Former parks director drove Glendale floats

April 08, 2011|By Katherine Yamada
  • The Glendale 1990 Rose Float, "Winter Wonderland, with three revolving snowflakes, was one of the floats that Nello Iacono drove during the years he was with the city of Glendale's Parks and Recreation Division. (Courtesy of Special Collections Room, Glendale Public Library)
The Glendale 1990 Rose Float, "Winter Wonderland,…

One of the first things Nello Iacono discovered when he was hired by the city of Glendale’s Parks and Recreation Division in 1978 was that the department’s staff was heavily involved in the city’s annual entry in the Tournament of Roses Parade. And that’s why he was in the driver’s seat the year the float clipped a grandstand.

Iacono learned that not only did staffers oversee the decorating, they escorted the float from the builder to the staging area on Orange Grove Boulevard in time for judging, provided overnight security and then drove the float along the parade route.

So for many New Year’s Eves, Iacono and his crew accompanied the float on its journey, protecting it from bystanders along the way.

“Some wanted to take flowers off the float, others rescued flowers if they fell off due to road hazards or vibrations and handed them back to us,” he said.


Iacono’s family often joined him on Orange Grove to see in the new year.

After celebrating, the crew remained on alert until around 3 a.m., when the judges came through on a truck fitted with huge floodlights.

“Sometimes we were still out there adding flowers and glue as the judges neared the float,” he said.

Iacono, who became director of the division in 1988, can only recall one parade when weather really got in the way. That was the year when Glendale honored its sister city, Higashiosaka, Japan, with a float titled “Bridge of Friendship,” according to the Glendale News-Press, Nov. 16, 1981.

“That was New Year’s 1982, when Mayor Jack Day rode on the float,” Iacono said. “It rained all night long and we huddled in the van. Then just before the parade started, the rain lessened and the parade went on.”

Iacono recalled other pre-parade nights when the temperature got down to the 30s. Those were nights when they started a fire in a container to keep warm.

“We were miserable,” he said.

But, no matter what the weather, it was soon time to climb aboard the float and take it down the parade route. Iacono said he did both driving and spotting over the years.

“In most floats, the driver is hidden in the depths of the float and cannot see, so spotters sitting elsewhere communicate with the driver,” he said.

He recalled 1990, the year of “Winter Wonderland” (with three revolving snowflakes), when Bob McFall was the spotter and brakeman and Iacono was steering.

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