JPL engineer will spend birthday inside Rose float

Some people mark their birthdays with dinner out or a slice of cake. La Cañada Flintridge native Randy Bartos, though, has slightly different plans for his Jan. 2 birthday — lying inside a float, surrounded by hydraulic levers and animation switches while traveling down the Rose Parade route.

It’s a pretty good way to spend a birthday, he said.

“I love being squeezed into a tight, confined space where I cannot turn around, that is very cold when the parade starts and very hot when the parade ends,” he joked.

Being a part of the parade is nothing new to Bartos, a Sunland resident who’s worked on La Cañada’s float entries since the inaugural “Horse Play” made its debut in 1979. A mechanical engineer for JPL, Bartos builds and programs hydraulic systems and will contribute to the animation of this year’s entry, “If pigs could fly.”

Rarely does his birthday and the Rose Parade fall on the same day. This year, the normally New Year’s Day event will be postponed until Jan. 2, in keeping with the tradition that it never take place on a Sunday. Because of this, Bartos, who will turn 45, and three other La Cañada float builders — 17-year-old triplets Adam, Brett and Chad Rhatz — will celebrate an occasion that won’t occur again until 2017.

“The float nightmares start in December. I don’t really relax until it’s parked in post-parade,” said Pasadena resident Dustin Crumb, who’s made float construction a family affair in the past by bringing in his father, Dwight Crumb, and grandfather Don Crumb, now 94. The younger Crumb has been on the La Cañada team for 13 years.

This year’s design, three porcine pilots in a makeshift copter, comprises 6,350 carnations, 3,850 orchids and more than 10,000 roses, along with an assortment of fruits, vegetables and grains. Pasadena designer Jacob Maitless, who has turned visions into floats for the past eight years, began on this year’s idea in March.

“You’ve seen the whole thing for a year, but once you see it work, it’s pretty fun,” Maitless says. “When kids are running toward it and people are applauding when it goes down the street, that’s such a great honor.”

And, for Bartos, being stuck inside the float isn’t a bad birthday present, though he says the real celebration — a good night’s sleep, badly needed — will start as soon as the float has been parked for the night.


Volunteers are needed to work on the La Cañada Flintridge float. Sign up online at by the end of the day Dec. 15. Volunteers, who must be at least 13 years old, will also be accepted on an as-needed basis during Decorating Week, Dec. 26 -Dec. 31. The float is decorated in the Flintridge Prep parking lot located at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Hampton Road.

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