Each New Year’s Day, people from around the world tune in to Pasadena, California, home of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game. It is a tradition that is more than a century old – a festival of flowers, music and sports unequaled anywhere else in the world. It’s America’s New Year Celebration, a greeting to the world on the first day of the year, and a salute to the community spirit and love of pageantry that have thrived in Pasadena for more than 100 years.
On a typical New Year’s Day morning, with a steaming cup of coffee, I am settled in and ready to watch the parade that begins at 8 am. Pasadena and all of the festivities is located only a few miles away from where I grew up. As a young teen I even spent the night on the parade route once and waited all night, in the freezing cold, for the sun to rise and the glorious parade to begin.
It has been over 20 years or more since I have attended the Rose Parade in person. We now live 90 minutes away and the thought of rising at 5 am and driving that distance was not nearly as enticing as it used to be. With the colorful commentating, the multiple camera views of the parade and no commercial interruptions, watching from my comfy couch has been a fantastic substitute for actually being there!
However, last year we decided to buy some fairly pricey tickets and sit in the grandstands with assigned seats. Our dear friend lives about a mile away from the parade, so we could park and walk without the added stress of finding parking. On New Year’s Eve we enjoyed a lovely dinner in a downtown Pasadena restaurant and took a ten minute walk to the parade route where they start to line up the floats around midnight.
It was so exciting to be in the middle of the action, with street closings, police escorts and Tournament of Roses officials on scooters directing the floats. Most of the floats are constructed and decorated in large tents within a 5-10 mile radius. They are then towed or driven very s-l-o-w-l-y to get to their place in line.
Fun Fact: Every part of each float is covered with flowers, or natural materials like seeds or bark.
The Queen and Her Court
Each year about 1,000 high school senior girls interview for a spot on the Rose Court. It is an incredible honor to be one of seven young ladies to represent the Tournament of Roses, as well as make personal appearances throughout the Los Angeles area for several months prior to the big day.
Fun Fact: When I was just 17 years old, I was chosen as a member of the Royal Court and it was a highlight of my life. To this day, friends and family remember this exciting time that they all shared with me.
“The process starts with a specially-built chassis, upon which is built a framework of steel and chicken wire. In a process called “cocooning,” the frame is sprayed with a polyvinyl material, which is then painted in the colors of the fresh flowers or dry material to be applied later. Every inch of every float must be covered with flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds or bark. Volunteer workers swarm over the floats in the days after Christmas, their hands and clothes covered with glue and petals. The most delicate flowers are placed in individual vials of water, which are set into the float one by one.”
They smell heavenly too!
A vivid rainbow of flowers covers every float in a breathtaking creative display. By experiencing the parade in person, you are able to appreciate the magnificent details of each of the floats. I do admit however, there is an advantage to watching the parade on television. The television hosts explain details of the floral decorations like what types of flowers are used, the numbers of flowers and even where they are grown.
I hope to entice you to take the opportunity to visit the parade at least once. One million people line the parade route every year and many come from out of state to enjoy the fantastic weather and floral spectacle. Whether in person or on TV, the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day morning is a wonderful way to kick off a bright and optimistic new year.
The Bands: No parade is complete without amazing, goose bump producing marching bands!
Tournament of Roses officials travel all over the world interviewing and reviewing spectacular marching bands in order to create the perfect variety for the parade. These are top-notch, award winning bands who put on a phenomenal show.
The Rose Parade is so near and dear to my heart. I have learned firsthand just how much time and effort is unselfishly offered to create a spectacular event for millions of people to enjoy around the world. I am so proud to have served a small part and always appreciate and enjoy this one of a kind event every single year.
I hope you have a learned a little more about this special New Year’s Day parade and maybe you will plan a trip to Southern California one day to see for yourself!
Happy New Year Friends!
22 thoughts on “New Year’s Day: An Adventure at The Rose Parade”
The floats are so colourful. It would be spectacular to see this parade in person. I would also find it interesting to see the set-up activities in the night/early morning.
Thank you Donna! It is a one of a kind experience!
Terrific post Suzanne! I’ve always wanted to see the Rose Parade in person and now I know I simply must. I loved the story and the photos. We go to LA every year to visit the family at Christmas. One of these years we have to extend the trip and do the parade. Thanks for the great article!
Thank you Sue! You will definitely need to plan to visit the parade next time you come out to LA at the holidays.
Look at you on the Rose Court!! You haven’t changed a bit! How nice with your relocation you’ll be so much closer to enjoy this! Confession: on our first night moving to L.A. in 1980 from the Midwest, my ex and I stayed at the “Rose Bowl Motel.” Not recommended. 😀
Yes, Betsy! Thank you for the kind comments! It so funny that you stayed near the Rose Bowl –
We both remember the Rose Parade in such different ways. I love that you spent time the night before getting up close to the floats and that you were on the Queen’s court one year. A very different experience than mine as a kid – sleeping bags on the sidewalk and the excitement of all those flowers.
Elaine – I have enjoyed the Parade my entire life and millions of others have too! I love that everyone does it differently. I have friends who come from Michigan every year and sleep on the parade route – They love it!
Absolutely love the Rose Parade, it is the best holiday parade by far! Of course I was born in Pasadena so I might be a little biased.
You were born in Pasadena? I have one more thing to love about you! Love your adventures!
Thanks for such a personal account of the Rose Parade from a member of the Royal Court. You are as pretty today as you were then!
Irene: Thank you! The check is in the mail!
Congratulations on having been a part of the Rose Parade Court!! Coming from CA…I’ve had the excitement of being able to work on the floats. Also, 1975, I spent my first and last night at the parade..we froze!! It was so much fun.. But, once was enough for me.
Thanks for sharing so much great information regarding a New Years tradition I hope will continue for many more years to come:)
Thank you Lisa, It is fun to work on the floats isn’t it? These volunteers work so hard to make the floats so amazing. I have no interest in sleeping on the route any more! It is so cold in the morning, but many love to and do it every year!
The Rose Parade has always been part of my New Years. When I was a child, my grandfather worked in Pasadena. He would wake us up in the dark and we’d go to his office and get ladders and watch the parade with him. Later, my aunt had an antique store on Colorado Blvd, so we’d watch from in front of her store. My brother marched in it (he played the tuba), probably about the year you were on the court. When my girls were growing up, we always (always) would get up to watch it together. One year though, my grandmother was hospitalized and I had to take a NY morning flight to So Cal. The parade was on in both airports, and ran all day long at the hospital (in Spanish and Chinese). It was like the move Groundhog Day. I think I watched it 8 times!
Thank you Kim for sharing your stories! It is so great to know that they replay the broadcast of the parade everywhere – even the airports!
Wow, you are royal! I was fortunate to attend two parades when I was a student at USC. I also met so many people from Pasadena, South Pasadena, etc. My girlfriend was from Arcadia and knew some insider (local) tips.
One, we viewed the parade at the end of the route. We could arrive a little bit later, there were few people and cars, and we were close to Arroyo Seco; for the football game.
Second, after the parade, head over to said Arroyo Seco to view the floats. They are magnificent to see up close. I wonder if they still allow this?
Thank you for your comments! It sounds like you know a great deal about the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl. The Trojans have been in the Bowl many times. (I am a Bruin!) They do offer viewing of the floats up close and personal for a few days after the parade.
I enjoyed seeing your photos of this spectacular parade. I, too, trudged there when I was a kid and camped out from the night before to secure a good spot. Then I considered it fun, and the adults worried about the logistics. 🙂 However, I think I’m good for never doing it again. It might interest you that I once saw a similar parade in Holland in mid-April, which has to do with the many tulip events. Called the Flower Parade of the Dutch Bulb District, you can read about it in my article http://berkeleyandbeyond.com/Way-Beyond/Travel-Articles/Abroad/Tulip-Time/tulip-time.html
I have heard of that parade you mentioned! Thank you for the reminder and sharing your post.
How cool for you to have been a participant in this amazing parade! Your post brought back memories for me as I went to several Rose Parades as a kid with my grandparents and I remember the thrill of being out in the dark waiting for daylight surrounded by crowds of people. The floats themselves were so incredible and the bands and TV celebrities added to the excitement. Such beauty and creativity!
What a fantastic experience!! Your photos and narrative are excellent!