South Florida came to Southern California on New Year’s Day. The best of Broward County was on display in the 135th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA.
The float is the organization’s first entry into the iconic procession. The ride featured manatees, gators, the Guitar Hotel, the city’s “wave wall” that runs along Fort Lauderdale Beach, and more. All elements celebrated the diversity of Greater Fort Lauderdale and reinforced their slogan, Everyone Under the Sun.
It cost about $800,000 and took 80,000 man hours to assemble. While the main flower on display is the titular rose (40,000 of them!), every inch of the float was covered in organic material including other flowers, seeds, bark, and more.
Riding on the float was Stuart Milk, the nephew of LGBTQ martyr Harvey Milk, who was assassinated after becoming one of the first openly gay elected official in the country. He was joined by Miss Florida Seminole, Thomlynn Billie.
Most floats are a year-long project. Stacy Ritter is the CEO of Visit Lauderdale, Broward County’s tourism arm, says their time was much shorter.
“When you consider most of the entities spend a year and we did this in 90 days it makes even more extraordinary.”
The decision was made in October, not a lot of time to pull it together. But the final product has been very well received.
“It’s been overwhelmingly positive. It was a leap of faith and there was some skepticism.”
Visit Lauderdale got a prime spot in the parade, rolling up to the reviewing stand at 11:30 a.m. eastern. Unlike most other entries, they had a live performance. Emmy-nominated songwriter Alexander Star singing his song, Visit Lauderdale, hyping the area with the lyric, “954 we show out!”
New Year, Old Issues
The float was more than an elaborate ad for Broward County. It was also a statement of inclusivity, a value that is rejected and legislated against by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the GOP supermajority in Tallahassee.
“This was extremely intentional.”
She says it’s a continuation of the campaign they launched in 2022.
“We rebranded as Everyone Under the Sun for a reason. Everything we do is to convey that message.”
In a time of Don’t Say Gay and policies specifically targeting diversity and inclusion, Ritter knew a big splashy statement was necessary.
LGBTQ symbolism was in the beach umbrellas and in a smoke show at the end of the performance. Ritter is proud that people got the message in a fun and festive way.
“People got the message without us having to hit people over the head.”