Float brings home the bacon

The La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn. brought home the bacon this week, as its float featuring pigs aboard an old-fashioned airplane won the Tournament of Roses’ Bob Hope Humor Award.

“If Pigs Could Fly” depicted wide-eyed pigs wearing aviator goggles in an open-seat prop plane with a fuselage made of a wine barrel turned on its side. The wine barrel was made in part with redwood bark.

The float also required 13,000 roses, far more than local float volunteers are used to deploying. The pigs’ faces were made of pink carnations, which require special treatment.

“Carnations are hard to use,” said association President Ann Neilson. “You have to poke a hole in the skin of the float, and with the wide calyx they have to go into the hole. I thought that went well, and the pigs looked great.”

The parade took place on Jan. 2 this year as the Tournament of Roses honored its “Never on Sunday” tradition, and Nielson said that worked to the advantage of float design volunteers.

“The extra day we had allowed the people who do the dry decorating to do a really outstanding job,” she said.

Early on parade day, a cluster of volunteers in white jump suits gathered around the float as it idled in the queue of floats, bands and horses on Pasadena’s Orange Grove Avenue.

Float driver Pamela Weidenbeck, serving as co-pilot this year, said she has gotten used to driving from inside the float — unable to see the road and relying on a spotter for clues of what to do. The pattern, she laughed, is “left, right, duck!”

Before float construction chief James Herrington could answer a question about the most challenging aspect of making the float, volunteer Randy Bartos jumped in: “Getting up before 10 a.m.”

Bartos, a mechanical engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory whose birthday falls on Jan. 2, spent Monday morning on his back inside the float, manning the hydraulics.

Though the parade comes once a year, planning and preparing for the event never stops. The La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn. already is soliciting ideas on its website, www.lcftra.org, for the 2013 float.

“We don’t know the theme yet, but Pasadena gave us some hints,” Neilson said.

According to the site, “The 2013 Rose Parade theme encourages us to picture the journey of our lives once untethered from the perceived constraints of convention.... The 2013 theme is whimsical and childlike while equally relevant to all ages. It reminds us that every journey begins with a first step, and that making a difference in one's own life and in the lives of others can begin again at any point along our life's path.”

“If Pigs Could Fly” will be on display in La Cañada Memorial Park, at the corner of Foothill and La Cañada boulevards, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

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