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Flower Power

Rose Float president Quinn Akemon gives a sneak preview of Cal Poly’s electrifying 75th entry in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

By Jay Thompson
A rendering of the Cal Poly 2024 Rose Float "Shock 'n Roll" featuring manta rays, eels and musical instruments

This fall, Cal Poly’s Rose Float team unveiled the new design for their 75th entry into the Tournament of Roses Parade, whose theme this year is “Celebrating the World of Music.”

Cal Poly Rose Float leader Quinn Akemon

Rose Float president Quinn Akemon

Quinn Akemon, this year’s Cal Poly Rose Float president, is overseeing the mammoth effort on the team’s milestone entry “Shock n’ Roll: Powering the Musical Current.” The plant sciences senior from Agoura Hills, California, has been with the team all four years, and is keenly aware of the beloved program’s legacy over the past seven decades. Akemon spoke with Cal Poly Magazine about what to expect from this year’s float.

Tell us about this year’s float design.

“Shock N’ Roll: Powering the Musical Current” is a tableau featuring an underwater community of animals powering musical instruments. At the front of the float, viewers will see a massive manta ray gliding through the water above a colorful coral shelf. Piano keys flow from the front of the float to the back, creating many small caves and niches for animals to live in. An electric eel peers out from one
of these caves and observes the scene. As the viewer’s eye follows the keyboard, they will see a stunning guitar and amplifier erupting from funky coral and rock structures. An archway spans the back half of the float, under which two colossal electric eels coil around each other, powering the instruments around them. On top of the arch sits a large clamshell, which opens and closes to reveal a turntable inside. Another ray sweeps above the keyboard structure towards the rear of the float, following behind the ray at the front. Starfish,
anemones, sea urchins and more coral complete and bring life to the scene.

How did both teams — Cal Poly and Pomona — settle on this theme?

We felt that the concept had a lot of creative potential for our team. When we were discussing themes, this one jumped out at us because the team as a whole totally lit up. The energy in the room was electric, so to speak! Students could hardly contain their ideas for specific elements that could be featured on the float if we were to pursue this concept. We always strive to build a concept that inspires the team to think big, and this concept did exactly that.

What was the team thinking as you refined the initial idea? 

When we continued to discuss the idea, the team was very interested in the idea of a universe in which animals and instruments evolved alongside each other in an underwater environment. We really wanted to emphasize the idea that the instruments and animals were sharing a community and had developed a symbiotic relationship through music. The animals provide power to the instruments through electricity, and the instruments play music that flows through the scene and brings the community together in song. Pretty much every decision we made during the design process was focused around that central idea.

What special motion features will be on display?

The front manta ray will swim through the water with its wing tips flapping as it swims. All three eels will gaze at viewers as they swim through the parade route, with the side eel retracting into its cave periodically and the top eel’s fin rippling in the current. The musical effects of the float will be brought to life with a moving speaker cone, keyboard keys playing along with the music and a spinning turntable hidden inside an opening clam.

As Cal Poly’s 75th entry, this float represents a diamond anniversary. Are you planning anything special with the float to celebrate that milestone?

We are experimenting with several things right now, including ways to represent the electricity flowing throughout the float through both special effects and decorations materials. Of course, we’re trying, as always, to build a float that the students are proud to send down the parade route. As we’ve developed this float, we’ve really continued to lean into Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing spirit and tried to make this float bigger and more exciting than ever before. Between interesting mechanism development, exciting decorations materials and larger-than-life eels, rays and instruments, this will definitely be a float to remember.