A magazine built for you … out of flowers

>>PARADE

So we had this crazy notion to reproduce a digitally-designed Rose Magazine page using flowers and organic material — just the way the real float builders do, in large-scale, every year.

It seemed like a tangible way of translating this year’s Rose Parade theme — “A Cut Above the Rest” — onto paper (or floral foam, as it were).

It was a harebrained idea, thrown out casually one day in the newsroom, but it was fueled on by unexpected community support. Co-workers in other parts of the office started hearing about it, and they offered up encouragement. Some even volunteered to take up a decorating shift or to cut flowers or to bring us coffee.

The coffee ended up being absolutely indispensable to our team. As our editor Pia Abelgas Orense put it in her editor’s note: “It took days of planning, two visits to the flower district in downtown Los Angeles, 15 solid hours of cutting and gluing flowers, several iPod playlists, and moments of intense labor tempered by bouts of giddiness brought on by exhaustion.”

We also learned about the glory of Styrofoam hot-wire cutters; the absurdity of trying to keep in place hundreds of tiny, round onion seeds; and that some of our colleagues could have a second career as dazzling pro florists.

And we learned still more about the blowing of deadlines — something we thought we knew plenty about after many combined years in the newspaper and magazine biz.

At the end of it all, we produced something that seemed worth celebrating; We had breathed life into a concept. There was cheering and jumping and high-fives. It was even hard to say good-bye. The shriveling remains of our once-living Rose Magazine “float” sat for days afterward in the conference room where it had been born.

The process really shocked us into a whole new level of respect for float builders and decorators, particularly the self-built teams that operate with little to no professional assistance.

What you see here is our finished product, photographed and published on Page 12 of our winter issue as part of the magazine’s index. So as to be more readable, our logo and text got a little digital assistance, but this is pretty much exactly as it looked when we wrapped our own Decoration Day.

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‘A Cut Above’: Tuskegee Airmen will take wing at 2010 Rose Parade

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>>INSIDER

By Claudia S. Palma

The
West Covina Rose Float Association held its fifth annual Evening of
Wine and Roses fundraising event with a 1940s USO theme on Saturday,
Nov. 7, at the Charisma Floats warehouse in Irwindale.

The
warehouse transformed into what looked like a hangar perfect for the
unveiling of the foundation’s 2010 Rose Parade entry “The Tuskegee
Airmen — A Cut Above.”

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Many guests were all dressed up in their best 1940s inspired threads.

It was great to see many were definitely not afraid to get into the full spirit of the theme. There
were even ladies dressed up as candy/cigarette girls complete with
trays hanging from their necks. And all the music played by DJ Eric
Wolff that night was from the 40s era. He definitely did his homework.

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Guests
included many local business and community members, city of West Covina
staff, commission members and dignitaries including the West Covina
police chief, mayor and city council members and Assemblyman Dr. Ed
Hernandez (57th District).

The honorees of the night the
Tuskegee Airmen, the inspiration for the float design. Some of the
Airmen will ride on the float during the New Year’s Day parade.

The
veterans got an up close view of the mostly bare float which features
two “Red Tailed” mustang planes looking as if they are in flight with
an American Bald Eagle ready for flight following behind and two U.S.
flags flown at the back. Along the side of the float are blown up black
and white portraits of the airmen taken during their time of service
decades ago.

The men will ride in seats in the front of the float.

Even in its bare state, you could feel the great presence the float will have on the parade route.

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The
float builder is Charisma Floats and will be decorated with flowers and
natural materials over the next few weeks by volunteers just in time
for the parade.

“All the Airmen and their family and friends
were extremely excited to see the float up close and to be part of such
a gala event,” said Chris Freeland, Executive Vice President of the
Foundation.

Freeland said the Foundation wanted to pay tribute
to those who served in the armed forces and after much brainstorming
decided to recognize the Tuskegee Airmen for the sacrifices they made
and adversity they had to overcome while fighting for our freedom
during World War II.

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“We are convinced that when our float
travels down Colorado Blvd. on January 1, those lining the parade route
will rise out of their seats and cheer for these fine men that served
honorably and with distinction, while dealing with segregation,” added
Freeland.
 
“Their story goes well beyond our float, but we
cherish the opportunity to educate the community on the Airmen that
many people truly do not what they overcame and accomplished for our
country.”

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The gala event served to also raise funds for the
non-profit Foundation to continue to be a part of the annual Rose
Parade tradition with this year’s entry and for their scholarship
program. The event featured a 50/50 raffle and a live and silent
auction. The group also sold vintage war-time tins and various logo
items with the Foundation’s 2010 theme.

“All the funds come from
donations and fundraising activities.  In these tough economic times,
to see (the resident and business owner’s) support is truly amazing,”
Freeland said.

This is the city’s 12th entry in the parade.
 
“For
the community, it is very difficult to quantify the amount of civic
pride that our volunteers have towards our participation in the Rose
Parade,” said Freeland. “To represent our community in such a large
forum viewed by millions around the world, is truly rewarding to all of
us.”

Though it is still too early to tell how much was raised
during the gala event, from the look of the happy dancers swinging the
night away on the dance floor and the camaraderie shared by the airmen
and other service men present, the night seemed a success.

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“All
of the guests were excited to meet with the airmen, have a wonderful
dinner, and to see our float up close before it is decorated. This was
a very unique experience for many,” said Freeland.

The dinner was catered by Picasso’s Cafe in Irwindale.

This
was my first time time trying anything from Picasso’s and their entrees
and dessert definitely satisfied. Very delicious. I’ll have to try
their lunch sometime soon and blog about my experience on our sister site, Bentorama.
 
The
Airmen are definitely making their rounds for Veterans Day and in
anticipation of the 121st Annual Tournament of Roses parade. A group of
them have a planned appearance at the American Legion Post 13 in
Pasadena on Sunday, Nov. 15, and will receive commendations from the
city and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.


(Photos by Sarah Reingewirtz and Claudia S. Palma / Staff)