Rose Parade 2024: ‘Armenian Melodies’ float pays tribute to heritage, motherhood and struggle

Pasadena Star News
Dec 29 2023


For La Crescenta resident Sarineh Ghazarian, decorating a float in the upcoming 2024 Rose Parade is a family affair.

Ghazarian, her nephew and two children spent some of their winter break volunteering to decorate the American Armenian Rose Float Association’s sixth parade float. It was the first year to decorate for the children, who are of Armenian descent, and a special memory Ghazarian will always cherish.

The 55-foot-long “Armenian Melodies” float — decorated with pomegranates, drums, and birds playing musical instruments — features aspects of Armenian culture, symbolism, history, current events and more. It’s the sixth year the association has participated in the annual Rose Parade.

The 2024 float is among a line-up of new and returning entries, special guests and performances that aim to reflect diversity represented in the parade’s theme: “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language.”

At the center of “Armenian Melodies” is a mother, dressed in vibrant, traditional garb, holding her child. The figures are surrounded by important symbols of Armenian heritage, such as cranes. Cranes are known as “krunk,” which are long-depicted symbols in Armenian art and folklore, organizers said.

Armenian birds play a major role on the float — such as the crane, chukar and the little ringed plover; a bird indigenous to the Armenian Highlands — surrounding the mother and child.

The mother’s dress, called a Taraz, is designed with red Christmas mums, whole pomegranates, dried apricots, cranberry seeds and green Ti leaves. The crane and other birds are decorated with orange lentil, blue and purple statice, red cranberry, lima beans, kidney beans and yellow strawflower. Drums seen on the front and back of the float are made of flax seed, blue and pink statice, black onions, ground rice and other materials.

Float designer Johnny Kanounji, one of the founders of the American Armenian Float Association, said that cranes are often seen as a symbol of hope. He said the float’s design pays respect to both Armenian culture and current events in Armenia. All the float details, down to which fruits are represented on the float, are connected to Armenian lore.

Apricots, one of the fruits, are so often associated with Armenia that Kanounji said they are sometimes called “Armenian apples.” Pomegranates, known as “noor” in Armenian, symbolize good fortune and prosperity, especially in fertility, Kanounji said. Armenian culture is “very matriarchal.”

“The mother symbolizes everything to the Armenian community. She is the root of all that holds the family together,” said Kanounji. “Mothers show daughters what Armenian culture, music, and everything is; passing the torch from mother to daughter.”

Kanounji, a Pasadena resident, said that each year’s parade entry aims to highlight different aspects of Armenian culture, lifestyle, and even Los Angeles County — home to over 200,000 Armenians.

This year’s float called for “nearly $350,000” of fundraising, a feat Kanounji said “wasn’t easy.” But with the amount of money used towards the project, Kanounji said he wants to make sure to design thoughtful floats each year.

Past parade entries from the American Armenian Float Association have also won awards — including the President’s trophy — in 2015, 2017 and 2018, respectfully.

“We like to give back to the community,” Kanounji said. “We want to engage our people. So this has become its own community… it’s a happy occasion, not a sad occasion… we’re saying ‘Hey, we’re here.’”

Lana Ghazarian, Sarineh’s daughter, said the float’s continued presence is “a big deal because of what’s happening right now in Armenia.”

The mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh — known as Artsakh to Armenians — is in the middle of a decades-long feud between the ethnic Armenians who live and have organized there, and Azerbaijan, according to Reuters. Though Nagorno-Karabakh is geographically recognized as part of Azerbaijan, tensions in the area have risen over the past year, after reports of increasing military presence and road blockades cutting off access to goods. In September, Azerbaijan forces conducted a deadly attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, causing almost all Armenian people to flee.

“It shows how us Armenians care and that we’re strong,” Lana Ghazarian, 12, said. “We’re such a small country, and representing ourselves shows who we really are. It makes me feel really proud because (of) our community coming and helping; (it) shows how we care about the people that are struggling right now.”

Her brother Alex Ghazarian, 13, said that the mother depicted on the float, holding her child, shows “how strong the Armenian women are during the war right now, and how they took care of family members.”

The “Armenian Melodies” float pays homage to the “tapestry” of the Armenian spirit, volunteers say, while staying in the Rose Parade’s overall musical theme.

Traditional woodwind instruments are heavily featured — such as the duduk, shvi, blul and parkapzuk — some of which are native to the Armenian Highlands. The blul is deeply rooted in pastoral traditions, according to Kanounji. The crane, seen at the front of the float, plays a duduk, similar to a flute.

The dhol and nagara, both percussion instruments, round out the float’s “floral orchestra,” organizers said.

The float’s most prominent colors are red, blue and orange, representing the Armenian flag. Organizers said the purposeful use of forget-me-not flowers serves as a reminder of the Armenian genocide of 1915. Many local Armenians fear another Armenian genocide could happen in Artsakh.

“What’s happening in Armenia is not very good,” volunteer Haig Nahapetian, 14, reflected. “There’s a lot of Armenians living in this area, especially Glendale… so representing Armenia on television is always great.” fbclid=IwAR1JEqfPuCDpF28s0TNYC_9WCYmM4YnF-EpqeCnFiuil2-NfEdQaFTlnNeo