Tournament of Roses Parade

Tournament of Roses Parade

You stayed up way past your bedtime to celebrate the ball-dropping festivities in Times Square. Now, it’s the next morning and bleary-eyed, you huddle in front of the television in anticipation of a grand spectacle with countless marching bands and fanciful floats constructed of colorful flowers. It’s time to welcome in the New Year with a tradition that dates back well over a hundred years, the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Held in sunny Pasadena, California, The Tournament of Roses Parade has delighted New Years revelers since it was first held all the way back in 1890. Back then, it was a celebration primarily for the local residents, but with each passing year, the parade has steadily grown in size. Some 2,000 locals showed up for the first parade. In contrast, the 2013 parade drew more than 700,000 spectators.

At first, the locals simply decorated horse carriages with flowers for the festivities, but it was the later introduction of elaborate floats that helped the parade’s popularity grow. Today, there are rules for these floats. All surfaces of the float must now be covered in natural material. It doesn’t necessarily have to be all roses; other acceptable coverings include such items as seaweed, plants and vegetables. Nothing on the float can be artificial, nor can anything be artifically-colored. Roughly, half a million roses are used each year for the parade.

There is an enormous amount of work that goes into these magnificent floats, and it takes as much as sixty people working 10-hours a day for ten days just to decorate one of them. For all of that hard work, each float competes for one of 24 awards given each year and there are usually about 50 floats in each parade, each sponsored by an organization or corporation. The most coveted of the awards is the Sweepstakes Trophy, given to the “most beautiful entry with outstanding floral presentation and design.”

In between the floats, there are plenty of other performers. An average of twenty of the top college marching bands in the country appear every year, along with a few select high schools. Horses are also quite popular at the parade, with a number of equestrian units participating each year. One particular rider, a rodeo trick rider named Montie Montana, was an annual favorite at the parade for over sixty years until his passing in 1998.

Each year, a theme is selected for the parade, and a Grand Marshall chosen that usually relates to the theme in some way. Silent film star Mary Pickford was the first female Grand Marshall and other noted celebrities that have had the honor include Walt Disney, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Shirley Temple, Richard Nixon and John Wayne.

The festivities don’t end with the parade, however. Starting in 1902, it was decided that a football game would be held after the parade. It became so popular that after two decades, a Stadium was built in Pasadena which would become the permanent home for what is now known as the Rose Bowl.

For those that live too far to attend, thankfully the Tournament of Roses parade has been shown on television every year since 1947. Today, it is broadcast to millions of groggy viewers, not only in America, but in upwards of 200 countries. Those folks putting a few flowers on carts some 120 years could never have imagined that some day, the entire civilized world would tune in to watch what they started.

Do you have fond memories of waking up early on New Year’s to watch the colorful festivities. If so, we hope you’ll share your recollections with us in our comments section below.

2 Responses to “Tournament of Roses Parade”

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  1. mollysofie says:

    Watching the rose parade is always on the tv the following morning. Its usally only background noise, and I ocasionally stop with a hand full of the days treats to watch for a few minutes. Its a tradition taken on and establshed through the years . New years day wouldnt be the same without the low hum of the parade and a honeymooners marathon in the back ground on a fine day.

  2. princessdiana says:

    I always watched the Tournament of Roses Parade.

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