Community Magazine

San Gabriel Centennial Rose Parade Float Wins Directors’ Trophy

By Wonder
The City of San Gabriel Centennial float received the Director's Trophy, helping to celebrate the city's centennial with its first entry into the Rose Parade in 40 years - Photo by Jim E. Winburn

The City of San Gabriel Centennial float received the Director’s Trophy, helping to celebrate the city’s centennial with its first entry into the Rose Parade in 40 years – Photo by Jim E. Winburn

The city’s float entry was recognized as a 2013 Rose Parade Float Trophy Winner for its outstanding artistic merit in design and floral presentation.

The thrill of participating in the Rose Parade alone was a positive affirmation for the local community as the city begins its yearlong Centennial celebration. It is San Gabriel’s first Rose Parade float entry in 40 years, and the city has participated in the Tournament of Roses a total of 38 times.

San Gabriel City Manager Steven A. Preston said the city did not stop participating after 1972 because of a lack of interest, but because of a lack of funds.

“They couldn’t afford to have one,” he said. “So there’s been a dream percolating in a big segment of our community for many years, and they wanted to have another bite of the apple – another chance to participate in that grand floral festival.”

Preston said the city’s float, more than two years in the making, cost $150,000 to build, not counting the $5,000 entry fee to participate in the Tournament of Roses. What’s really inspiring is that the money was fully raised by community sponsors and individual donors – not city funding.

Mayor Kevin Sawkins and Camila Lopez celebrate San Gabriel's Centennial with the city's first float entry into the Rose Parade in 40 years - Photo by Jim E. Winburn

Mayor Kevin Sawkins and Camila Lopez celebrate San Gabriel’s Centennial with the city’s first float entry into the Rose Parade in 40 years – Photo by Jim E. Winburn

The elegant Spanish-style architecture of the city’s iconic Grapevine Arbor frames the design while a pair of oxen draws a grape-filled cart to the wine press. The float features animation, including the oxen nodding their heads and the wheels of the cart turning.

Built by Paradiso Parade Floats, the Rose Parade’s first new float builder in 18 years, the float showcased an impressive array of fresh flowers in fiery oranges, yellows and reds. The float also featured an abundance of roses accented with a wide variety of orchids, strelitzia, protea and leucadendron bloom in a lush garden landscape. The design also incorporated fresh produce, including oranges, lemons, limes and hundreds of pounds of grapes.

San Gabriel’s entry also included a diverse crew of float riders who embody the city’s rich past and present, featuring Mayor Kevin Sawkins steering the ox cart, Anthony Morales as chief of the Tongva people – San Gabriel’s first inhabitants, Camila Lopez – who also traces her bloodline back to the Tongva people, and Father Bruce Wellems of the San Gabriel Mission.

Representing the youth and future of the city, Gabrielino High School seniors Jacqueline Chai and Kelly Ngo were chosen based on their community involvement.

Mayor Kevin B. Sawkins, who co-chairs the San Gabriel Centennial Committee along with Mary Cammarano, president of the San Gabriel Historical Association, said the generous efforts of many donors and sponsors from the community have made the float’s success possible.

“We were really committed to doing it without city funds. So instead of city tax dollars, we wanted to have it supported entirely by the community – community organizations, residents and businesses,” Sawkins said earlier at a VIP reception held around the unfinished float at the Rose Bowl.

The Float Committee, co-chaired by Parks and Recreation Director Rebecca Perez and San Gabriel resident Pam Petievich, pulled the whole project together by organizing nearly 100 volunteers working on different tasks, including the critical decision of going with Paradiso Parade Floats, which is headed up by Creative Director Charles Meier.

Rose Parade officials anticipated a turnout of more than 700,000 people, and those in attendance believed the event easily drew an estimated one million spectators.

The 124th Tournament of Roses Parade included a lineup of 42 floats, 23 bands, and 21 equestrian units, all of which received cheers and applause from viewers along the 5-and-a-half mile parade route along Colorado Boulevard.

The 2013 theme for the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade was “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” Officials selected the peppy title for its ambitious take on seizing the moment by throwing off the realistic cares of our daily lives and charging forth with youthful confidence.

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, the world famous primatologist and animal welfare advocate, served as Grand Marshal of the 2013 Tournament of Roses while riding in a horse-drawn carriage covered with roses and ferns.

According to Tournament of Roses President Sally Bixby, Dr. Goodall provided inspiration for this year’s theme.

“The theme can be interpreted as a celebration of accomplishment, discovery and travel of course, but equally valid is its implicit call to action,” said Bixby. “We think Dr. Goodall’s life story is a testament to the sense of adventure and openness to possibility that this phrase suggests: As a young woman, she defied convention to follow her dreams, and she has committed herself to a life of global citizenship, inspiring children and adults alike along the way.”

This year’s Rose Queen is 17-year-old Pasadena native and high school student Vanessa Manjarrez. Having presided over the annual celebration each year since 1930, the queen and Rose Princesses are selected in a month-long process from hundreds of local women between the ages of 17 and 21 to participate as a member of the Royal Court.

Float preparation is one of the greatest challenges of the Rose Parade. Organizers, designers, engineers and volunteers spend months planning and constructing their individual float – only to labor over several hectic days to apply the final decoration to their parade entry. All surfaces are required to be covered with natural materials.

And the average cost of a float can be several hundred thousand dollars in what amounts to a high-visibility experience. Media sources have put the number of Americans who watch the Rose Parade on television at 39 million people, while claiming hundreds of millions more view the event from 220 countries around the world.

The parade has come a long ways since its debut in 1890, when it styled itself from a similar event in France. The pioneers of the contemporary Rose Parade originally sought to show off Southern California’s sunny winter weather, while featuring flower-covered carriages.

More information on San Gabriel’s Centennial Celebration can be found on the city’s website at

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