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Parade to Sprout Veggies as Frost Nips at Roses

December 29, 1987|ALAN CITRON | Times Staff Writer

It is unlikely that anyone will rename it the Tournament of Vegetables Parade, but the discriminating viewer may notice an abundance of edible plants in this year's rose pageant.

Tournament officials said Monday that a number of float builders are scrambling to find alternatives to flowers that were destroyed in the recent cold snap. Some have been able to locate replacement flowers, but others are compensating with fruits and vegetables.

"The Arctic frost really affected us," said Marie Lee of the float crew from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, which usually receives its flowers from outdoor growers in California. "We planned to use poinsettias on the tail of our dragon, but it looks like we'll have to use cranberries."

Rick Chapman of Festival Artists Inc. of Azusa, which is building 11 Rose Parade floats, is also suffering from a paucity of petals. Carnations and roses, two tournament staples, have been especially slow to blossom this year, he said. Chapman has also been unable to get his hands on enough brightly colored gladioli, since the transport truck is snowbound somewhere to the east.

Waiting for Flowers

The float builder still hopes to find replacement flowers, but will have to change the design and color scheme of some of his floats if the right flowers are not available.

"Some of this stuff may look a little strange because it isn't what it's supposed to be," Chapman said. "The entry from the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee has fan-dancing figures in brilliant pink overblouses, but they're probably not going to be wearing that anymore."

Despite the problems faced by float builders like Chapman, parade organizers maintain that a rose is still a rose and that most entrants will be fully bedecked in flowers come parade day. Bill Walleck, director of special events for the Pasadena event, said the significance of the frozen flower fallout has been exaggerated.

Walleck said most float builders get their flowers from suppliers who grow them indoors, or from companies that import exotic flowers from foreign countries.

Only a Small Percentage

"Those who are relying on field-grown flowers could have a problem," Walleck said. "But I really think that a very small percentage of people are actually affected by this."

Bill Lofthouse of Pasadena's C. E. Bent & Son, which creates nearly half the Rose Parade floats, said major float builders do everything possible to ensure they will have enough flowers. Lofthouse said his major procurer starts making his rounds in February.

But others are not as prepared. Lou Lujon, general manager of U.S. Flowers, said he has been scurrying to find flowers that match the general description of those slated for floats he supplies. He is still awaiting delivery of 40,000 to 50,000 roses. Lujon noted that the cold also hurt some indoor growers, since many of them do not have sufficient heating systems.

"We didn't have too much advance warning about this cold snap," Lujon said. "And when it went down into the 20s recently (in some parts of the state), that was the end of that."

Slower to Bloom

Yoshi Takahashi, a chrysanthemum grower from Carpinteria, is among those hurt by the cold weather. Takahashi will not be able to fill part of the order he received because 10% of his flowers are not expected to bloom until about Jan. 4.

"We'll be OK with the rest of our supply," he said, "but we're bringing it down to the wire. We should have been finished last week. Instead we'll be cutting today and tomorrow."

Cal Poly Pomona's Lee said that her float team is proceeding with its work and hoping for the best. They are soliciting flower donations, since they cannot afford to buy them at higher than usual rush-order prices, and they are trying to be innovative when it comes to replacing missing plants. In addition to cranberries, the floral portion of their float will be augmented with rice, onion seeds and split peas.

No Fakes Allowed

"We are hoping at this point to get just enough flowers to finish the float," Lee said.

The Rose Parade, which features about 60 floats, dozens of celebrities and bands and about 4.5 million pieces of foliage (no fake flowers allowed), has been called the "World's Greatest Flower Show." This year marks the 99th anniversary of the Pasadena pageant.

Flower problems or no, the mania that usually attends the Rose Parade has not abated.

Nearly 800 recreational vehicles belonging to members of the Good Sam Club arrived at Pasadena Community College on Monday. Club members from across the country, whose average age is over 60, came to Pasadena to participate in the group's annual Rose Parade Samboree.

Visitors have also been streaming into the float-building sites in Pasadena and Temple City for advance looks at the entries. Fiesta Floats, 9362 Lower Azusa Road in Temple City, is admitting visitors through Wednesday. Float preparations can also be viewed at the Rose Palace, 835 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, and the Rosemont Pavillion, 700 Seco St., Pasadena.

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