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Florist Takes Designs To New Heights At The 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade

Heather's Flowers Florist At Tournament of Roses“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do” says local florist Heather Miller-Beldsoe from Heather’s Flowers in McDonough, GA. Heather was one of the hundreds of volunteers to help with Cal Poly’s (California Polytechnic State University) award-winning float at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. FlowerShopNetwork.com had the wonderful opportunity to talk to her about her experiences. Her friends back in Georgia told her, “You’re either crazy or stupid to be going to LA by yourself!” but that didn’t stop this Georgia girl from fulfilling her dreams.

“It was March or April of 2010 when I first started getting involved with it.” Heather would constantly check on the progress of the float via their website. She submitted pictures and YouTube videos of her work, and in August it was official. She was definitely going to be apart of this iconic American tradition.

Heather left for her Tournament of Roses adventure on Dec. 27th. She was joined by residents, parents and students who take weeks off work every year, just to come out and help during Deco Week. (Deco week is the time when the flowers are actually applied to the float.) Most sponsors pay companies to create their floats, but Cal Poly’s is always 100% volunteer. They work all week under a head designer (this one happened to have just finished designing for the Oscars!) to create this mega floral creation!

Galactic Expedition - The Cal Poly 2011 Tournament of Roses Float“Whenever I go to events that have these kinds of things, most of the people are older. It was kind of nice to see that there were younger people still interested in learning this craft, because I think it gets lost.”

Cal Poly has two sister universities, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly, Pomona, and each built half of the float. So, the front half is built by one campus, and the back is built by another. They bring them together only one week before Deco Week! The Cal Poly campuses are technical colleges so, of course their float had a lot of creatively-animated parts, which proved quite the challenge for float decorators. No part of the float can be seen raw. Everything has to be covered with 100% natural materials: some kind of dried flowers, seed, bark, fresh flowers. No part of the actual float can be shown.

Galactic Expedition was the theme of Cal Poly’s 2011 Rose Parade float. According to their website, it features seven childhood friends building the rocket ship of their dreams and taking their imagination to soaring heights. An operative crane, a spinning planet, moving child workers and a full complement of tools and toys were all situated on an airy cloud high above the earth’s surface.

California had such bad weather right before Deco Week, so the designers didn’t even know what they had to work with until about 48 hours before. The flowers did not even arrive until 24 hours before the judging! “We were trying to trade off other items to just to start, at least greening up.” But once they were ready, the float creations took off.

“I was like a sponge. I learned to do a lot of things, from petalling, to doing dried flowers, to the different types of glues they used. Plus the whole concept of how the mechanics work,” Heather says. “We designed more down than up, and as a florist we normally design up.”

Rocket Ship on the Cal Poly Float at the 2011 Tournament of Roses

“I [also] had the opportunity to work with genista. We can’t get it in Georgia, but it’s native to California. It was the first time I was able to really work with it.”

“I did all of the fresh flower designs on the crane. That whole piece moved two different ways, side to side and the girl went up and down! So all of the flowers had to be secured. I ended up using floral zip ties. It was the only thing I could think of to hold it all in place!”

Spinning Saturn Rings On Cal Poly's Tournament of Roses FloatThe Saturn alone used over 3,000 brightly-colored roses. It’s ring turned full-circle, and it too was completely covered in roses. All together, there was a total of over 12,000 roses and 7,000 gerber daisies used on the Poly Cal float alone. “Ten to twelve people could actually stand up in the middle of the rocket ship, it was so big!”

“Something else that was unusual to me,” says Heather, “We used cranberries, taken while still ripe in the middle, and cut them in half. Then glued them to make medallions for the space ship.” Cal Poly’s float was very eco-friendly this year. “They went green on a lot of stuff.” Their design was planned, so they could harvest and reuse some of the material for next year’s float.

The college campuses grew a lot of their own flowers, like statice. They also recycled organic material that could not be sold. Such as fruit, which they used by dehydrating the rinds and pinning them to the rocket ship.

“I was really blessed to be able to do as many pieces as I did. I did 4 topiaries that were on the crane. I had 6-7 pieces hanging on the crane, along with orchids and kissing balls, and then I did 5 large arrangements on the float.” Heather says proudly. “Working there makes you appreciate the flowers, too. Because you don’t understand how many flowers it takes to create one item.”

Flower Arrangement on the Cal Poly Float Flower Arrangement on the Cal Poly Float Flower Arrangement on the Cal Poly Float

Next to Cal Poly’s float was the 9/11 Tribute Float, which featured a hydrant from Ground Zero. “The most amazing thing I saw there was what people can do with seeds, like split peas and pepper. 9/11 Tribute Float At The 2011 Tournament of Roses ParadeThey can take them and glue them and make them actually look like old photographs all done with seeds of flowers,” says Heather, talking about the incredible black and white photograph-looking mosaic dedicated to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack.

Judging is done at noon the day before the parade. Cal Poly’s float won the People’s Choice Award for the 3rd year in a row. They also won the Tournament of Roses’ Fantasy Trophy in pre-parade judging for most outstanding display of fantasy and imagination. According to their website, the Cal Poly float received 10,802 online and text-message votes out of a total of 44,730 votes submitted on New Year’s Day.

People in Pasadena take the Tournament of Roses parade very seriously. They camp out and block off sidewalks. Shops even board up their windows so the pressure of the people won’t break them. “It looks like the whole town is abandoned just for a one day event!” The 2011 Tournament of Roses was a huge success! Hundreds of thousands of people gathered to watch this stream of mega floral floats go by.

Afterward, they had a lot of flowers left over. Those are donated to local hospitals and nursing homes. “They also sent a lot home with the volunteers too, as a thank you for all of their time, hard work and sweat. Some of the hours worked were 12-14 hours a day!” But the job is worth it, just for the incredible experience alone. When asked if she was going back next year, Heather says, “Yes, [I’m] planning to go back next year and stick with it for a while. I hope to someday help design the float.”

Entries are still being taken right now (and until January 28th) for the design of the Rose Parade 2012 float. Next year’s theme pays homage to all things possible and impossible. It is about potential, our hope, our discoveries and fascinations. It is about looking for beauty in things rare and common. Sounds like it’s going to be another magical experience!
This spotlight is brought to you by Flower Shop Network, which helps you find a real local florist in your city!


  1. My great uncle, Charles Hum, used to be the president of FTD in the 60’s & 70’s. He owned a flower shop on Victory Blvd. in Burbank for over 30 years called Vogue Flowers. I went to his shop when I was really little (probably 5 or 6) and they were putting together 3 floats for the rose parade. One for his shop, one for FTD, and one for the California Florist Association. It was a brilliant memory. Just had to Share.

  2. How cool! It’s easy to see how these mega floral floats can leave a lasting impression. I had a ball researching for this article.

  3. Rhonda Krinke says:

    What an inspiration!! I was actually raised in McDonough, GA!!! Beautiful floats and amazing ideas using one of God’s most beautiful creations!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. It looks so good and joyful to work with mega fresh flowers.

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