Ted Baumgart, Tony Gleeson and Grant Delgatty — designers of La Cañada’s 2020 Rose Parade float “Dodo Bird Flight School” — are bringing the parade theme “Power of Hope” to vivid life for the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn.
The trio lends a century of combined experience in design, illustration and innovation to the local nonprofit, which has for years struggled with aging and attrition but nevertheless continues to produce award-winning floats.
And thanks to Delgatty’s involvement, a group of robotics students from La Cañada High School is joining in on the act, helping out with welding and construction as they lay hands on what must be the biggest mechanical creation of their emerging engineering careers.
“They know how to weld and grind, and that’s good,” construction chair Chuck Terhune said this week. “There’s sort of a fresh environment that we’re enjoying right now, a new energy.”
When the local Tournament chapter found itself without a designer following the departure of Renee Johnson, members scrambled to find a candidate with the creativity, vision and chops necessary to get the next float off the ground.
One fortuitously ran into Baumgart, a La Crescenta conceptual designer and illustrator who sculpted and designed 45 commercial Rose Parade floats while attending ArtCenter in the ’70s and was willing to help.
This spring Tournament members whittled down 118 float ideas to a mere three, for which Baumgart sketched designs. To achieve the lively cartoon aesthetic La Cañada floats embody, he called on friend and colleague Tony Gleeson.
An author and illustrator whose work for magazines, books, newspapers and in advertising has been published more than 1,000 times, Gleeson infused the avian crew of “Dodo Bird Flight School” with dazzling life.
“He showed up at my doorstep and we sat down at my kitchen table, and that’s when we came up with all these characters,” Gleeson said at a June 28 Tournament happy hour at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. “My part in this is small, but it’s been a really good ride.”
Grant Delgatty — associate professor and chair of Product Innovation at USC’s Iovine and Young Academy and inventor of the URB-E scooter — came on board to create a satellite float that will run alongside the main entry on parade day.
Delgatty used his connections with the LCHS robotics teams to get the teens involved with construction. At the happy hour he shared how much he’s enjoyed the process so far.
“I’m a big vehicle and car guy, so it was just a really, really cool experience,” he told the crowd. “I think you’ve sucked me in for a few years — that’s contingent on these guys staying in it, too.”
With parade day some five months away, Terhune says construction is moving at a fast clip.
“We’re gaining momentum as people are getting interested and we’re getting a lot more done than usual,” he said. “It’s all coming together.”