PASADENA, Calif. — Corn husks, tree bark, leaves, fruits, vegetables, bird seed ...
Far more adorns floats in the Tournament of Roses Parade here than just the beautiful flowers themselves. There has to be, since every bit of each of the 42 floats must be covered with natural materials.
Which is fitting, because much more labor and time goes into the parade than just the two hours of network television time it will get Friday morning. Tens of thousands of volunteers are involved in the decorating of the floats.
“There will be 15,000 man hours on this float when it’s done,” said Mike Thompson, a longtime crew chief of Rose Bowl floats. He was under a huge tent a couple blocks from the Rose Bowl stadium Tuesday afternoon as he spoke, overseeing the decoration of the Donate Life float.
That float was designed by David Pittman, a Springville native who has put in tens of thousands of his own hours working on Rose Parade floats. This will be the 33rd Rose Parade in which he has had a role, the last 25 as a designer.
Pittman has designed 120 floats over the years, and as many as 12 in a year. He has scaled back to three this year.
Pittman now focuses more on his role as a float expert for HGTV (Home & Garden Television). That network will have uninterrupted coverage of Friday’s parade, focusing more on the decorating and floral materials of the floats.
The parade also will air on ABC, NBC, Hallmark Channel, Univision, and several international outlets, starting at 10 a.m. The University of Iowa’s 250-member marching band will be one of nearly 100 groups of performers in the event.
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“They claim one-tenth of the world’s population will see the parade or are at least aware it’s happening,” Pittman said. “That immediate exposure is one of the things that drew me to it early on.”
Pittman was an art history major at Iowa State. Not long after graduation, he formed a one-man float design business in Detroit. Later, he joined the designers of Phoenix Decorating Company in Pasadena, and today he is the boss of Dave Pittman Creative. He estimated 80 percent of his work involves floats, with the rest event-planning.
He left Iowa when he was young, but hasn’t left it entirely. He spent some of last summer working remotely from Iowa City, where he has family.
Unlike most artists, Pittman’s work has a shelf life of just a few days. Through Sunday, people can view the floats here. Then, they will moved and taken apart. New ones will start to be built in the spring for the 2017 parade.
“They have to be beautiful, and they’re built for one day,” Pittman said.
“I usually don’t go down to see the floats after the parade. They go downhill pretty fast once the bees, birds and elements get to them.”