What a difference a year makes. Last January, Alhambra’s Rose Parade float promoted a nostalgic and very local view of the city, with Main Street and the trolleys that once ran down them. This year Alhambra’s float, with Chinese signs and images as well as a depiction of local landmarks including the new arch, aims to highlight innovation and the city's growing international ties with China.
Alhambra’s Rose Parade float will celebrate a one-year old relationship with a “friendship" city that may be news to many residents. Rizhao, a Chinese coastal town in Shandong province, is remarkably similar to Alhambra in terms of size and climate, according to Councilman Stephen Sham, and has many lessons to offer the city. Indeed, las year, the United Nations Habitat program recognized Rizhao as a leading city in well-executed urban planning for improving the economy while emphasizing clean energy and vigorously promoting the use of solar, methane and wind power.
“This is something that represents Alhambra,” Councilman Sham said of the float. “We have a vision for innovation and to celebrate cultural exchange. I hope residents get into the spirit to participate.”
On Wednesday night the nearly finished float was on display at a holiday party for the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce. Chris Lofthouse, the president of Phoenix Decorating Company, explained to visitors how the floats were constructed. Lofthouse knows Alhambra well: he has been designing the city’s float “for a better part of 20 years” he said. This year he is doing 22 floats, including two other cities: LA and Glendale as well as Alhambra.
The costs for the floats, Lofthouse said, range from $70,000 to $350,000, with Alhambra’s in the mid-price range. Mark Paulson, a member of the executive board of the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce who overseas float development, said the city and chamber paid $96,000 for the float. The city of Rizhao provided some additional financing as well.
For cities, Lofthouse said, he believes “it brings the community together” and is good public relations with national exposure for the floats. Paulson said hundreds volunteer through the Chamber of Commerce. This will be Alhambra’s 83 Rose Bowl float, making the city among the top three for longevity of participation. The first float, in 1908, was a horse-drawn carriage. This will also be the second float paying tribute to Alhambra’s relationship with the East, with one titled “East Meets West” in 1993.
China Daily News coverage of press conference introducing float
Sham said the decision to highlight Rizhao was because it fit very well with both this year’s theme for the parade, “Building Dreams, Friendships, and Memories” and was an opportunity to strengthen the new relationship. He said he visited the city in 2008 and 2009 on personal trips and found it to be “nice and very clean.” The mayor and vice mayor from Rizhao then visited Alhambra, and a "certificate of friendship” was signed. (Rizhao is not actually one of Alhambra’s official sister cities. Those include Granada, Spain and Krishima, Japan.) The float was the result of asking the question, “How can we promote both cities and this unique relationship with more tangible efforts?” Sham said.
Speaking on behalf of the City of Rizhao and Shandong TV, Ye Lu told the World Journal the float's goal is to promote the international friendship and to publicize to the world the City of Rizhao.
“I think we’re pretty lucky to have a city that we can share our experiences and learn from one another.”
If you are interested in volunteering with the float, visit the Chamber of Commerce to sign up. All volunteers will receive a T-shirt.