Designing a Parade Float - Ogopogo!

Posted on at

This post is also available in:

A few years ago, I was hired by the city of Kelowna, British Columbia (my old hometown where I was born and raised) to design their new parade float since their old one was falling apart.  This was kind of a dream come true because as a kid, I loved attending parades and watching all the floats go by.  I also enjoyed when they threw out candy to the crowds too!  

For those who haven't visited Kelowna before, it's a small city of around 100,000 people. But what makes the city unique is that there is a lake monster living in its lake. The Okanagan Lake, one of the deepest lakes in Canada, is home to the mysterious lake monster, the Ogopogo.  

(Ogopogo statue in downtown Kelowna)

As a kid, I loved watching the lake trying to spot the Ogopogo.  It also made me a little terrified to swim in the lake too.  People who have spotted the Ogopogo say it's a serpent like creature or similar to the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland.  Some say it has the head that looks like a moose or a horse. Over the years, there have been many sightings of it and people haven even taken a few photos and videos along the way.  A quick Google search will bring up many of those photos and videos.  

As a former Kelowna resident, animator and illustrator, was tasked with designing the new Kelowna float.  The many previous floats mostly featured renditions of Ogopogo as the city's honorary mascot.  Therefore, I was asked to create a new updated version of the Ogopogo created in my style.  It was truly an honour to design the float.  

(Early Kelowna parade float featuring the Ogopogo, circa 1950's) 

I'll post my design statement in a follow up blog post but it was important for the redesign of the Ogopogo to have an updated look that will appeal to all ages.  I wanted to create an Ogopogo that was hip, sleek, elegant, beautiful, and full of imagination.  

It was also important to capture some of the traditional folklore associated with the Ogopogo.  The popular image of the sea serpent was important to capture in the design but also other aspects like the moose like antlers and horse style head were mentioned in the old First Nations myths.  Therefore, I created elements like the ears to resemble moose antlers and the long flowing wavelike spines to resemble the mane of the horse.  The anatomy of how the head transitions into the neck of the Ogopogo is also based on a horse.  I also gave the Ogopogo the wiskers and forked tail of a sturgeon, as many believe that is really what Ogopogo is based on.  

Here's an early sketch I made to help demonstrate what I was thinking for the float design.  I wanted the Ogopogo to have a kinetic feel to it, as if it were swimming and in motion. I really wanted to incorporate the entire Ogopogo into the design by wrapping it's body around the float.  

There were many rounds of feedback from the city of Kelowna about the initial design.  They wanted me to incorporate lake trout and other elements that helped showcase the region like the sun, orchards, mountains, etc.  I mentioned it was best not to clutter up the float but they insisted so I drew up this version.  

In the end, the city decided to keep it simple and just feature the Ogopogo like I originally intended, minus the whiskers on the face.  As well, the float builders had some creative input to make the float more functional as they built it. Thus, they took some creative liberties with the original design of my Ogopogo.  But overall, I like the final float design.  It has a bit of an old school vibe with all the sparkly scales and I think they made it look a bit more friendlier.

The city of Kelowna named the float "Our Spirit of the Lake".  So far the float has traveled across North America and has participated in many parades in cities all over Canada and the US.  It's even won a few awards!  Recently it won 1st place for Community Float at Cranbrook’s Sam Steele Days Parade!  I've yet to see the finished float in action.  Supposedly there's animatronic elements with moving fish jumping out of the water and the Ogopogo moves.  I keep thinking how excited that little kid inside me would be if he knew that he'd grow up to design Kelowna's Ogopogo parade float. I think that's pretty cool! 

Please SUBSCRIBE and BUZZ!  Thanks!

Here's a photo taken last weekend at the Cranbrook parade.  I'm not too sure where that cowboy hat came from...Haha!


About the author


Jeff Chiba Stearns is an Emmy® nominated and Webby award winning animation and documentary filmmaker. Born in Kelowna, BC, of Japanese and European heritage, he graduated from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design with a degree in Film Animation in 2001. Soon after he founded Meditating Bunny Studio…

Subscribe 0