Floating through Rose turmoil

While some other cities’ Rose Parade float programs are wilting in the face of a the economic downturn and limited city budgets, La Cañada Flintridge’s “If Pigs Could Fly” float entry in the 2012 parade is in full bloom. With City Hall contributing about 10% of the total costs involved each year, the project’s solvency is mostly credited to volunteers and their fundraising-efforts.

Ann Neilson, president of the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn., said that by having an association-funded float, as opposed to a city-funded float, La Cañada has been able to stay right on track for this year’s float.

“We have never had to depend on city funds, we have our own budget,” Neilson said. “The other difference is [other cities are] paying somebody to build their float, and ours is all built by volunteers.

“We don’t have to pay for a warehouse, an artist, a barn, we don’t pay for anything, so our costs are pretty low,” she said. “Which is pretty good, since we’ve had a lot of award-winning floats.”

Peggy Hotaling, the La Cañada association’s publicity chairman, said that thanks to the continued support from major donors like Siemens, which provides the float’s computer control system, the association’s fundraising this year was able to stay on pace with last year’s efforts.

“As far as I know, we’re doing about the same, we’re pretty stable from last year … and we budget very carefully, so hopefully at the end of the year we end up fine,” she said.

The association does rely on the help it gets from the city, however. The city donated $10,000 this year, and it added the float on its insurance policy, as is customary. Neilson said that the $10,000 is only a small addition to the approximately $100,000 that the association raises each year, and that 52-foot floats comparable to La Cañada’s can cost up to $300,000 when fully paid for as a city float, as has been the practice in Glendale.

Mayor David Spence said he believes the money the city donates to the LCF Tournament of Roses Assn. is money well spent.

“The Council looks at the fact that the community raises a huge amount of money on their own. This is just a supplement to make sure it’s a first-class float,” he said. “And it’s a volunteer program that brings the community into focus throughout the world.”

In addition to putting La Cañada’s name into a global event, Spence said the city values how the association brings the community together.

“I think it’s extremely positive and worthwhile to spend that money to bring the young kids and older people together,” he said. “I’ve always said that when the younger kids, junior high and high school, have an opportunity to work with the seniors around town, it’s very positive.”

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