Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and its sister university in Pomona added another award to their long list of Tournament of Roses Parade honors New Year’s Day by soaring away from Pasadena with the Animation Award.
The Cal Poly entry “Stargrazers” was an updated, high-tech take on the old Mother Goose nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle,” with the cow jumping over the moon boosted by a jet pack fabricated and tested by other cows and assisted by the dog and the cat.
Students designed the float to exemplify the 2022 parade theme “Dream. Believe. Achieve.” that was intended to spotlight the ability of education to open doors, open minds and change lives.
It was also a nod to Cal Poly’s “Learn by Doing” philosophy, with students getting hands-on experience in welding, metal shaping, machining, foam carving, woodworking, painting and flower harvesting.
“Students from all six of our colleges come together to brainstorm ideas, then tackle engineering challenges to make the float come to life, all topped by an artist’s palette of colorful blooms,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, who was in Pasadena to watch the parade.
The float also included a last-minute addition to the original design — a football resting on the turf that paid tribute to renowned football coach John Madden, who died Dec. 28.
Madden was an offensive and defensive lineman for two years at Cal Poly SLO and later coached the football team at Hancock College in Santa Maria before going on to lead the then-Oakland Raiders to their first NFL Super Bowl title.
The football bearing his name also said “Ride High,” a reference to Cal Poly's official fight song, “Ride High You Mustangs.”
The float marked several firsts for the two universities, said Regina Chapuis, a senior computer engineering major, president of the Cal Poly SLO float team and a resident of Pismo Beach.
It was the first time a float was built over a two-year span, which was the result of the COVID-19 pandemic canceling last year’s parade, and the first time a float was started by one set of teams and handed off to a second set of teams for completion, Chapuis said.
She also said it was the first time since the award names were changed in 1984 that the universities have won the Animation Award, which recognizes the most outstanding use of animation.
“That’s all the moving parts on our float and also how that meshes with all the other parts,” she said. “How it meshes with the deco, how the concealments from design work with those animations to make them look smooth and fluid and put on a show for the parade.”
She added, “That’s really awesome to see that a bunch of us college students can go and make an animation performance that is on par and in this case better than a lot of the professional floats.”
The flying cow, which rose to 23 feet, rocked back and forth as it soared over the moon, while the cow at the front of the float moved its arm up and down as it welded together a jetpack.
A third cow pressed a button to test fly a jetpack that rotated and traveled up and down. Dried flower petals whirled around inside the jet pack’s clear tubes — another parade first — and carbon dioxide was blasted from each one to simulate the jet exhaust.
While the cat monitored the testing and launch at a computer, the dog rocked back and forth on its back, consumed by laughter as it observed the launch through a telescope.
Since the two Cal Polys, separated by 240 miles, came together in 1948 to build their first float for the 1949 parade, in which it won an Award of Merit, the universities have captured 61 awards and introduced a number of innovations.
Those have included computer-controlled animation, the use of hydraulic systems and floats producing cleaner emissions by burning propane, which was later incorporated by professional float builders.
Decorated with nearly 20,000 colorful blooms and plant material from across the nation, the 18-by-55-foot float was one of just six self-built entries in the parade that fielded 41 other floats, including those for the royal court and for each of the two Rose Bowl teams, 20 marching bands and 18 equestrian units.
Actor LeVar Burton was grand marshal for the parade that was viewed by an estimated 700,000 people along the 5½-mile route, with 37 million Americans and another 28 million in other countries watching on TV, Rose Parade officials said.