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Isabella Coleman

Rose Parade® Float Designer and Innovator

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In the 1890s, the Rose Parade was about community participation rather than commercial competition. Families often tied flowers to horse-drawn carriages, and the flowers were whatever people could pick in their gardens. Float builder Isabella Coleman (1892–1982) helped establish the floral extravagance of the Tournament of Roses Parade®, and turned the event into a tsunami of blossoms. 

 

She began designing floats at the age of 14, and she went on to create 250 award winning floats over a fifty-year career.

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Coleman’s ideal float was self-propelled, low to the ground, and covered with fresh flowers. She excelled in designing steel undercarriages welded to truck frames, with hidden cockpits for drivers. Small diameter airplane wheels made the float appear to hover just above the street. She was the first floral designer to glue flower petals onto her floats, and she was also the first to put flowers into small glass vials of water to keep them fresh.

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Coleman was a pioneer with her innovations and she also paved the way

for women to be involved in planning the parade and in building the floats. Later she became the first female member of the Tournament of Roses Association.

 

She retired in 1969 and five years later the Association added the Isabella Coleman Trophy for best presentation of color and color harmony in flowers.

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