State float featured in Rose Bowl parade

Posted: Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Iditarod is coming to Southern California.

Anchorage Convention And Visitors Bureau
Anchorage Convention And Visitors Bureau

Never mind that snow there is a rarity and that the forecast for today's Rose Parade calls for a balmy high of 69 degrees. For these sled dogs, wilting is probably the biggest worry.

Made of flowers and other vegetation over metalwork, the sled dogs are part of a float commissioned by the Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau to represent Alaska for the first time in the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. The parade is one of the events tied to college football's Rose Bowl.

The float, which is officially named "Celebrating Alaska - Spirit of the Wild," is 55 feet long and 18 feet high. It features a grizzly bear and moose with animatronic heads, salmon, king crab, puffins, a whale, an Alaska Railroad engine and Native Alaskan masks. Ten Native Alaskan drummers and dancers will perform alongside the float.

Construction on the float began in October in California and cost $215,000. It's a lot of money, but well worth the publicity for Alaska if you ask Julie Saupe, president of the visitors bureau.

"It is a large chunk of money, but we're reaching a worldwide audience of 40 million viewers," she said. Two of the big three television networks plus many other media will cover the parade.

In contrast, 30 seconds of advertising time during the Super Bowl this year, which nearly 100 million people are expected to watch, will cost $3 million, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Wednesday afternoon, Saupe said she already had interviews with National Public Radio and a Chinese newspaper. Mushing magazines have also been interested because Libby Riddles, the Iditarod's first female winner, will be riding on the float behind the artificial sled dogs, Saupe said.

Having a float in the parade is a fairly exclusive privilege. Officials limit the parade to less than 50 floats and select applicants by invitation only. Saupe said the bureau has been applying to be in the parade for several years, but thinks the float's ties to the state's 50th anniversary celebration is what finally won over parade officials this time.

Saupe said once an organization is invited, they can keep the spot indefinitely as long as they participate every year, though the bureau does not have definite plans to be back in 2010.

"I think this is just a one-shot deal, but we'll see. We'll see what kind of response we get and consider it," Saupe said.

After the parade, the float is likely to be disassembled and the float frame reused, though the Alaska State Fair has asked to have it. Saupe said the fair would be a great use of the float, though shipping it to Palmer may be cost prohibitive.

The float's sponsors include the Alaska Railroad Corp., Anchorage Statehood Celebration Committee, Alaska Travel Industry Association and the Alaska Statehood Celebration Commission.

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