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The Cal Poly SLO and Cal Poly Pomona Rose Float teams are starting 2019 in an extraordinary fashion.

At the 2019 Rose Parade held New Year's Day, the group received the Extraordinaire Award — which recognizes the most extraordinary float entered in the annual contest — for their entry "Far Out Frequencies." Tuesday's win is the first time the program has received the Extraordinaire Award in its 71 years of participation.

"We’re really excited about it," said Sara Novell, a mechanical engineering senior who’s president of Cal Poly SLO Rose Float. "We did build an extraordinary float from an extraordinary team of students from both campuses. It was just a culmination of all of our collaborations, teamwork and honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything less from this team."

Adorned by thousands of roses, Gerbera daisies and irises, as well as a handful of red cabbages, white cushion and button mums, the 49-by-15-foot contraption was among the 44 floats that made the 5.5-mile journey through Pasadena. The float tells the story of astronauts Morgan and Sally, who use music to communicate their message of goodwill with a handful of animated extraterrestrials, and celebrates the parade theme, “The Melody of Life.” 

The concept was selected from more than 150 ideas submitted last spring by students, local communities, alumni and friends of the Cal Poly Rose Float program.

"People are walking by our float and saying, 'Oh my God, it’s a beautiful float,'" Novell added. "The judges even complimented our float during the judging — and that’s not very common. It’s amazing. We’re so happy about it."

Cal Poly SLO President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, who was in Pasadena to watch the parade, said the float is an example of the university's "learn by doing" mantra. In addition to being one of five self-built entries to win an award, the float is the only student-built entry in the competition.

“Our extended Mustang family of alumni, family and float fans gush with Cal Poly pride over the hard work that transformed a drawing into a larger-than-life colorful spectacle," Armstrong said.

The schools were also honored by the California Cut Flower Commission, earning the "California Grown" designation for the eighth consecutive year. Roughly 90 percent of the cut flowers and plants placed on the float were grown in California.

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Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga