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Rose Parade float designer Raul R. Rodriguez focus of Smithsonian video

PASADENA – Raul R. Rodriguez’s famed career as an award-winning float designer for the Tournament of Roses Parade, where he was often seen with this blue hyacinth macaw, Sebastian, was as colorful as his extravagant works.

FLOAT DESIGN MASTER
Rodriguez, who graduated from Cal State Long Beach in 1969 as an illustration major, designed 528 Rose Parade floats during his 38-year career and won the Sweepstakes Trophy, the parade’s highest honor for most beautiful entry with outstanding floral presentation and design, 31 times – more than any other designer.

Rodriguez, 71, who died in Pasadena in 2015, and his work are the topic of “Mr. Rose Parade,” a six-minute tribute video that was made earlier this year and sent to the Smithsonian Institution’s American History Collection. The Smithsonian Institution also may acquire some of Rodriguez’s work, but no agreements have been finalized yet, said Robert Cash, Rodriguez’s husband.

“His design work was very sculptural. It told stories,” Cash said in the video. “He could take an idea and pull it in any direction. It could be whimsical. It could be elegant or historic.”

“Raul made a tremendous impact on the Rose Parade,” Jim Hynd, who collaborated with Rodriguez for 20 years said in the video.

VIDEO TRIBUTE
Rod Velasquez, who graduated from CSULB’s film and electronic arts department in 2015, and Zachary Stewart, a senior in the program, were commissioned by a Glendale marketing company to make the video, which was part of a tribute display at this year’s pre-Rose Parade exhibit.

“Raul Rodriguez had such an incredible influence on float design,” Velasquez said in a statement. “Learning about Raul and his robust accomplishments gave me a newfound appreciation for the creative artwork that goes into the Rose Parade.”

OTHER DESIGN WORK
Rodriguez, who began his career at the age of 15 when he created his first Rose Parade float, studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena before attending CSULB.

Among his many works, he was designer for the opening stage set of the World’s Fair in New Orleans, art director for Philadelphia’s “We the People 200” United States’ Bicentennial Parade and consultant to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Rodriguez’s creations have decorated several Las Vegas hotels: the Flamingo Hilton, Tropicana, Caesars Palace and Circus Circus.

Rodriguez also created Six Flags’ “Glow in the Park,” a nighttime electric parade, and was an illustrator of children’s books.

Rodriguez was honored as distinguished alumnus for CSULB’s College of the Arts in 1993.

PASADENA - Raul R. Rodriguez’s famed career as an award-winning float designer for the Tournament of Roses Parade, where he was often seen with this blue hyacinth macaw, Sebastian, was as colorful as his extravagant works. In this 2013 photo, Rodriguez sits on the float entry from the Dole Food Company. Photo: Tournament of Roses Parade.

PASADENA – Raul R. Rodriguez’s famed career as an award-winning float designer for the Tournament of Roses Parade, where he was often seen with this blue hyacinth macaw, Sebastian, was as colorful as his extravagant works. In this 2013 photo, Rodriguez sits on the float entry from the Dole Food Company. Photo: Tournament of Roses Parade.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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