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Floats-to-BE Get First Test as Their Day in SPotlight Nears

November 22, 1987|JILL STEWART | Times Staff Writer

Four jumbo cheerleaders will shake pompons the size of dishwashers, and a recreational vehicle bigger than a gas station will pop open like a can of sardines.

Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, will sport a flowing 10-foot-long beard made of thousands of chaffs of golden wheat.

With just six weeks to go until the 99th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, the serious business of float building has taken on a sense of urgency as crews working for various contractors grapple with giant eyelashes that do not blink quite right, huge legs that must bend on cue and man-sized tricycle tires that simply cannot go flat.

Pass First Muster

Dozens of skeletal-looking floats-to-be have already passed the first muster as parade officials inspect them during trial runs, assuring that their powerful engines are running and that their massive girders can take a corner at, say, 2 m.p.h.

"When I think of all the months and months of welding and engineering we've put into them, I almost hate to cover them with flowers," said Ollie Young, co-owner of Charisma Floats.

On Saturday, Charisma's three floats passed the required test run at their construction headquarters in Temple City and crews went to work completing the complex hydraulic systems that control individual moving parts on the Good Sam Club's fanciful recreational vehicle, a two-legged spaceship for Fansteel Inc. and Malaysian Airlines' pair of Brahman bulls pulling a cart.

Next door, Fiesta Floats passed the same tests last weekend, and owner Judy Cipponeri said her fleet of nine floats are "in great shape."

That is, she said, unless you count the four giant cheerleaders standing in the open air, whose tree-trunk-like arms began cracking because of recent rainy weather.

'There's Always Something'

"Cute aren't they?" Cipponeri said of the float being constructed for Transamerica Corp. "Have to repair them, but then, there's always something."

"When they're done, they'll twist at the waist, move their pompons and blink their eyes," said Judy Cipponeri's son, Chip, who designed many of the float's features.

Because "animation"--giant moving parts--is used on most Rose Parade floats, engineering and hydraulics have become an integral part of construction.

Ross Young of Charisma Floats holds an engineering degree from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and used that background to design the 50-foot-tall, two-legged spaceship that will carry a stunt girl.

He built huge casters from scratch that will smoothly roll the 4,000-pound spaceship and its mammoth legs, which weigh 2,500 pounds each.

"Ollie and I've been working seven days a week, and I was here until 1:30 a.m. last night," Young said. "It's a strange business, and you've got to love it to do it."

In the coming weeks, the numerous companies that are building this year's floats to the theme of "Thanks to Communication" will tackle the painstaking application of dried seeds, grasses and twigs. Flowers come last in the days immediately before the New Year's Day parade.

DC Arts, a company constructing the City of Carson's 55-foot-long float of Poseidon holding a 25-foot trident, plans to fashion the god's giant beard of pampas grass, wheat and leaves. His face will be colored with ground spices.

One of Fiesta Floats' projects requires hundreds of thousands of sesame, poppy and onion seeds to create an illusion of black-and-white "still photographs"--some of them nine-feet across--for the American Red Cross float.

But Judy Cipponeri said the gracefully arching, traditional float they are building for FTD Florists is the one that is really going to take some time.

"It has so many flowers on it. Well, I can't even guess the number," she said. "But I can tell you it will take a huge crew six days to put them on."

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