Wednesday, January 17, 2007

America's Rose Bowl Parade Economy

I was intrigued by the Rose Bowl Parade being broadcast live from Pasadena, California on New Year's day.

We were watching it on HGTV where there were no commercials. And, believe me when it comes to American TV "no commercials" is a real blessing !

You can watch just over 7 minutes of the Rose Bowl Parade HERE to give you an idea of what this is if you've never heard of it before.

For a few seconds on camera (anywhere from 15 seconds to 3 minutes) an army of mostly volunteers have spent some 12-14 months designing, fund raising and building these elaborate floats.

I could not help thinking of the vast amount of resources which were being diverted to such an ephemeral enterprise.

And to what end ?

As far as I can tell, after getting paraded through, these floats have fulfilled their purpose and so have no other fate than being discarded.

What vanity ! What waste !

How much vanity ? How much waste ?

Well. let's see if we can put some numbers together :

" (...)Flowers begin arriving at the Pasadena float barns the week of Christmas via refrigerated semi trucks. They are stowed in temperature-controlled tents each the size of half a football field. Each float-building company maintains one or two of these flower tents. The flowers sit in buckets, racks, stacks and cases grouped according to the float for which they’re destined. When it’s time to decorate the floats, volunteer decorators move the flowers from these flower-prep areas to the float-building barns. ... it takes 60 volunteers working 10 hours a day for 10 days to decorate a single float (@$17/ hour =$6,000) ."

"The Tournament of Roses has become such a large event that it requires 65,000 hours of combined manpower each year (@$17/hr=$1,050,000)"

"Phoenix Decorating Co. is building 21 floats for the upcoming parade - and the following is just a partial list of materials Phoenix alone is using ... :

Steel 300 tons. (@$700/ton=$210,000) used to create the chassis, basic structure and sculpted figures on each float.

Plywood 70,000 square feet. (@$12/ft2=$840,000) used to form some elements of the base upon which flowers and dry elements are pasted.

Chicken Wire 225,000 square feet. (@$0.30/square foot=$67,500) used to form large areas for floral decoration.

Aluminum Screen 350,000 square feet. (@$0.35/square foot=$122,500) utilized to cover detailed areas of sculpted figures and serve as the base for pasted flowers and dry decoration..

(...).Flowers 20 million, including 400,000 roses (@$0.67 each=$268,000) and 550,000 carnations (@$0.10 each=$55,000).

With these numbers and assuming about 60 floats in each year's parade, I cost these floats at around $6 million per annum.

And that is a conservative estimate which does not take into account all of the flowers that get used nor the storage of the flowers in refrigerated tents nor their transport to the parade grounds on the day of the parade.

Put that in contrast with the $50 million per year David Beckham is reportedly being offered to play soccer (football) with the LA Galaxy.

Which is more wasteful ?

Before you answer, remember that Mr. Beckham has to perform in his job 365 days of the year and may possibly raise the profile of the sport in America getting many new youngster to play soccer etc.

The Rose Bowl parade, on the other hand, is a 6 million dollar sinkhole for a ONE DAY EVENT with no wider impact on society for the remaing 364 days of the year.

What gives ?

Is it just that Californians have more money than sense ?

Sorry, I don't see any other explanation.

Footnotes :

1 Average Hourly Wage

2 Number of floats in the parade

3 Price of chicken wire

4 Price of carnations

5 Price of roses

copyright 2007 Celal Birader

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