Tournament House Hosts South Pas Float Team

Each organization participating in the Tournament of Roses parade by entering a float has its photograph taken at Tournament House in Pasadena each year. The South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee poses with 2019 Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny and the Royal Court (first row). Holding a rendering of the city’s float design is Mike Mera, its creator. Photo by Sally Kilby

The South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee (SPTOR) met at Tournament House on Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena early Saturday morning, Oct. 20. 

The group of almost 20 appeared for the annual Photo Day for Tournament of Roses parade float participants. Each sponsoring organization had its picture taken with Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny and the Royal Court.

SPTOR members build and decorate the float that millions watch on television or see ride down Colorado Boulevard on Jan. 1. They also raise funds to pay for the float’s expenses. The committee sponsors a golf tournament, car show, raffle and a December Crunch Time party.

The volunteers work throughout the year on the float, the parade’s oldest self-built entry. The design for the following year is determined shortly after the Jan. 1 parade, and construction begins in May.

One new committee member was surprised at how soon construction began and how much work was involved.

“We’ve calculated we’ve each put in 600-700 hours this year so far,” said Joss Rogers, who joined the group in May. At this point, the crew works Wednesday and Thursday nights and Saturday until 5 p.m., he said.

Their efforts are paying off.

“The construction crew and the decoration team are working really hard right now,” said SPTOR President Courtney Dunlap. “We are on a great schedule in terms of where we should be at this point in time.” 

SPTOR committee heads are President Dunlap, Decoration Chair Janet Benjamin, Construction Chair Chris Colburn and Design Chair Paul Abbey.

The Kiwanis Club of South Pasadena showed its appreciation for the group this past Saturday after the photo shoot. Its members grilled hamburgers for the crew at the float-building site at the War Memorial Building.

The current team includes a number of people who have worked on the float for decades. In some cases, several generations from one family have participated.

For example, Paul Abbey has been on the committee for almost 20 years and has held various positions, including a stint as president. His two children, Amber and Bob, both worked on the float at one time.

“I began because Amber wanted to work on the float and I had to be with her there,” Abbey said. “Then she retired and I was still there. Fortunately, her younger brother wanted to join.”  

“We’ve all grown up together,” said Chris Duenas-Metcalf. He has been doing floral design for the float since 1970. 

The experience of Courtney Dunlap, the committee’s current president, illustrates this.

“I started as a decorator as a Brownie,” she said, “and decorated all through elementary school, middle school and high school.”

She also helped when she was home from college during the holidays. She later became chair of the volunteers for two years. Her father, Brant Dunlap, is on the construction crew.

Last year, she served as chair of the Crunch Time party fundraiser. This year she’s remained Crunch Time head while also serving as committee president.

“I’ve been with the committee for some 10 years,” she said.

New to the team is Mike Mera of Pasadena. His was the winning concept for the 2019 float. For the “Melody of Life” theme of the parade, he created a design based on the Bob Marley hit song “Three Little Birds.” The float features three colorful birds perched on a guitar. They will be singing “Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

To volunteer to decorate the South Pasadena float, visit Those interested in construction may email Chris Colburn, Construction Chair, at