it for the community, to promote Glendale and to promote civic pride.”
If you are interested in more Tournament of Roses float history, visit their website at www.tournamentofroses.com for an overview of parades past and present.
The website’s history link currently features a photo of Glendale’s 1928 float, a Chinese Dragon that created a sensation. The website only shows a photo, but newspaper archives in Glendale’s Special Collections Room show that the dragon — a full 85 feet in length — “writhed its way along the parade route to the roar of the assembled spectators. The dragon swished its tail from side to side, turning its head, rolling its eyes, opening and closing its colossal jaws and blowing smoke from its nostrils.”
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