"Home Tweet Home", the City of Burbank Tournament of Roses Float
For the past several years, I have attended the unveiling and judging of the City of Burbank Tournament of Roses parade float. Traditionally, the official judging is on New Year’s Eve, just one day before the Rose Parade, in Pasadena, California. Since the Burbank float is one of only a handful of all volunteer efforts, the rollout from the Float Barn is a community event.
Surprisingly, many elements of the 2017 entry; both physical and spiritual, came together this year on January 1 – New Year’s Day. Since New Year’s Day 2017 fell on a Sunday, the parade date shifted to Monday, January 2, 2017. For a moment on New Year’s Day, all activity at the float barn seemed to stop. After a great rush of love and appreciation swept through the open barn door, activities resumed.
It was time to attach the animatronic birds to the frame of the float. With a forklift working as a crane, each large wire-mesh bird received a hydraulic hookup, and then descended toward its slots. With some jiggling and joggling, each bird slid into place. Seemingly out of nowhere, Maria Cady, a florist from nearby Simi Valley and her crew rushed in with half a dozen huge floral displays. Now, the float was complete.
All spectators and nonessential crew cleared the scene, regrouping in the viewing area, at the nearby Burbank - Downtown Station. Like a child who wanted to see his Christmas presents the night before, I hung back and hid in a big blue porta-potty. As I opened the door and started taking pictures, Burbank’s “Home, Tweet Home” float was already on the move.
After following the float out to the street, I ran ahead, rejoining the parade as it entered the viewing area. As soon as it stopped, a jaunty jingle of a tune emanated from four large speakers, hidden in the structure of the float. Various animatronic birds started tilting, swiveling, hammering or riding in and out on a giant tape measure.
Then, without warning, the large birdhouse near the back of the float started to rise. At full extension of its hydraulic tower, the float looked unimaginably tall. As it was when I was a child, the float looked like something out of the Jack and the Beanstalk story to me.
The official judging did not result in a trophy for the Burbank 2017 float. Now it is time to look to the future. Soon, the Burbank Tournament of Roses Association will announce the winner of its 2018 public design contest. As of this writing, the smaller birdhouse still stands on the float chassis, but most other components have disappeared.
As much as possible, salvaged materials from the 2017 float will reappear in the 2018 float. Reuse and recycling are hallmarks of all Burbank Rose Parade floats. For instance, in 2017, recycled bed sheets helped stabilize the rigid foam shell of the float. That recycled bedding helped to make the entire float “walkable”, without fear of falling through. After a full tune-up, the custom designed chassis will return to the Float Barn, ready to support next year’s entry.
Many contemporary Rose Parade floats employ hydraulic motors and cylinders to lift or repetitively move various components. Hidden hydraulics provide the motive power to animate the big floats, yet until the 2017 Burbank entry, no medium-sized float had previously employed a “tower lift”. Unseen and unknown to most parade viewers, “Home, Tweet Home” represented a technological breakthrough for a float of its size. For 2018, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association has initiated a "Crown City Innovator" award. The new trophy will be awarded to the float that features the "Most outstanding use of imagination, innovation and technology". With this new category in mind, the 2018 Burbank Rose Parade Float will surely be in the running.
In February 2016, I installed a live webcam at the City of Burbank Float Barn. Seven days each week, you may view live images of the Float Barn. To access the live webcam, go to the homepage of the Burbank Tournament of Roses official website. You may also view the live webcam on my own BurbankFloat.com tribute website. Early in 2017, most of the work parties are on Wednesday’s and Saturdays, so be sure to tune in and watch the action.