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A float from the 2008 Rose Parade


The Tournament of Roses Parade, better known as the Rose Parade, is "America's New Year Celebration", a festival of flower-covered floats, marching bands, equestrians and a college football game on New Year's Day (but moved to Monday if New Year's Day falls on a Sunday), produced by the non-profit Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association.

The annual parade was first held January 1, 1890 in Pasadena, California. Today, the Rose Parade is watched in person by hundreds of thousands of spectators on the parade route, and is broadcast on multiple television networks in the United States (ABC holds the official contract, but because it is a public parade, other networks are allowed to produce their own coverage).[1] It is seen by millions more on television worldwide in more than 200 international territories and countries.[2] The Rose Bowl college football game was added in 1902 to help fund the cost of staging the parade.


Members of Pasadena's Valley Hunt Club first staged the parade in 1890. Since then the parade has been held in Pasadena every New Year's Day, except when Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday. In that case, it is held on the subsequent Monday, Jan. 2. This exception was instituted in 1893. According to the Tournament of Roses Association Web site, this "Never on Sunday" policy was instituted in order "to avoid frightening horses tethered outside local churches and thus interfering with worship services." Thus, the parade has never been held on a Sunday. Incidentally, the Rose Bowl Game is also not held on Sunday to avoid competing with the NFL. Other bowl games usually held on Jan. 1 also follow this rule.

Many of the members of the Valley Hunt Club were former residents of the American East and Midwest. They wished to showcase their new California home's mild winter weather. At a club meeting, Professor Charles F. Holder announced, "In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise."

So the club organized horse-drawn carriages covered in flowers, followed by foot races, polo matches and a game of tug-of-war on the town lot that attracted a crowd of 2,000 to the event. Upon seeing the scores of flowers on display, the professor decided to suggest the name "Tournament of Roses."

A Chariot Race during the 1908 Tournament of Roses; later replaced by the Rose Bowl Game

Over the next few founding years, marching bands and motorized floats were added. By 1895, the event was too large for the Valley Hunt Club to handle, hence the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association was formed. By the 11th annual tournament (1900), the town lot on which the activities were held was re-named Tournament Park, a large open area directly adjacent to Pasadena's world-famous institution of higher learning, Caltech. Activities soon included ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations and an odd novelty race between a camel and an elephant. (The elephant won the race.) Soon, reviewing stands were built along the parade route and newspapers in Eastern Seaboard cities started to take notice of the event.

Tournament House is the name given the building where the organization is headquartered. The Tournament House, a stately Italian Renaissance-style mansion, was once owned by William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum magnate.[3]

The first associated football game was played on Jan. 1, 1902. Originally titled the "Tournament East-West football game," it is considered to be the first Rose Bowl. The next game was not played until New Year's Day 1916, but they have been played annually since then. The game derives its modern name from Rose Bowl Stadium, which was built for the 1923 game.

In 2002 and 2006, when the Rose Bowl Game was the BCS National Championship Game, the "Granddaddy of 'em all" was not held the same day as the parade; the 2006 game was played on Jan. 4. Not all fans were pleased with the change; some thought the atmosphere and tradition of the Rose Bowl were lost. However, since the BCS title game is now separate from the host bowl, it no longer affects the date of the Rose Bowl Game, even when the title game returned to Pasadena in 2010.

The 2010 parade recognized deceased Tournament of Roses President Gary DiSano and marked the retirement of CEO Mitch Dorger.


A close up of roses used to create a rose parade float

The Tournament of Roses Parade has followed the same route mainly following Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena's main thoroughfare and a segment of the former US 66, for many decades. The day before the parade, the entire environs of the neighborhood streets south of the intersection of Orange Grove and Colorado Blvds. are sealed off and reserved for the massive parade marshaling of the dozens of floats, bands, equestrian units and other elements. This staging area is referred to as the "Formation Area" and managed by the Formation Area Committee.

On parade morning, the various elements are merged and dispatched in front of Tournament House. It starts by going north on South Orange Grove Boulevard, beginning at Ellis Street. At Colorado Boulevard it passes the main grandstands, and the main television and media stands, and proceeds east on Colorado Boulevard. The parade then turns north on Sierra Madre Boulevard. The floats then must travel under the Sierra Madre Boulevard/I-210 freeway overpass, requiring over-height floats to reduce their height. The parade ends at Paloma Street near Victory Park and Pasadena High School. Floats continue into the Post Parade viewing area which is open that afternoon and the following day. In total, this route is 5½ miles (9 km) long; the assembled bands, horse units, and floats take approximately 2 hours to pass by.

The 2010 parade saluted the men and women serving America throughout the world with a four F-18 jets flyover, performed by pilots of the Fighting Redcocks of Strike Fighter Squadron 22 (VFA-22) from the Naval Air Station at Lemoore, California at the beginning of the parade.



Originally flower decorated horse carriages were entered in the parade. Floats, built by volunteers from sponsoring communities, supplanted most of the carriages over time. Currently, most are built by professional float building companies, and take nearly a year to construct. Some communities and organizational sponsors still rely on volunteers. The Valley Hunt Club still enters a flower decorated carriage. The Cal Poly Universities Rose Float still relies solely on students who volunteer.

Typically 48 to 72 hours prior to parade day one can view several of the floats being decorated with flowery mantles, in the various 'float barns' that dot the Arroyo Seco / Rose Bowl area in West Pasadena, not far from the start of the parade. It is a rule of the parade that all surfaces of the float framework be covered in natural material (such as flowers, plants, seaweeds, seeds, bark, vegetables, or nuts, for example); furthermore, no artificial flowers or plant material are allowed, nor can the materials be artificially colored. Last-minute volunteering opportunities are usually available.

Anaheim city's float at the 2008 Rose Parade included the Stanley Cup that the NHL's Anaheim Ducks had won last season, hoisted by player Brad May. (As the regulations state that the outside of the float must exclusively use organic material, ABC commentators speculated that the city got an exception to display the Cup.)[4]

The 2009 parade featured 46 floats, including some new entries, such as Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau's Celebrating Alaska – Spirit of the Wild, Jack in the Box's Jack-O-Licious, City of Mission Viejo's Making a Splash, RFD-TV's Hee Haw, City of Roseville's Entertaining Dreams for a Century, Vera Bradley's Hope Grows and the National Association of Realtors' Celebrating the Dream of Home Ownership for 100 Years.

The 2010 parade floats included Boy Scouts of America, Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, New Mexico Tourism Department, Phoenix Satellite Television (U.S.) Inc., Roundtable of Southern California/Shanghai World Expo., and Safety Harbor Kids. The 2010 parade also featured a 113-foot long float from Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, which set a Guinness world record for longest single-chassis float. The City of West Covina paid tribute to the "service and commitment of the Tuskegee Airmen" with a float, entitled "Tuskegee Airmen – A Cut Above", which featured a large bald eagle, two replica World War II "Redtails" fighter planes and historical images of some of the airmen who served our country. The float won the Mayor's trophy as the most outstanding city entry - national or international.

After the parade, all the floats are 'parked' at the end of the parade route on Sierra Madre Blvd. and Washington Blvd., near Victory Park, and are on display for one and half days (two and half days when January 1 falls on Friday) after the parade. None of the float riders and dignitaries / stars who rode on them is present. Admission to the viewing area is $7 (2010).


First Cavalry Division Equestrian Unit, US Army, Ft. Hood TX, at the 2007 Rose Parade
USMC color guard at the 2007 Rose Parade

Since the beginning, horses have played a part in the Rose Parade. Thousands of riders have made the trek down Colorado Boulevard. "The Tournament equestrian family grows bigger and stronger every year as it welcomes the new equestrians who come to share the magic of New Year's Day and appreciate the commitment to excellence and professionalism exhibited by the returning equestrian units to the parade," according to the Tournament of Roses.

Prior to the parade, an "Equestfest" is held at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center to showcase the performances by the amazing and talented riding teams. Equestrian units taking part in "Equestfest" have included First Cavalry Division U.S. Army Fort Hood, Clydesdales, "Traveler"-USC mascot, Sons and Daughters of the Reel West and the California State Fire Fighters Association. Bob Eubanks and Shawn Parr have served as announcers at "Equestfest".

For the 2010 parade, there were 23 units:

All American Cowgirl Chicks, Amigos de Anza Equestrian Drill Team, Arizona Mini Mystique Driving Drill Team, Benny Martinez Family, Calizona Appaloosa Horse Club, Cowgirls Historical Foundation, Giddy Up Gals, LA County Sheriff - Mounted Enforcement, Long Beach Mounted Police, Medieval Times, The New Buffalo Soldiers, Painted Ladies Rodeo Performers, Region 1 Versatile Arabians, Scripps Miramar Saddlebreds, The Shire Riders, So Cal Peruvian Paso Horse Club, U.S. Army Ft. Hood - 1st Cavalry, USMC - Color Guard, USMC - Mountain Warfare Training, Valley Hunt Club, Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society, Wells Fargo, and Western Haflinger Association.

Eighteen equestrian units, including the United States Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society, and the Cowgirls Historical Foundation, entertained in the 2009 Rose Parade.

Montie Montana was a perennial participant until his death in 1998. TV viewers know him from more than 60 appearances, waving to the crowd from his silver saddle.[5]


Londonderry High School Marching Lancer Band, from New Hampshire during the 2004 parade

Top marching bands from all over the world are invited. Many of the nation's top high school marching bands, along with college and organizational marching bands participate.

The bands participating in the parade have also developed traditions. For example, Pasadena City College's Lancer Marching Band always marches in the Rose Parade, along with high school bands and color guard members from all over Southern California, who are selected by audition the previous autumn. The Tournament of Roses Honor Band is a coveted position, and those selected are among the best student musicians in California. Nine of the high school trumpet players, selected by performance on their auditions, and the best snare drummer, are selected as the Herald Trumpets, who march directly before the Rose Queen's float and play fanfares.

University Marching bands from the two schools participating in the Rose Bowl are invited to march in the parade. They typically accompany the float that represents the school.

Bands that have a long standing arrangement to be in the parade include[6]:

In 1998, the Washington Township High School Minutemen Marching Band from Sewell, New Jersey became the first band in the history of the Rose Parade to decorate its entire ranks with live flowers, in keeping with the practice of decorating the parade floats. Designed by Todd Marcocci, this unique concept and design approach received tremendous support from all major media around the world. Since then, several bands have followed suit.[citation needed]

Tournament of Roses Parade themes

Oklahoma Rising Float at the 2007 Rose Parade
2010 Grand Marshal Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

The newly elected President of the Tournament of Roses has the duty of picking a theme for the forthcoming festivities. Most of the floral floats in the parade are inspired by this theme.

On January 21, 2010, Jeffrey Throop was confirmed as President of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association. He chose Building Dreams, Friendships & Memories as the theme for the 2011 122nd Rose Parade and 97th Rose Bowl Game.[7]

Grand Marshal

The Grand Marshal of the Parade is an honorary position selected by the President of the Tournament. Many are picked for a relationship to the theme that is also picked by the President.

Pilot Chesley Sullenberger was selected as the 2010 Grand Marshal, which was announced on Thursday, November 5, 2009 at Tournament House.[8] Last year, actress and Dancing with the Stars contestant Cloris Leachman was the 2009 Grand Marshal, only the 10th female grand marshal in the history of the parade.

Repeat Marshals of the Tournament of Roses Parade

  • Shirley Temple, 1939, 1989, 1999
  • Charles Daggett, 1900, 1901, 1914
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower 1951, 1964 (note that Cpl. Robert S. Gray filled in for him in 1951)
  • Bob Hope, 1947, 1969
  • Richard M. Nixon, 1953, 1960
  • C. C. Reynolds, 1902, 1903
  • Dr. Francis F. Rowland, 1890, 1892, 1894, 1904, 1905, 1910, 1916
  • Dr. Ralph Skillen, 1907, 1908, 1911
  • Edwin Stearns, 1896, 1897
  • Martin H. Weight, 1898, 1899
  • Earl Warren, 1943, 1955

Queen and Royal Court

Natalie Innocenzi, 2010 Rose Queen

Each year, a selection process is held in late September and early October to find out which Pasadena-area girls (ages 17 to 21) will have the honor of being crowned Queen of the Tournament, or in substitution, one of the members of her "Royal Court". Each year more than 1000 girls try out. Six princesses and one queen are chosen. The winners then ride on a float in the parade, and carry out duties in promotion of the Tournament, mainly during its duration and prelude. Their duties include attending over one hundred events in the Pasadena area. They usually receive scholarship money and a 30 piece wardrobe; the 2005 Court also received a Mikimoto pearl necklace. During the time that they attend Tournament events, usually from October to January, each girl usually attends school a few times a week for only a few hours at a time. One Tree Hill actress Sophia Bush was Queen in 2000.

Natalie Innocenzi, 16, of Arcadia, and a student at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy was named the 92nd Rose Queen on October 20, 2009 by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association. The princesses are Katherine Hernandez, June Ko, Lauren Rogers, Kinsey Stuart, Ashley Thaxton, Michelle Van Wyk. The new queen was crowned at the Coronation ceremony on November 4, 2009 at the Pasadena Convention Center.[9]


Parade volunteers

More recent attendance figure are followed by the predicted attendances in parenthesis. Most estimates are conducted by The Tournament of Roses and the Pasadena Police Department. Number of studies were conducted by the Anderson School of Management at UCLA on attendance and economic impact to Southern California. The Los Angeles Times ran a study in 1980 that said the actual attendance at the parade was actually about 60% of what is claimed each year.

  • 1890 - 2,000
  • 2002 - 800,000 (1,000,000; drop blamed on 9/11)
  • 2004 - (1,000,000)
  • 2009 - 700,000 [1,000,000 visitors during the week of the parade]

Television and website

The parade is televised on ABC, NBC, Univision (in Spanish), HGTV, The Travel Channel, RFD TV, and KTLA (the latter three offer interruption-free coverage, although KTLA repeats the parade throughout the day with commercials). WGN TV in Chicago will carry KTLA's uninterrupted coverage of the 2009 parade (WGN and KTLA are both owned by Tribune Broadcasting).[10] Until 2007, the parade was also broadcast on CBS, and KTTV also televised the parade for many years until 1995. Joining the broadcast in 2010 will be the Hallmark Channel.

The 1954 edition of the parade was also the first program ever televised in the NTSC color television format nationwide on NBC [11].

  • 2009 Parade was broadcast to 217 countries (79 countries live) in over 20 languages
  • Tournament of Roses website had approximately 13 million hits during the week of the 2009 parade
  • Website was viewed in 150 countries
  • 2010 Parade was watched via TV in 127 countries, "throughout the world" (read the announcers) including China.



Each year, the newly elected president announces the following year's Theme in January and chooses a Grand Marshal shortly thereafter. Preparation and construction of the floral floats theoretically begins after the Theme is announced. The selection of marching bands is already well under way except for Rose Bowl participant bands which aren't selected until 4 weeks before the parade. In 2005, Libby Evans Wright was elected as the first female president of the Association.

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses announced that P. Scott McKibben has joined the Association in the position of Executive Director in 2010, replacing John M. (Mitch) Dorger, who had served as CEO since 2000.

Operations and the parade

Float volunteers

The Tournament of Roses has become such a large event that it requires 80,000 hours of combined manpower each year, or the equivalent of roughly 7.42 years of combined manpower. Fortunately for the Association, the group has 935 members, each whom is assigned to one of 34 committees, and 38 student ambassadors. Responsibilities include:

  • selecting Parade participants
  • inspecting and testing floats for safe and reliable operation
  • assembling the parade elements
  • conducting the parade through the streets of Pasadena
  • directing visitors on New Year's Day
  • assisting the public and the media in viewing the parade
  • giving presentations about the Tournament to community groups
  • supervising elements of the Rose Bowl Game (and also the BCS National Championship Game when held in Pasadena)

During the Parade, many Tournament members are required to wear white suits with red ties, name tags, membership pins and official ribbons. Because of this, the volunteers are commonly referred to as "White Suiters." In December each year, a fleet of white vehicles with special "ToR" license plates are seen throughout the San Gabriel Valley. The use of these cars is currently donated by American Honda for use by high-ranking Tournament members.

Eagle Scouts carrying banner

Each year, an honor troop of Eagle Scouts from the San Gabriel Valley Council, and Gold Award recipients of the Mount Wilson Vista Council Girl Scouts is selected to carry the parade banners down the route. Each year, for the last 35 years, more than 100 scouts have participated.

The Tournament of Roses Radio Amateurs (TORRA) provided audio communications and video co-ordination for the parade officials through the use of Amateur radio from 1968 until 2005.[2] With over 300 ham radio operators in TORRA there were several ham radio sites along the parade route equipped with amateur (ham) TV as well as 2-way ham radios. Several mobile units - including motorcycles and pedestrian units (creepie-peepies) provided the video coverage. With modern technology and cell phone service, TORRA was no longer needed.

Thousands more volunteers help cover the floats in those beautiful flower and seed mixes during "Deco week," Dec 26- parade day. Many of these come back year after year, some even camp nearby to help all week long.


Spectators gather before the 2004 Rose Parade: some pay for seats in stands, others spend the night to "reserve" a free spot on the sidewalks

From 1955 to 2005, the parade avoided being rained on with several close calls.

For the 2006 Tournament of Roses Parade on January 2, winds with gusts up to 45 mph (72 km/h) and five inches (130 mm) of rain in the Pasadena area were predicted. Unfortunately, the forecast proved accurate; despite the parade's good luck for 51 years, it rained continuously and heavily throughout the entire 2006 parade. The President of the Tournament, the Grand Marshal of the Parade and the Executive Committee, deliberated into the early morning in the Tournament House. With street rumors circulating of the parade being canceled or postponed and restlessness of the crowd further east along the parade route, the parade commenced (with a vote of 10-4 with two abstaining), despite the inclement weather.[source?] Low television ratings and poor attendance plagued the ceremony. Some floats showed signs of water damage by the end. (The Parade was held as scheduled—it is always held on January 2 when January 1 falls on a Sunday).

See also


  1. ^ Los Angeles Times, "Big crowd, but who's counting?" Accessed 2009-01-15
  2. ^ [2009 Tournament Times, a publication of Tournament of Roses Association]
  3. ^ Tournament House
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^
  6. ^ Rose Parade Participants
  7. ^ Janette Williams, 2011 Rose Parade all about `Building Dreams, Friendships & Memories' , Whittier Daily News, January 21, 2010
  8. ^ Splashdown pilot Sullenberger to lead Rose Parade, Associated Press, November 5, 2009
  9. ^ Crowning the queen, Glendale News Press, November 5, 2009
  10. ^ WGN TV Chicago: Holiday specials Accessed 2008-12-30.
  11. ^

External links

Float construction companies

Self-Built float organizations

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