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Seal Beach pulls out of 2015 Rose Parade, difficulty raising money by deadline

Seal Beach will not have a float in the 2015 Rose Parade, cites fundraising problems.
Seal Beach will not have a float in the 2015 Rose Parade, cites fundraising problems.
Laura Berthold Monteros

The Seal Beach Centennial Float Committee (SBCFC) announced Thursday that it is pulling out of the 2015 Rose Parade due to difficulty in raising the $250,000 that it says the Tournament of Roses (Tournament) requires by July 31. The announcement was made in an emailed media release and on the group’s website.

Examiner communicated electronically with Robert Aguilar, Jr., chair of SBCFC, Andrea Fox, public relations manager for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, and Charles Meier, owner of Paradiso Parade Floats, as well as examining the application form required of sponsoring organizations and posted on the Tournament website to confirm and clarify information in the release.

According to the release, SBCFC applied in January and in March received an invitation to participate from the Tournament. The application states and Fox confirmed that non-refundable participation fees are due 30 days after the invitation is extended. Fees are $15,000 for commercial entries, $5,000 for non-commercial entries, $3,300 for charitable entries and $2,300 for self-built entries. The application also states that an agreement with a float builder, in this case Paradiso Parade Floats, is due 60 days after receipt of the invitation.

Thursday’s release states, “the Rose Parade required a minimum budget of $250,000,” adding, “To further complicate matters, John Rietnouer [sic] of the Rose Parade just recently set a deadline of July 31 to confirm full funding of the entry. This final deadline was simply too much to overcome for the small private Seal Beach Roses Team.”

Examiner requested clarification on this from both the Tournament and Aguilar. John Reitnouer is the chair of the Float Entries Committee and is on the Tournament’s board of directors. Fox wrote, “The funds required (and timing) to build a float are negotiated directly between the organization entering the float and the professional float builder.”

Aguilar stated, “About a week ago I received a phone call from John Reitnouer with the Rose Parade and he was concerned by our lack of fundraising progress, which had been clearly displayed on our website. We had only raised just over $10,000 of the required $250,000 budget set by the Rose Parade. I was honest with him and told him that although we did have additional fundraising events scheduled we were unsure if we could reach our goal in the coming weeks.

“We had been told by Charles [Meier] at Paradiso that we could have as much as October to come up with the money, but Mr. Reitnouer stated outright that if we couldn't complete our fundraising goal or confidently say that it was within reach by July 31, 2014 that we should withdraw.”

Aguilar’s clarification indicates that the Tournament was not demanding full funding, but assurance by July 31 that the funding for the float could be achieved. He continued, “After meeting with our executive panel it was determined that we could not deliver that news by the deadline, and making a final push to raise more money would just leave us short and in an awkward position with those donors to issue refunds, which we are attempting to do now with the $10,000 we already raised.”

Asked if Paradiso Parade Floats had a design and had started construction on the float, Aguilar responded, “We chose Paradiso because we were impressed by Paradiso's floats in the 2014 Rose Parade.” He said they had a verbal agreement with Meier, but did not enter into a written contract, and though Meier prepared a design concept, “That was as far as it went. No construction had begun.”

Meier responded to Examiner’s request for comment, “We were honored to have been chosen and prepared several preliminary design concepts in anticipation of the process to come. Due to disappointing fundraising results, we did not finalize a design with Mr. Aguilar or enter into a contract with him. We are, of course, disappointed to learn of the shortfall in donations, but we are grateful for Mr. Aguilar's clear and honorable communication throughout the process. We wish Mr. Aguilar and the City of Seal Beach all the very best with their centennial celebration.”

SBCFC was endeavoring to raise funds with an opportunity drawing and signing on corporate sponsors. The organization assured donors that refunds will be offered to those who purchased tickets to an opportunity drawing SBCFC was holding. The release said, “The refunds will be issued on a request basis and will include a small deduction for administrative costs. Requests for refunds can be sent to sealbeachroses2015@gmail.com and will be issued for confirmed donors only. Funds not refunded will be rolled over to the 501c3 fiscal sponsor, Alpenglow Hospice Foundation, after Aug. 31, 2015 and are fully tax deductible.”

Kendra Ablaza of the Orange County Register wrote on Thursday that Aguilar told her that “the committee was receiving a steady flow of donations until May,” but they had slowed down and he could not identify the reason. He told her that the city’s official centennial committee may have gained more financial support.

Ablaza wrote that Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos said the official centennial committee has yet not begun fundraising, and that the centennial committee is focused on events for residents, while the float would have recognized Seal Beach’s anniversary nationally. He said the city has always been supportive of Aguilar’s float committee.

Aguilar told Examiner, “We had an excited city with a lot of encouraging supporters, but the last thing we wanted to do was leave a bad taste in the mouth of the Rose parade officials or with the people in our own town who really wanted this to happen as much as we did. I personally am heartbroken as it has been my dream to be a part of the Rose Parade since my childhood. I thought this was not only my chance, but also a great opportunity for Seal Beach to kick off its centennial celebration in 2015.

“International exposure and a boost in tourism would have been great for everyone involved. I am still hoping for a miracle. A single angel sponsor to step in before July 31t and make this happen. But we have been knocking on doors and sending out pleas since March and it just wasn't happening. So a dignified exit seemed to be the only choice.”

Seal Beach is a community of approximately 24,000 just southeast of Long Beach, Calif. The Rose Parade float was to be in celebration of the city’s centennial, and the float committee had selected Paradiso Parade Floats as the builder. The float committee is a privately-funded entity with the non-profit Alpenglow Hospice Foundation acting as fiscal sponsor.