Rose Queen Erika Winter, center, is flanked by Rose Princesses Sarah Shaklan, Rachelle Liu, Bryce Bakewell, Regina Pullens, Natalie Hernandez-Barber, Donaly Marquez (left to right).

 Picking a winner, whether a company that will be successful in the long term or the young woman who will reign as Rose Queen for a year, can be a process of elimination.  In the case of the Rose Queen, the selection starts with about 900 girls, mostly seniors in high school, and through various rounds narrows the number to about 350, then to around 75, then three dozen.  At last, seven are chosen to serve on the Tournament of Roses Royal Court, and after a weekend in Irvine's neighboring city, Newport Beach, one young lady emerges as Rose Queen. 

 2016 Rose QueenTwo weeks ago, the Royal Court was formally presented and Erika Karen Winter, 17, was announced as Rose Queen. The princesses appeared in emerald green formal gowns designed for the 2016 Royal Court by Tadashi Shoji and tailored for each girl. Each wore a pearl necklace by Mikimoto.  After the queen was announced, the Court went backstage and reappeared in pearl tiaras, each princess on her father's arm. Queen Erika came in last in a sparkling white gown, and Tournament of Roses Pres. Mike Matthiessen placed the crown on her head.

Bill Carpou, President & CEO of OCTANe, an Irvine company that helps new businesses get a foothold, said OCTANe also has to narrow a field of 200 prospective clients each year down to 25 that go through the year-long process to be OCTANe Certified.  The process is data driven, he told Destination Irvine.

"We have a very rigorous vetting process, thus a very high success rate on the ones that come through and are OCTANe Certified," he stated.  Success is based on the new company being able to get funding for its work.  OCTANe focuses on businesses doing life science or technology, either in the end product or upfront research needs.  "All these businesses are started by either scientists or engineers," Carpou said.  The influx of "deep research" at universities such as UC Irvine and Chapman can create companies.

Bill Carpou"We're a business accelerator, so we take early stage companies and start-ups in life sciences and technology.  We help companies get formed and funded, operationalize and grow," Carpou said.  Though OCTANe sees all of Southern California as a market, it is Orange County-centric.  "It's difficult to be Orange County centered and not Irvine centered," he said, adding that Irvine itself is a hub of innovation with a great business climate and office space that the Irvine Company has made available.  OCTANe and Irvine in general are seeking to create an infrastructure and a business ecosystem that will support new, innovative businesses. 

Having a float in the Rose Parade, especially one themed "Innovation Rocks!" speaks to the climate for innovation in the city, Carpou said.  "I think something that's featured in the Rose Parade is going to get a lot of attention, both nationally and in the marketplace," he said.  "To me, as we look to build out Irvine and the ecosystem, it basically puts in the forefront that Irvine is here as an innovative hub." 

Don't forget to sign up to volunteer on "Innovation Rocks!"

Readers can help get that innovative float on the road by signing up for a shift to decorate the masterpiece.  Dry decoration-seeds, crushed flowers, coconut and other dry materials-is done on the first three Saturdays in December, and decoration with fresh materials begins the day after Christmas and goes through Dec. 30.  Sign up at  Information can also be found on  

Tips for those who are getting in on the excitement of creating a Rose Parade float:

  • Decoration will take place at Rosemont Pavilion at 700 Seco St., which is in the Arroyo Seco/Brookside Park just south of the Rose Bowl.  There is plenty of free parking in Lot I to the west of the float barn.
  • Decorating a float is dirty work and can ruin clothing, so make sure to wear clothes and shoes that can be tossed out or used for gardening after the work is done.  It can also be quite cold in the float barn in December, so dressing in layers is recommended. 
  • Food is not provided by Phoenix Decorating Company, but there is a food truck on site or decorators can bring their own food.  During Deco Week, Dec. 27-30, Expo Village in Lot I provides a variety of vendors for food, beverages, and Tournament of Roses souvenirs.
  • Storage for personal items and refrigeration is not provided. 
  • A goody bag with decorating tools is provided by Phoenix, but an item that can be really useful for volunteers who find themselves cutting statice or trimming petals off mums is a pair of spring-loaded scissors. 
  • No smoking or use of electronics, including cell phones, is allowed inside the float barn.  People with physical limitations should check on accessibility before volunteering.