Take a look at this float design for the 118th Tournament of Roses Parade’s Crown City Innovation Trophy Winner, Once Upon a Time. The colors in the design are drastically different from the colors in the float. Were tea leaves really used to create the scales on the evil fire-breathing dragon’s neck as specified in the design plan? Dried tea leaves just won’t do, even in one’s wildest imagination, so they must be freshly picked camellia sinensis leaves, imported and flown to Southern California. Such extravagance!
And what about the Girl Scouts 100th Anniversary float, What Will You Do Today, in the 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade?! According to the PR article, underneath the float’s giant Gold Award, crafted from various shades of yellow and gold strawflower petals, lay a rainbow of red carnations, orange roses, yellow chrysanthemums, blue iris, and green tea leaves. Tea leaves again? Who wants a rainbow made of lackluster tea leaves amidst efflorescent flora?!
For many long-time Southern California residents, the Tournament of Roses Parade is often a forgotten festival. I myself have never camped along Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Eve, and it has been years since I turned on the television early in the morning to watch the parade. This year, however, the City of San Gabriel, my hometown in the States, commemorated its Centennial (1913 – 2013) with a float entry for the first time in nearly 40 years. Celebrating Our Journey showcased the San Gabriel Mission District’s Grapevine Arbor planted in 1861. At the Rose Bowl, my volunteer tasks ranged from placing roses in vials to pasting cinnamon powder onto the oxen’s bodies. When the float designer stopped by to inspect the progress, I asked if tea leaves could really be used to decorate floats. The designer’s “Yes” response was accompanied with a casual comment on how Celebrating Our Journey would not use any “tea” leaves. My intuition instructed me to question again, this time by mentioning tea the beverage. The designer replied, “Not tea. It’s ‘ti’ leaves. T. I.” Mystery solved! It never occurred to me that the above-mentioned float design and PR article could contain typos, thus “tea leaves” never invoked thoughts of “ti” – the popular ornamental plant.
In the same tent with Celebrating Our Journey was Cal Poly Universities’ Tuxedo Air, a float impressive not only because it was constructed entirely by students, but also because 85% of the flowers used to decorate it were California-grown!
Both local residents and out-of-state volunteers helped decorate Celebrating Our Journey. My new friend, Carol, lives in Arizona and has watched the parades since childhood! Volunteering at the Tournament of Roses is another unique way to welcome the new year!