Decorating the South Pasadena Rose Parade float

In keeping with the “Melody of Life” theme for the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade the city of South Pasadena is entering a float called “Three Little Birds”. Volunteers were busy decorating it in a huge tent on Friday and will continue over the weekend.


If you are interested in seeing the progress of the South Pasadena float as it is decorated you can park on Fair Oaks just north of the 110 freeway exit. There is a large sign on Fair Oaks showing the location.

A follow-up after the Rose Parade. The South Pasadena float was behind the big one that broke down and sadly, the “Three Little Birds” float did not show up on the TV broadcasts of the parade.

decorating the South Pasadena Rose Parade float
This float is being decorated from the top down. Two women add red roses to the guitar body while a man indicates color blocks on the lower part of the float. In the initial drawing for the float the body of the guitar is shown as brown but these roses are definitely very red.
Thousands of red roses are already attached to the “drum” that will be on the float. The musical notes are covered with seeds. By the time the float is ready to roll out of the tent and uphill to the parade route in Pasadena, every visible inch of the float will be covered with natural materials.
It looks as if they are using brown-dyed pampas grass to decorate this red bird. Every inch of it will be covered with natural materials before it goes on the float and joins the parade.
This year there seem to be more tropical flowers being used on the South Pasadena Rose Parade float than in previous years.
tropical flowers for South Pasadena float 2019
Buckets of flowers in vibrant tropical colors were lined up outside the tent waiting for volunteers to add them to the float.
But it isn’t all flowers. These cauliflowers were being prepared to go onto the float.
Two people preparing the yellow cauliflower while other people unload the truck filled with other additions for the South Pasadena float.
Women attaching kitty litter to a panel that will be the sign on the front of the Three Little Birds float.
Once a year this huge tent rises in a park along Fair Oaks Avenue in South Pasadena. Almost all the other floats are built and decorated way out in the barns in Irwindale and I am not sure they encourage visitors out there. On the other hand it is easy to park on Fair Oaks, just north of the 110 freeway exit and stroll over to see this float. There used to be a couple of float barns actually in Pasadena, but they have been closed.

Mission Inn Festival of Lights is wild for animatrontic elves and real parrots

“Too much is just about right” at the amazing, annual Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn in Riverside, about an hour or so east of L.A.

Mission Inn entrance with nutcrackers Festival of Lights
Welcome to the Mission Inn! You can take a family photo or just sit for a while on one of the benches.

The hotel itself is beautiful, but the addition of dozens of animated characters around the building and an enormous fireworks display really pushes the Festival of Lights over the top.

Nutcrackers in Antique Mall across from Mission Inn
Across the street from the Mission Inn is an antique Mall filled with Christmas ornaments like these nutcrackers. Why pay retail?

Not wanting to drive out there after dark to see the fireworks, I went the day after the Festival began and discovered that the city of Riverside is a very charming place, filled with Victorian cottages, parks, interesting architecture, a museum, and even a statue of Mahatma Gandi in the downtown shopping plaza.

Don’t want to drive?  You can reach Riverside on a Metro Link train (not the local neighborhood Metro Rail) from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. It takes a couple of hours on the train.

Animatronic singers on Mission Inn 2018
Animatronic carolers on the front of the historic Mission Inn in Riverside.

Mistletoe at Mission Inn entrance 2018 Festival of Lights
A huge branch of mistletoe is right inside the archway at the entry. There was a lot of kissing going on when I was there. This archway was modeled after the front of the historic San Gabriel Mission near downtown Los Angeles.



Animatronic singers on balconies Mission Inn
Animatronic characters are positioned on the balconies  all around the Mission Inn rooms. I wonder what the reaction is of guests when they look out the window to see “someone” on their balcony.

Christmas display Mission Inn Riverside 2018
Of course I want  cannons with my elves, a robot, and a snowman! I wonder what this area looks like when Christmas is over and the cannons remain.

Animatronic elf Mission Inn Festival of Lights
Elves were tucked into spaces along the walkway.

Elves along walkway Festival of Lights Riverside CA
Everywhere there is a little space at the Mission Inn there are elves. I suspect these may be animated, too, but they were just cute elves when I visited.

Parrots in a cage at Mission Inn Riverside CA
Two live parrots in a cage just outside the doors to the Mission Inn. There is also parrot artwork here and there throughout the building. Someone likes parrots!





Elegant entry hallway Mission Inn 2018
Marble and crystal show the way to the lobby from the Mission Inn entrance .  

Wall of Republican Presidents Mission Inn Riverside CA
One wall along the entry is dedicated to portraits of U.S. Presidents. A selected group of U.S. Presidents. George W Bush made the wall, but Obama and Trump did not. Richard Nixon is on a totally separate wall–all by himself.  I checked online and perhaps the portraits are of the Presidents who visited the Inn.

Restaurant in atrium Mission Inn
Looking out to the central courtyard from the hotel lobby. Decorations were everywhere!

Holiday decorations on a dry fountain Mission Inn
This fountain has been turned off and decorated for Christmas. More animatronic figures were stationed on the upper walkways around this central courtyard. 

Mission Inn Riverside CA
The Spanish Mission Revival architecture of the Mission Inn is somewhat obscured by all the trees in front of the hotel.  Duane and Kelly Roberts rescued this historic building from demolition in 1992 and restored it.  “Thank you” to them!





Queen Sassy Classy as Lady Godiva and other strange stuff at the Doo Dah Parade

What a surprise!  The photos of the 2018 Doo Dah Parade I thought had vanished turned up last night, so here are more pix of this crazy fun event in Pasadena. To see more pre-parade photos go here.

Doo Dah parade Queen Sassy Classy Jennipha Nielsen
Rather than traveling in a float, this year Queen Sassy Classy, Jennipha Neilsen, rode the parade route wearing her Lady Godiva outfit  while on a white horse with a peacock blanket 

As you will see, it gets weirder and weirder as the parade goes on.

Santa Claus at Doo Dah parade 2018
Of course there was a Santa Claus! After all this is a family event. I have wondered what the children watching this parade will remember when they become adults.  I guess the whole world is stranger these days than when I was a child. Santa continues century after century.

Fuzzy critters at the Doo Dah parade 2018
These fuzzy critters are  almost creepier than clowns IMO.

Devils giving beads Doo Dah 2018
These guys have been in previous parades. One of them was handing out beads, a la Mardi Gras.


Howdy Krishna Doo Dah 201
I wonder if this man was one of those Hare Krishna people who chanted on street corners back in the 1970s. He looks to be about the right age to be a former Hare Krishna-ite. No tambourine though.

Belly dancer 2018 Doo Dah parade
The man sitting next to me gave this belly dancer some of the fake money that is handed out during the parade He tucked it into her waistband.

Derby Dolls Doo Dah parade 2018
Oh those Roller Derby girls!

Mystery float Doo Dah parade 2018
Colorful and fun looking? Yes! But what does an open book on the front of this float, puppets, a man in a red sparkly cape, plus Mexican paper art banners have to do with each other. No doubt they have an explanation, but I didn’t even ask.

Getting wierder Doo Dah 2018
One very bizarre creature plus a medical team plus others strange characters marched in the 2018 Doo Dah Parade.  Notice the lady in the Marie Antoinette (?) outfit who follows and is followed in turn by the roller derby team, the Derby Dolls.

Boatmobile Doo Dah 2018 #LA City Pix
Instead of a batmobile (which you can see here on the Warner Bros. movie lot) there was a boatmobile in the 2018 Doo Dah parade. Look closely and you can see the tortilla this little girl threw at the float.  It is that whitish ellipse above the driver’s head.  Throwing tortillas at floats and marchers–and them throwing the tortillas back–is an old tradition at Doo Dah.

Coffin car and trailer Doo Dah parade
A coffin car pulling a coffin trailer. Not sure what this was all about.

Radioactive Chickenheads a real band 2018
This is a real band. I know because a friend of mine plays with them from time to time.  For all I know he might have been on this truck/float.

Trump Pence must go Doo Dah parade 2018
Political groups were scattered among the more fun parade marchers. Among them were the Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters, the Save Tibet people and others. Seriousness among the silliness.

Creative chaos at the Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena

Launched 41 years ago as a send-up of the oh-so-serious Tournament of Roses parade, the #PasadenaDooDah parade has been wacky and chaotic from the start. The Briefcase Marching Band is probably the most famous entrant in those early Doo Dah days.

Warm up act Doo Dah parade
Before the parade started this guy walked along the 2 block long parade route and did a warm-up of the crowd.

What struck me most as I watched in 2018 was the individual creativity — unlike the cosplay stuff that goes on at ComicCon and other similar events that Millennials adore, but are not very creative.  Cosplay is just copying.

Okay.  Enough of this rant.  Now on to the Doo Dah parade for 2018. Oh, something happened when I was downloading my photos and I lost about 2/3rds of my photos including a couple of the Doo Dah Queen who, in the spirit of Lady Godiva, rode a white horse in the parade.  Her skin-color body suit was decorated with strategically placed purple embellishments, so no shocking nudity. Other wore less revealing costumes.

Nutcracker and Sugar Plum fairies Doo Dah
Jr. Nutcrackers and “Sugar Plum Fairies”. Funny!

Leading the parade was this bagpipe group, here rehearsing “Camptown Races”, the music they played at the beginning of the parade. Why Camptown Racer? Because the name “Doo Dah” is in the lyrics!

Behind the scenes Doo Dah parade
Why wear clothes when you can wear plastic tubes in neon colors? The lady on the right apparently belonged to one of the marching bands. The Christmas ornament on her hat is a nice touch as is the Santa on top of the hat to the left.

Burning Man Doo Dah 2018
While I ranted about cosplay, I have to tip my hat to Burning Man, a very creative festival. Can’t make it the desert festival? Well come to the Doo Dah parade!

Couple in yellow Doo Dah 2018
Loved these yellow outfits of this couple marching in the parade. You don’t need a sponsor to be in the parade.  But it’s a good idea to have a costume of some kind.

Giant figure Doo Dah parade 2018
I haven’t a clue as to what this giant figure represented. Pretty impressive however.

Dressed for fun Doo Dah parade 2018
All dressed up and waiting for the parade to begin.

Here, in no particular order, are a lot of other photos of the 2018 parade.

Cry Baby Buick Doo Dah Parade 2018
Some might call this politically incorrect. Others call it an art car. It’s called “Cry Baby Buick”.

barbie doll art car doo dah parade
A close-up of the Cry Baby Buick art car. Damaged Barbies are the preferred decorative element.

Mobile Music Fest band 1 Doo Dah
Let’s hear it for rock ‘n’ roll bands and a lead singer with bleached blonde hair! During the parade 3 different bands performed on the stage as the “float” rolled round and round the 2 block long parade route.  So if you can’t make it to Coachella, here is an alternative!

Mobile music fest band 2 Doo Dah
One of the bands performing at the Mobile Music Festival. I think this “float” was sponsored by a local bar. Instead of bleached blonde hair one guy  in this band wore a red wig.

Band followers Doo Dah parade
If you have rock music bands, then you have to have groupies and followers. These carry signs of the times.

Doo Dah Mix up
As the parade draws to an end after two or three times around the 2 block long parade route, marchers drift from one group to another. All order, such as it is, disappears. Those white circle things on the street are tortillas. The custom is to throw tortillas at the parade participants and some participants throw them back at the crowd. No one seemed to throw marshmallows this year.  They are more difficult to clean up than tortillas.


Food for the dead on the altars in Grand Park Los Angeles 2018

Food for Grandmothers Dia de los Muertos 2018
I love the photos of the two grandmothers, the two abuelas, surrounded by peanuts, a bowl of mangos and flowers.  Both the roses and the fruits appear artificial or waxed.

In the ancient Mayan/Mexican tradition, favorite foods and flowers are left for the dead on their graves in the cemetery.  In Los Angeles today, foods are left on the altars memorializing the dead.

To see other photos of the Dia de los Muertos event in Grand Park go here.

Here is some of what I saw on altars in Grand Park for Dia de los Muertos.

Foods on the Yemeni altar Grand Park 2018
On the Yemeni altar were foods from the Middle East, including flat pita bread, baklava, hummus and yogurt.

chilis on Dia de los Muertos altar Los Angeles
Chilis for the dead.  I think those white objects are tea candles.

Bread and tamale wrappers for the dead 2018
Bread and tamale wrappers in front of this altar. Tamales are more closely associated with Christmas Eve in Los Angeles.

Peanuts, salt and corn husks on Dia de los Muertos altar Grand Park
Corn husks and peanuts were on many more altars than I can remember from previous years. The salt on this altar is considered to be a purifying agent.

black beans from South Central Farm Day of the DEad altar
From a community garden in South Central Los Angeles comes this altar with a “carpet” of black beans in front of it. The two figures made of white beans represent the snake deity Quetzalcoatl who bridges between the dead and the living. The pumpkins are definitely Halloween!

Day of the Dead food on an altar
Bottled water, corn, the ubiquitous peanuts and sugar skulls appear on this altar. Persimmons and pears, too.



Dia de los Muertos altars as political protests, including Yemen!

Children imprisoned at the border altar Grand Park 2018
As I write this children who have been ripped from their parents are still being held at our border with Mexico. This altar is to remind us of them and the little children who died in the desert crossing at the border. 

The dead cannot march on the capital in D.C. or on City Hall in Los Angeles, but their voices, calling for justice, can be heard in these altars in Grand Park for the Day of the Dead.

For other photos of the Dia de los Muertos altars go here.

Coffin altar, homeless altar Day of the Dead 2018
Side by side were two altars: one for the 831 homeless people who have died  on the street in Los Angeles in the past year and another, a coffin, for teenagers who died too early.

Yemeni altar Day of the Dead Los Angeles 2018
The Day of the Dead goes beyond borders with this Yemeni altar. This is the first I have seen for people of Muslim faith. Los Angeles is the most multi-cultural city in the U. S. and in keeping with the Mexican/Mayan tradition, there are flowers and favorite foods–marigolds, hummus, and baklava–on this altar.

Day of the Dead Yemeni altar Grand Park LA
Favorite clothing, favorite foods of the Yemenis who have died in a horrible war.  You can see photos of the foods in my next post.

Cesar Rodriguez altar Grand Park 2018
The statement beneath this altar explains who Cesar Rodriguez was and how he died.


Dia de los Muertos altars in Grand Park Los Angeles 2018

Children playing in water in Grand Park Day of the Dead 2018
Lives beginning and lives ended. Children play in the water fountain while a few feet away are floating altars in memory of the dead. The children are oblivious! Fun in the sun on a hot Sunday  in October is all they care about. The yellow floating altar that reads “Natalie” actually includes a photo of Natalie Wood.

Real marigolds and paper ones decorated the altars.

There seemed to be fewer Day of the Dead altars this year in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles. While they varied from massive works of art by professional artists to intimate memorial altars created by a family member, they all had one thing in common: masses of orange and yellow marigolds.  Marigolds became part of this tradition because their vibrant colors were considered to be a signal–a signpost–to the dead of where to return to visit family members at the cemetery on November 1st, All Saints Day. This ancient festival in Mayan culture pre-dates the arrival of Europeans in Mexico. The timing of November 1st was a compromise between the old ways and the “new”.

I am breaking up the photos I took into three parts.  This is part one.  Tomorrow I will do the Political Day of the Dead altars including one very very surprising altar.  And in the Third Part I’ll show you close-ups of what is actually included on the altars.

Meanwhile you can see photos of Dia de los Muertos at historic Olvera Street on this site.

The altars will remain in Grand Park until November 4th.  Go see them!  There are many more than I am showing here.

Dia de los Muertos altar for abuelita
This altar in memory of a grandmother, an abuelita, is very traditional family altar.

What Abuelita loved
These are some of the things that abuelita loved: knitting, black beans in a brown pot, her family, maybe the Mexican lottery?  There is a horse pinata on the left as well as a banana and orange and even a mango on the right side of this altar.  The yellow paper heart reads Rest in Peace in Spanish. Overall this is a very personal altar.

Dia de los Muertos altar by Self Help Graphics
This grand altar was created by artists who are affiliated with Self-Help Gallery. Self-Help is a gallery and serigraph studio founded decades ago by the late Sister Karen to offer a venue for the works of local Latino/Mexican-American/Chicano artists who were excluded from the art world in Los Angeles.

Dia de los Muertos snake Grand Park 2018
The two headed serpent is a powerful deity in Mayan culture and a creature that bridges death and life. This representation by Heriberto Luna is part of the Self-Help Gallery altar.

Painted skull by Eric Scuds
Eric Scuds, an artist affiliated with Self-Help Gallery, painted this skull as part of the massive art installation in the plaza at the top of Grand Park. Surrounding the skull are  the corn husks used in tamales.

Day of the Dead altar for motorcyclists
In the past there have been altars in memory of people killed in auto accidents, but this year the only one I noticed was one for motorcyclists.

Miniature motorcyclists on Dia de los Muertos altar
Miniature motorcycles were added to this altar memorializing the death of 2 cyclists. Notice that the RIP stands for Ride in Peace.  (There will be more details from the altars in Part 3 of this series.)


Saintly bride Dia de los Muertos Grand Park 2018
Obviously the work of a professional artist, this “altar” struck me at first as a bride. Then I noticed the “halo” around her head. So maybe a saint? Now I am not sure what or who this represents.  The Los Angeles City Hall is behind this figure.

Altar for baby Grand Park 2018
An altar for a baby.  Those yellow pieces of paper are notes written by visitors in memory of  their own dead children.

Face-painted girl family altar Los Angeles 2018
During October it is not at all unusual to see people, especially young girls, walking around the city with their faces half painted with skulls and with flowers in their hair. Sadly, this young girl is now a memory, but a beautiful one.  I will show a close-up of the ceramic figure at the top in Part 3 of this series.