Happy New Year! What is it really like to see the floats at the Rose Parade?

Standing next to the Queen and Court Float on New Year’s Day

What is it really like to see the floats at the Rose Parade?

Absolutely amazing!

Are you planning to come this year? Hey Oregon! Hey Wisconsin!!

Although we rose at 6:00 am in 30 degree weather on New Year’s Day, our trip to see the floats at the Rose Parade was magical! You can feel the positive energy and excitement of the thousands of visitors. Observing the pure delight in the eyes of children as well as adults as they walk past these magnificent floats is a New Year gift. As a former Rose Princess, (celebrating my 40th anniversary) and growing up in the Pasadena area I have been privileged to enjoy an insider’s seat at the Rose Parade my entire life. Although I only watched two parades in person, rode on a float once and now for the past three years made the early morning stroll to the parade to see the floats BEFORE the parade begins – I am an expert of sorts. See below 🙂

Yep, that’s me!
I am bottom right.


Over one million people line the streets of Colorado Boulevard every New Year’s Day morning to watch the spectacular Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA. For over one hundred years, visitors from around the world have been making this journey to Southern California to experience this wondrous one of a kind event. Millions and millions more watch from their warm, cozy living room.

The Floats

The Rose Parade celebrates the best of Pasadena where whimsical floral covered floats, enormous marching bands, and decorated horses and riders march over five miles to the delight of all who are watching. Every surface of the entire float must be covered in some type of plant material. Whether it is flowers, vegetables, grasses or seeds, every nook, every cranny must be decorated. It is astonishing what goes into the design and preparation of these floats.

It takes nearly a year from conception to execution to create a float for the Rose Parade. I have loved this celebration for as long as I can remember and since I was also an honored member of the 1979 Royal Court, I have a very special feeling in my heart for the entire New Year’s Day display.

floats at the Rose Parade
Look at the details of the citrus slices. The decorators can only add these at the very last minute.


We currently live just 1 1/2 miles from the start of the parade and we invited our long time friends to come with us to walk the floats and soak it all in. It is such a wonderful way to experience the parade without the obligation of sitting for the entire 2 1/2 hours. Don’t misunderstand, watching the parade is a wonderful experience and anyone who has the desire should make plans to come. There is nothing like it in the world.

But for today’s post, come with me on our morning walk along the start of the parade route as the floats line up and wait for the parade to begin!


floats at the Rose Parade
These lovelies were riding a float.


In the middle of the night, the floats are driven from the local warehouse where they have been meticulously decorated and lovingly prepared. Driving about 5 MPH is a very s-l-o-w adventure, but these motorized monoliths are not built for speed!

Queen and Her Court

floats at the Rose Parade
The Royal Court walking to their float on New Years Day. Photo: K. Benvenuto
floats at the Rose Parade
Rose Queen and her court getting on their float. I knew where they would be and timed it just right to see them just before the parade.


I always look forward to seeing the newest Royal Court ride the float. Although it was so long ago and hardly newsworthy, for me personally it was absolute magic. My high school friends painted signs and jumped up and down on the curb as we passed them on the float. Every year since, my friends and family still reach and out to say Happy New Year and reminisce about that moment in time in 1979.

floats at the Rose Parade
This Rose Princess was having such a wonderful time and she just glowed.


Over 1,000 young women tried out when I did and the number of applicants today are almost exactly the same. It is an honor to represent this local tradition and the Tournament of Roses. As a 7-member Royal Court, we spent three months prior to the parade making 150 personal appearances. We spoke at Rotary Clubs and other philanthropic associations, shook hands with CEOs and volunteers, drove the Goodyear Blimp, posed for the cover of TV Guide, went to Disneyland with the Rose Bowl football players, danced with Lawrence Welk, talked with Bob Hope on his Christmas Special and many more truly wonderful adventures.

A fan favorite and lively float!


The China Airlines float dazzled the audience and we happened upon the dancers just before they began. So fun!

floats at the Rose Parade

This New Year’s Day Adventure was just perfect and the super cold temps didn’t ruin anything for us or our guests. Every January 1st, the sun always shines in Southern California, the sky is always a brilliant blue and we manage to host many satisfied visitors here in Pasadena. Year after year, decade after decade the volunteers for the Tournament of Roses organize the Nation’s New Years Day celebration and I am happy to be a part of it!

You should really plan to come!

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3 thoughts on “Happy New Year! What is it really like to see the floats at the Rose Parade?”

  1. Suzanne,
    Oh, my word, I just loved this post! What fun to see the Rose Parade through the eyes of a former Rose Princess! Thank you so much for sharing! xoxo


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