Jan. 1, 2016

Contact: Jay Thompson
805-756-5186; jthomp04@calpoly.edu

Cal Poly Float Wins Lathrop K. Leishman Trophy at 2016 Rose Parade

Universities’ Float ‘Sweet Shenanigans’ Honored as California-Grown Certified for the fifth Consecutive Year

PASADENA, Calif. — Cal Poly universities’ “Sweet Shenanigans,” featuring a sleuth of larger-than-life gummy bears enjoying a snow day in a multi-flavored ice cream wonderland of cones, lollipops and sundaes, received the Lathrop K. Leishman Trophy for the most beautiful non-commercial entry at the 127th Tournament of Roses Parade held New Year’s Day.

This is the second consecutive year the universities’ entry has won the Leishman Trophy, named in honor of the former president and grand marshal of the Tournament of Roses, who was often called “Mr. Rose Bowl” or “Mr. Pasadena.” Leishman died in 1995.

The 18- by 55-foot entry, designed and built by teams of students from Cal Poly and California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, celebrates the 2016 parade theme, “Find Your Adventure.” It demonstrates what Cal Poly students have consistently delivered over the years: A float packed with plenty of animation, technical innovations and youthful whimsy.

“Learn by Doing is on display for all the world to see,” said Cal Poly university President Jeffrey D. Armstrong of the annual yearlong project. “Students from a variety of majors across our entire university use creativity, ingenuity and more than a little perspiration to produce a marriage of art and engineering covered in beautiful flowers.

“The entries over the years have been fan favorites, but they also serve to unite our entire Cal Poly family — alums, family and fans — who take pride in watching the float in action in beautiful Pasadena.”

The award-winner has six animated elements and eight gummy bears, from 5- to 8-feet tall, decorated in red, yellow and orange mums.

The centerpiece is a pair of bears riding a s'more sled down a large scoop of strawberry ice cream, passing two gummies having a snowball fight. Below a pair of ice cream cone mountains, which rise up to 23 feet, and lollipop forest, a gummy bear pirouettes on ice skates while another ice fishes for a frozen treat. Nearby, another bear eats one of the letters spelling out Cal Poly’s name.

Capping off the sugary scene, a small gummy bear waves to the crowd from a gummy-ring candy swing that is suspended from a waffle cone peak.

Awards were announced at 6 a.m. Friday, just hours before the start of the two-hour, 5-1/2-mile New Year’s Day tradition.

“We’re thrilled and overjoyed,” said Josh D’Acquisto, Cal Poly’s Rose Parade float advisor. “A year’s worth of hard work has paid off. We’ve got some super-excited students.”

In addition, the schools were honored Thursday for their commitment to California’s flower farmers. It’s the fifth consecutive year the float has earned the “California Grown” designation from the California Cut Flower Commission, which recognizes an entry decorated with at least 85 percent of cut flowers and plant materials from the Golden State.

“I think it is important to us to be California Grown, because we are a California float at heart,” said Morgan Montalvo, Cal Poly Rose Float construction chair. “Cal Poly Universities, especially in this parade, help to represent the state. We also heavily rely on donations for our float, and our relations with the flower commission help ensure we have enough flowers for the float.”

The float is decorated in hundreds of thousands of flowers — roses, Gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums — as well as thousands of seeds, spices, fruits, vegetables, tree bark, seaweed and crushed nutshells.

Since 1949, students from Cal Poly and Cal Poly Pomona have come together across 240 miles to produce the only student-built float — and one of only a handful of self-built entries — for Pasadena’s signature event. The Tournament of Roses parade is watched in person by 700,000 people and on television by an international audience estimated at more than 100 million.

This year, “Sweet Shenanigans” is among 44 entries.

“During the review of 200 concepts, this one stuck out,” said Jo-Annie Tran, Rose Float design chair. “Overall, the concept for ‘Sweet Shenanigans’ was really fun, playful and spreads joy. It is something enjoyable for people of all ages.”

Fun was the operative word, agreed Ian Davison, Rose Float program leader.

“We love to build fun floats — fun for the audience and fun for us,” he said. “This concept stood out because it was one that we knew we could get behind with our hearts, and we would love turning it into a float every step of the way.”

The float also features a first for the Tournament of Roses Parade.

“One gummy bear is trying to hit another who keeps ducking behind a wafer cookie,” Davison said. “The ‘peek-a-boo’ gummy bear ducks below the cookie to dodge the snowballs and pops up out of the ‘snow’ to surprise the crowd. Our biggest challenge was to design a mechanism to launch the 8-inch ‘snowballs.’ The flying snowballs give life to the snowball fight, and as far as we are aware, free-flying objects are unprecedented on a float in the Rose Parade.”

Cal Poly’s Rose Parade float has come a long way since New Year’s Day 1949 when the inaugural entry rolled down Colorado Boulevard and earned a merit award. “Rocking Horse,” which featured a 10-foot tall flower-studded rocking equine being ridden by a faculty member’s young son, was designed and built in the final three months of 1948 for $248.

Now, the process takes a year from concept to creation. Parade organizers gave tentative approval to Cal Poly for “Sweet Shenanigans” in February and the final OK several weeks later. In April, the Design Team shared their ideas with the entire committee from both universities, who agreed on specific scenes to be included on the completed float. Construction began over the summer.

Cal Poly’s “Learn By Doing” ethos is exemplified in all facets of the float program, as students from throughout all six of the university’s colleges get hands-on experience welding, metal shaping, machining, foam carving, woodworking, painting and flower harvesting — ultimately competing against professional float builders with corporate sponsorships.

Over the past 68 years, the students have received more than 50 awards, including trophies for animation, decorations, fantasy, humor, originality, theme and viewers’ choice, and the Rose Parade float has become one of the highest-profile student projects. This is the fourth straight year that Cal Poly universities’ entry has earned a Rose Parade trophy.

A symbol of the partnership between the two campuses is the float’s chassis, whose front and back halves are joined mid-October each year in Pomona to officially unite both the float and the teams. This year, the frames were bolted together Oct. 24.

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