With the announcement that Destination Irvine is sponsoring a float in 127th Tournament of Roses Parade, the city has entered an exciting whirl of activity that makes a float in the Rose Parade more than just a bouquet on wheels.  Metal artists, mechanics, sculptors, and floral designers will spend the next months putting together a spectacular floral creation that will glide along Colorado Blvd. on Jan. 1, 2016 to the oohs and aahs of spectators.  This blog will follow the process, from initial design to the final flowers and the trip along the parade route.

"Innovation Rocks!" is the theme of the debut float, reflecting the life-changing innovations in technology and life sciences for which Irvine is known because of its university, colleges and global companies.  It fits the theme of the 2016 Rose Parade, "Find Your Adventure," which grew out of a collaboration between the Tournament of Roses and the US National Park Service. 

Destination Irvine has chosen Phoenix Decorating Company in Pasadena to design and build "Innovation Rocks!"  The family-owned company has produced 752 Rose Parade floats in its 33-yeear history and has won 244 trophies.  CEO Chris Lofthouse stated, "We are excited and honored that Irvine Chamber of Commerce and Destination Irvine are participating in the 2016 Rose Parade. To be able to highlight one of Orange County's vibrant cities that features one of the most dynamic business environments will be a great addition to America's New Year's Celebration."

The Tournament of Roses began as an exercise in civic pride with a mind to selling real estate to folks back east, shivering in a Midwestern winter.  The Valley Hunt Club staged the first parade on Jan. 1, 1890, featuring horses and buggies decorated with roses followed by community games.  Photos of midwinter fun in the sun were sent to relatives and friends back home.  The event soon grew too big for the Valley Hunt Club to handle, so the Tournament of Roses Association was formed in 1895 to take over the celebration, and it has been doing so ever since. 

East Coast newspapers sent reporters out in 1898, and by 1900 movies of the parade were being shown in theaters throughout the country.  The parade quickly added new things as the years glided by.  Floats became larger and more extravagant and buggies eventually gave way to motorized vehicles.  Groundbreaking float builder Isabella Coleman decorated her first float in 1909, and the techniques she developed in structure, floral design, and animation still influence builders today. 

For all the millions of people watching on New Year's Day, the advances in float technology and floral design, and the Tournament of Roses Association growing to 935 volunteers and a paid staff, the Rose Parade still remains a small-town parade in many ways.  Folks are gracious, crowds are friendly, locals flock to decorate floats or camp out along the route, and residents gladly put up with the hubbub and closed streets.