Lilit Mkrtchian's favorite part of watching the Tournament of Roses Parade every year is spotting the Glendale float and pointing out the parts she helped decorate.
Come this New Year's Day, she will be able to boast about the uva grass, a cream-colored tropical plant, and other materials she glued on the star of this year's float: Meatball the bear.
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The 35-foot-long craft's design, which features animals living in Glendale's hillsides, was inspired by Meatball, the famous black bear that was caught in foothill neighborhoods three times last year before being captured by state wildlife officials and transported to an animal sanctuary in San Diego County.
The bear got his nickname after a Glendale resident found him eating frozen Costco meatballs from a garage refrigerator.
"It's totally unique what we have," said Mayor Dave Weaver, who for 21 years has led the float decorating. "Meatball started the whole thing and now it's taken on a life of its own."
Karla Martinez, 20, said she likes having animals on the float.
"I'd always get jealous when I saw other floats with animals," said Martinez, a junior at UC Santa Barbara and graduate of Glendale High School.
Mkrtchian said she liked the fluffiness of the 25-foot-tall craft.
Not only is Meatball's animatronic likeness popping out of a trash can covered in fluffy uva grass, but his nose is dotted with cordone puffs, a soft yellowish-orange round plant that gives the nose a teddy-bear quality.
Other animals on the $150,000 float will have a fluffy texture, too. Both a coyote and a deer feature pampas grass, which looks like beige feathers. How volunteers apply the materials changes the look for each animal. The deer gets a hair spray treatment to give its "fur" a sleek look, while the coyote's fur has more volume.
Sarah Hasenfus, an 11-year float decorator, said when she was decorating the deer, she imagined what a horse would look like.
"I've never seen a deer, but I've ridden horses and taken care of them so I could envision how I wanted the fur to look," said the 26-year-old.
Ground coffee is being used to decorate the deer's antlers, and like most of the animals, it has seaweed for eyes, which gives a slick, shiny look.
The bear's eyes also feature powdered rice and onion powder.
"It smells really bad, but after a while, you get used to it," Martinez said.
Volunteers have been working on the float since Dec. 14, sometimes decorating for more than 15 hours a day.
Mkrtchian said she can't wait to see the completed float.
"It's always a masterpiece," she said.
The float, Glendale's 100th entry into the Pasadena event, is slated to be the third craft in the parade line.