Bucket List: Build a Float in Pasadena’s Rose Parade

I grew up in Southern California, just about an hour south of Pasadena. Every year we would sit cuddled up in our jammies and watch the stunning floats of the Tournament of Roses parade on the television. The artistic achievement using all organic materials amazed us all. It was always something that I meant to see in person. I always wished that I could help make something so detailed and beautiful. When my best friend’s aunt designed a float, I finally got to live my life-long dream and spent a day decorating the floats. By doing this, I learned that I needn’t have waited for 30 years. Anyone can help work on a float with a little planning. Here is a how-to guide to get involved in Pasadena’s 2020 Rose Parade, from decorating a rose parade float, to seeing the parade or viewing the floats.

Build floats in Pasadena's Tournament of Roses Parade.

History of the Rose Parade

The Tournament of Roses began in 1890 as a way to lure tourists from the cold winter the rest of the United States was experiencing to California’s eternal summer. It is a great way to celebrate all the flowers still in bloom in my temperate home state!

Get Involved in Pasadena’s 2020 Rose Parade

Volunteer to Decorate a Float

Decorating a float is the ideal way to appreciate all the hard work that goes into making these incredible floats. And it is so cool to see your work head down the parade route!

So, How Can I Volunteer?

You can volunteer through a commercial float company or an organization that sponsors a float. Check out this list of companies to contact.

What Should I Expect When I Build a Rose Parade Float?

The decorating of floats occurs in air-conditioned warehouses to keep the flowers alive, so dress warmly. The base of the float is made of built materials, but everything visible on the floats is made of organic materials, such as leaves, bark, seeds, and flowers. The glue and materials used are very messy, so wear clothing that you don’t care about. You will have fun! You will meet people who come back year after year to build floats.

volunteer on Rose Parade floats.
The exacting details that these floats have are incredible- some as thin as the wording I worked on this bike!

Do not expect to do precise work when you are first involved. There is the most need for prep work off of the floats. The most intricate jobs were done by volunteers who had proven themselves over the years. Due to the precise nature of my career, I was assigned a tough task of decorating a bicycle that was front and center on our float. I was using materials that were very close in color and pencil-thin! It was astounding the details these floats have.

Is There Food?

The warehouses are not around many restaurants, but there were food trucks where we could buy food to eat for lunch. There was not much seating, so we ate on the ground. I would also not recommend bringing valuables or a purse as you have to keep what you bring with you, except jackets.

Can we Decorate Rose Parade Floats as a Family?

Most companies have some age restrictions, but older kids can join. Prep tasks are great for families. I saw many families sitting together and talking over materials. Contact each company for more information.

Build floats in Pasadena's Tournament of Roses Parade
Look at the detail in this precious bear!

When are Rose Parade Floats Decorated?

Decorating occurs the week before the parade, December 27-30, so that the organic materials hold up.

Watch the Rose Parade

Of course, you need to see the floats heading down the parade route! The Parade this year will start at 8 am on Wednesday, January 1st. The parade is historically never on a Sunday so as not to scare the horses hitched in front of churches.

Inside of Rose Parade Floats
This is what the floats look like under the organic materials. Notice the scaffolding in the back, which people use to work on higher areas of the floats.

Watch the Rose Parade Live

The Rose Parade starts at the corner of Green Street and Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena, California. The 5 1/2 mile route then travels down South Orange Grove until it turns East onto West Colorado.

There are two ways to see the Rose Parade in person:

  • Arrive very early and stake out seats along the parade route.
  • Buy bleacher seats through Sharp Seating and get guaranteed seating in the Grandstands.

Whichever way you choose, be in your seats by 6:30 am when they shut pedestrian walkways.

build a float for the Pasadena Rose Parade
See the bike on the front of this float? That’s my handiwork! How cool is that?

See the Floats in Person

If you are not an early morning person or don’t want to deal with the crowds of the parade, you can come and leisurely see the floats on Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards from 1-5 on January 1st and 9-5 on January 2nd. You can buy the tickets from Sharp Seating.

So, if being involved in the Rose Parade is on your bucket list, don’t let another year go by without being part of it! Get your flower on. You won’t regret it! It is an excellent addition to a holiday time visit to California.

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9 thoughts on “Bucket List: Build a Float in Pasadena’s Rose Parade”

  1. The rose parade sound like it is a beautiful experience. The fact that you can participate in the preparation of the floats is quite interesting. It would be great to work on a float and be able to see the final result and the fruits of one’s labour. A thrilling experience indeed.

  2. Now that is interesting. To watch a float is normal but to be able to decorate it and participate in its construction is an exciting proposition. Makes the whole experience so much fun.

  3. This sounds like something I would really enjoy! When i see big, elaborate shows, i always wonder about the people who work behind the scenes to make them possible: it would be great to be part of this!


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