Rose-Colored View

by Christopher Martin ’98

Every January 1, millions around the world celebrate the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, a century-old tradition featuring the showmanship of marching bands and trotting equestrians. But the most celebrated aspect of the annual parade remains the pageantry of elaborate and festive floral floats.

For Larry '71 and Beverly (Hostetler '71) Crain, the Rose Parade floats are not just something to enjoy one day each year. As the owners of Charisma Floats/Design and the builders of many award-winning parade floats, the Crains work year-round to prepare the perfect float for each of Charisma's clients, a process that eventually involves as many as 40 decorators and 2,500 volunteers in addition to as many as 50,000 roses per float.

"We begin the process for the Rose Parade floats two weeks after the previous parade," said Larry. "In February, we take our sketches and ideas to the organizers for approval, and from there, things really get busy."

After receiving concept approval, the Charisma team lines up clients to sponsor the floats and construction commences, which can take up to six months. Meanwhile, Beverly, a classical, opera, and private voice instructor at APU, arranges the musical scores that resound from each float throughout the parade. All this leads up to Decoration Week, six days beginning December 26, in which teams of 40-80 people per float work in eight-hour shifts to cover every visible inch of their float in roses.

"Often our clients like the Rotary Club and the city of West Covina provide their own volunteers, which is great because it really gives them a sense of ownership in the process and product," Larry said. "I also call on groups such as the Girl Scouts, church choirs, or school bands that can use this as a fundraiser."

The Crains' first experience decorating floats came through a fundraiser for a choir they sponsored at Bethany Baptist Church in West Covina 21 years ago.

"I fell in love with the business right away and wanted to find a way to keep decorating floats," Larry said. This love led to freelance float production while continuing his career in medical sales. In 1991, the Crains purchased Azusa-based Charisma Floats/Design. Their enthusiasm for the business is evidenced by the numerous awards they win for their work, including Most Outstanding City Entry for West Covina and the Most Beautiful 35 feet or under for Rotary International in the 2004 Rose Parade.

But perhaps the greatest reward Charisma received arrived 13 years ago when the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts, and Sciences selected them to provide all floral production and decoration for the Academy Awards and Oscar Week, a production that involves 65 staff and 70,000 stems. The Crains are now in their 11th year under contract with this prestigious event.

"Working on the Academy Awards is always a great challenge," said Larry. "We are the only floral producer for the show, and we handle the red carpet entrances, all press, VIP, and dressing room areas."

Though Oscar night involves hours of sweating every detail of the arrangement, the Crains say the excitement they feel when everything is successful makes all the hard work worth the effort. "Working on the Academy Awards almost feels like being part of a Broadway show, where you prepare and rehearse until you finally have the big opening on stage for everyone to see," said Larry.