How the Iowa float in Rose Bowl parade was made

Richard J. Marcus
Special to the Register

PASADENA, Calif. — New Year’s Day is different this year for Hawkeye fans, not only because Iowa is in the Rose Bowl but also because of Iowa’s presence at the famed Rose Parade preceding Friday's game.

Tonya Warnell, a florist from Marshalltown, makes some final adjustments to the Iowa Hawkeye float on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Azusa, Calif.

In the 127th version of the annual Pasadena Rose Parade, the Hawkeye state will be well represented with Iowa’s band, cheerleaders and, of course, a float. The Iowa football float will be one of approximately 40 motoring in the parade.

Putting together the float was no small feat, and it involved many members of the Iowa Alumni Association lending a hand to get it done. Work began in earnest in early December once it was determined that the Hawkeyes would be playing Stanford in the game. The float decoration was finished on Wednesday.

"The Rose Bowl is a huge event, so we have all kinds of people out here (in southern California),” said Jeff Kueter, President and CEO of the University of Iowa Alumni Association.

The Hawkeye alumni effort to work on the float — which is officially sponsored by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses — was led by the Los Angeles Iowa Club, which had at least 60 members volunteer, according to club president and 2001 Iowa graduate Alvin Chang.

"It’s been a pretty crazy whirlwind the last few days and after they announced that Iowa was playing in the Rose Bowl,” said Chang, a Waterloo native who is also president of the L.A. chapter of the Big 10 Club. “When Iowa fans see the float, there will be a roar, for sure. Hawkeye Nation doesn’t mess around. There is black and gold all over town.”

The Iowa float is known as the “Trophy” float, and the Stanford float the “Bowl” float as designated by the Tournament of Roses. The Big 10 and Pac-12 switch between these two themes each year, according to Leslie Foxvog, a decoration coordinator for the firm Artistic Entertainment Services, which was contracted to put together the Iowa float.

The float decoration took place in a warehouse in Azusa, about 15 miles east of Pasadena. The Iowa float has approximately 8,000 yellow roses on it, but no black roses.

"Black roses are too expensive and there was no way to get quantity at a reasonable cost,” Foxvog said.

Even so, there was plenty of organic material that went into the Iowa float decoration. The float (50 feet long, 18 feet wide, 18 feet tall) is festooned with roses, oatmeal, white beans, parsley, eucalyptus leaves, yellow chrysanthemums, seaweed, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, coconut, small millet, and bronze strawflower.

"The Iowa people that worked on the float were awesome. They were friendly, supportive, patient and enthusiastic,” said Foxvog, who has been decorating Rose Parade floats since 1980. “It’s rare to have so many alumni enthusiasts as Iowa has come work on the float.”

One of the volunteers was Alan Cremers, a 1980 Hawkeye grad originally from Rembrandt, Iowa. Cremers resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and decided to drop in and help decorate the float on a family visit.

"It dawned on me while I was driving that Iowa would need volunteers and it would be a fun experience and I’m glad I did it. The camaraderie was the best part of the experience,” Cremers said. “The Iowa float looks good, it’s a winning float.”

When the completed project rested in the warehouse Wednesday, a visiting family from Iowa out for the Rose Bowl stood and admired the float.

"Frankly, the float isn’t flashy.(Iowa coach) Kirk Ferentz would be pleased, because it’s a meat-and-potatoes decoration,” said Matt Reisetter of Cedar Falls.

Cathy Hermida of Duarte, Calif., works on the China Airlines float on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Azusa, Calif.

Reisetter’s 11-year old son, Mason, laughed at the reference to Ferentz.

“This float is definitely 'Old Kirk' style,” the younger Reisetter said.

Family member Becky Roland of La Porte City said seeing the floats up close was a once-in-a-lifetime action.

“I love the yellow roses on the Iowa float,” said Roland, who added with a smile, “But I wonder where the corn is?”