Cal Poly Pomona represented in 2024 Rose Parade

Cal Poly Pomona student Luna Quezada working on the school’s Rose Parade float on Monday. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

By Andrew Alonzo |

At about 10 p.m. Tuesday, students and staff from Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Rose Float committees hitched their labor of love to the back of a semitruck: their 75th Rose Parade float, which will cruise down Pasadena streets come January 1, 2024.

The dual Cal Poly schools’ 2024 Rose Parade float, “Shock and Roll, Powering the Musical Current,” features animatronic undersea life such as eels, a manta ray, and a clam surrounded by guitars and piano keys. The float’s name came about because “you can see electric animals powering electric instruments,” said Matthew Rodarte, president of Cal Poly Pomona’s float team.

Work on the float began shortly after the last Rose Parade in January, with an open call for designs. Hundreds of concepts were submitted and then pared down to five by the schools’ Rose Float leadership. A concept was chosen in February, and designers worked until spring refining the final plan, with input from decorators and construction crews.

“From July onwards, it’s pedal to the metal because it’s a 55-foot-long float, 17-foot-wide, 26-foot-tall, and it’s got to get done before New Year’s Eve,” Rodarte said. Fabrication begins in July. Construction gets underway in September and runs through December.

The Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Rose Float team work to get their Rose Parade float hitched to a semitruck on Tuesday before it was towed to a warehouse in Pasadena, where it will be decorated. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

The float runs on two gas-powered engines: one powers its movement, another its animation elements, such as the manta ray’s flapping fins, the eel’s moving heads, and the clam’s opening and closing shell. It’s constructed primarily out of pencil steel and a lot of foam. With the aid of friction glue, insect screen is then wrapped around the elements’ pencil steel skeletons. Donated bedsheets make up most of interior of the float, with some wrapped around the animals so that the foam can rest and expand. Protruding structures such as the coral are made from Styrofoam.

One new element this year is a concept called floating rings, which help the animals move.

“Those are those neoprene, bungee cord things that you see up on the float,” Rodarte said. “Steel’s not a very bendable material. It doesn’t like to bend and if it is bending something’s going wrong usually. By separating these [steel] rings and attaching them with bungee cords, we’re able to make it so that steel superstructure can bend and bow so that that manta ray up there doesn’t look like a bunch of pieces of manta ray, it looks like a manta ray.”

Bailey Beene, a 25-year-old CPP landscape architecture major and the Cal Poly Rose Float decoration department chair, said she, her leadership team, and about 20 student volunteers have spent the last few weeks preparing hundreds of pounds of flowers and organic material that will be used for the float’s final touches.

Once the float makes its way to the Pasadena design warehouse, “That’s where all of decorations does their work,” Beene said. “We put all of our organic material onto the float during decorations week, which starts on December 26 and goes until January first. That is when we see the float come to life.”

CPP’s Beene and other committee chairs from San Luis Obispo said it’s a huge honor to be part of the annual parade. Twenty two-year-old Quinn Akemon, president for CPSLO Rose Float, added the 75th mark is a big milestone.

“We’re not only looking at one year’s worth of work, but we’re looking at 75 years’ worth of legacy, and that’s just really humbling to be a part of,” Akemon said. “We all feel the weight and the honor of that.

“The people that we’re really trying to impress are the people that came before us, because they know this process. When you have an alum from the program that comes up to you and says, ‘That was a damn good float,’ that means something to us. We hope that we made our community within Rose Float proud.”

Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Rose Float teams guide their 2024 Rose Parade float out of The Don Miller and Ron Simons Rose Float Lab on Tuesday. Courier photo/Andrew Alonzo

Every year the Rose Parade is watched by more than 50 million television viewers, and 700,000 of spectators line the route. Being able to show off what hundreds of CPP and CPSLO students can accomplish in a year is hugely gratifying, Rodarte said. “We’re sharing this with the world. We want everyone to see our float going down the route and to see the love and care that went into making that thing,” he said.

The 2024 Rose Parade, themed “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language,” kicks off at 8 a.m. and will be broadcast live on ABC, KTLA 5, and NBC 4 Los Angeles. For more  information visit


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