The aim with every Tournament of Roses Parade float is to achieve just the right look. It’s not easy.
“Until you’re actually putting on 20,000 flowers, you have no idea what it takes,” said Independence native Randy Winship. This was his eighth year as a float crew chief, the person who oversees the final execution of the float’s design.
Consider a brown butterfly. That took white and yellow strawflower, soybeans, navy beans, lentils, onion powder and coffee.
There are rules for these floats.
“It all has to be organic,” Winship said.
And a “floragraph” – a carefully crafted image of near photographic clarity – is even more challenging, and Winship’s float had several. One person, working three and half days, used clover seed, ground parsley, blue cornmeal, black and white pepper and a couple dozen other ingredients to create one floragraph celebrating the City of Hope hospitals, the focus of Winship’s float.
“That was the most detailed part of what we were doing this year,” he said.
Winship figures he worked 95 to 96 hours over six days leading up to the New Year’s Day parade, overseeing a lot of volunteers – two shifts of 85 each just on one day the weekend before the parade.
Construction of the floats starts March 1. Winship’s role comes in December, when he works for 10 days for the Phoenix Decorating Company, which did 17 floats for this year’s parade.
“Dry decoration” – seeds, beans, bark – takes four or five days. Then come leaves. Then mums and carnations are glued to the float. Fresh flowers – placed one at a time in individual vials – come last.
It is a team effort. Winship stresses that others do design, construction and painting. He says his job is to follow his “paint by color” book and bring everything to life. In the last two days, six florists working on the canopy floral arrangement had 35 to 40 volunteers up on scaffolding and he had more than 40 working on roses on the deck. In the end, the final look is his responsibility.
Doctors, nurses and cancer survivors from City of Hope rode during the parade.
“It’s just to raise awareness,” Winship said.
It all worked out. The float won the Isabella Coleman Award for most outstanding presentation of color and color harmony through floral design.
Winship is a graduate of Truman High School and the UMKC Conservatory of Music. Growing up in Independence, he would watch the Tournament of Roses parade with his mom.
“So I always thought it would be cool to work on a Rose Parade float one day,” he said. His dad, Gerry, brought his Rose Parade work to The Examiner's attention.
Today Randy’s the general manager of the Pasadena Ice Skating Center, a line of work he’s been in for years and that has taken him around the world. It was through an acquaintance in that work that he made contact with those involved with the Tournament of Roses. Now he’s done 14 floats in 13 years.
And 2019? He said he’s not thinking about that yet. First, he said, it’s time for a good rest.