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Sweet Shenanigans – Cal Poly and the Rose Parade

By Jay Thompson | Video by Matt Yoon

Photo by Tom Zasadzinski, Cal Poly Pomona

Cal Poly universities’ float “Sweet Shenanigans,” featuring a pack of larger-than-life gummy bears enjoying a snow day in a multi-flavored ice cream wonderland, received the Lathrop K. Leishman Trophy for the most beautiful non-commercial entry at the 127th Tournament of Roses Parade held New Year’s Day.

The 18- by 55-foot entry, designed and built by teams of students from Cal Poly and California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, celebrates the 2016 parade theme, “Find Your Adventure.” It demonstrates what Cal Poly students have consistently delivered over the years: A float packed with plenty of animation, technical innovations and youthful whimsy.

“Learn by Doing is on display for all the world to see,” said Cal Poly university President Jeffrey D. Armstrong of the annual yearlong project. “Students from a variety of majors across our entire university use creativity, ingenuity and more than a little perspiration to produce a marriage of art and engineering covered in beautiful flowers.

“The entries over the years have been fan favorites, but they also serve to unite our entire Cal Poly family — alums, family and fans — who take pride in watching the float in action in beautiful Pasadena.”

The award-winner has six animated elements and eight gummy bears, from 5- to 8-feet tall, decorated in red, yellow and orange mums.

The centerpiece is a pair of bears riding a s’more sled down a large scoop of strawberry ice cream, passing two gummies having a snowball fight. Below a pair of ice cream cone mountains and a lollipop forest, a gummy bear pirouettes on ice skates while another ice fishes for a frozen treat. Nearby, another bear eats one of the letters spelling out Cal Poly’s name. Capping off the sugary scene, a small gummy bear waves to the crowd from a gummy-ring candy swing that is suspended from a waffle cone peak.

Awards were announced at 6 a.m. Friday, just hours before the start of the two-hour, 5-1/2-mile New Year’s Day tradition. This is the second consecutive year the universities’ entry has won the Leishman Trophy, named in honor of the former president and grand marshal of the Tournament of Roses.

“We’re thrilled and overjoyed,” said Josh D’Acquisto, Cal Poly’s Rose Parade float advisor. “A year’s worth of hard work has paid off. We’ve got some super-excited students.”

In addition, the schools were honored Thursday for their commitment to California’s flower farmers. It’s the fifth consecutive year the float has earned the “California Grown” designation from the California Cut Flower Commission, which recognizes an entry decorated with at least 85 percent of cut flowers and plant materials from the Golden State.

“It is important to us to be California Grown, because we are a California float at heart,” said Morgan Montalvo, Cal Poly Rose Float construction chair. “Cal Poly Universities, especially in this parade, help to represent the state. We also heavily rely on donations for our float, and our relations with the flower commission help ensure we have enough flowers for the float.”

The float is decorated in hundreds of thousands of flowers — roses, Gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums — as well as thousands of seeds, spices, fruits, vegetables, tree bark, seaweed and crushed nutshells.

Since 1949, students from Cal Poly and Cal Poly Pomona have come together across 240 miles to produce the only student-built float — and one of only a handful of self-built entries — for Pasadena’s signature event. The Tournament of Roses parade is watched in person by 700,000 people and on television by an international audience estimated at more than 100 million.

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