Whose Dreams, and Whose (Lack of) Imagination?

The town of La Cañada Flintridge, California, outside Los Angeles, recently presented the design for its float in next January's Tournament of Roses Parade.

The theme of the parade for 2003 is "Children's Dreams, Wishes, and Imagination." La Cañada Flintridge has chosen "Backyard Heroes" as their float's concept; it will focus on firefighters.

According to a July 12 article in the News-Press, a local newspaper published as an insert to the Los Angeles Times:

"The float will feature the figures of two boys and one girl. The boys will be dressed in oversized firefighter turnouts and playing on a fire engine... one of the boys (will) spray the girl with a hose. The girl, sitting on the front apron of the float having a tea party with her teddy bears, will deftly raise an umbrella to protect herself from the spray."

The explanation for this design was given by Jack Wheeler, president of the local Tournament of Roses Committee. He told the News-Press reporter, Marshall Allen:

"A lot of boys dream of being firemen, and it's a lot of girls' dreams to have children and have outings with them."

[An artist's rendering of the design is posted on the LCFTORA's website.]

In a letter to WFS, Mr. Wheeler pointed out that the newspaper article neglected to mention that the little girl will also be wearing a fire chief's helmet. He also said he was misquoted and did not make the statement about boys dreaming of being "firemen" and girls dreaming of having children. The News-Press, in response, said they stand by the accuracy of their reporting.

The article also said local firefighters were supporting the idea and will walk alongside the float in the parade. (The town is protected by two stations of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, #19 and #82.) However, in a follow-up article on July 31, a representative of the LA County FD said the float appeared discriminatory. "If they're going to use our department representing the fire service, they need to make the representation proper," Captain Brian Jordan was quoted as saying. He pointed out that not only were the "firefighters" on the float male, but all three children were white.

In response to the criticisms, Mr. Wheeler said, "They (WFS) have no point. They've taken this thing and built it up into a big mess."

The La Cañada Flintridge float is one of only six floats in the parade that are built by the communities themselves (as opposed to being contracted out to professonal builders). There is a great deal of community pride, community participation, and community fundraising for the project.

Contact information:

The website of the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association's board (which provides direct e-mail links to 15 of its 17 members) is www.lcftra.org

The mailing address for the association is:

   La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association
   P.O. Box 253
   La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91012

Read the correspondence between WFS and the president of the LCFTORA.

This information was updated 7/31/02.

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