The Tournament of Roses Parade came back in 2022 after having gone virtual for a year during COVID. It rained the entire week before, but the skies cleared just in time and it was glorious! Even though I live nearby, I watched it on KTLA TV, the official parade station. The next day I drove over to where the floats were at Victory Park to look at them in person.
During 2020 at the height of the lockdown, I took a virtual tour led by Pasadena Walking Tours that gave us some history of the Rose Parade. It was fascinating.
How it all began
The first official Rose Parade took place on Jan 1, 1890. To boost tourism to the area, Charles Holder, a member of The Valley Hunt Club, came up with the idea of putting on a parade. Another member, Dr. Francis Roland, loved the idea because he and his wife had been to Nice, France, and saw a parade of flowers there. As the weather during January in Pasadena is mild, they remarked, “Why not display fresh flowers and show the world what amazing weather we have?”
The Wrigley Mansion was built in 1914. Ada Wrigley loved the Pasadena estate. When she died in 1958, she deeded the house to the Tournament of Roses organization, and it has been their headquarters ever since.
The rose garden was installed afterward and takes up 4 ½ acres of the property. You can visit it at any time, but the mansion’s interior is private and used for meetings and other events. There are over 1500 roses in the garden, and many have won awards.
I have been inside the mansion for a meeting and it is beautiful.
About the roses
Roses are not native to Southern California but since Pasadena is so closely associated with them, they became popular throughout the region. FTD is the floral partner of the Rose Parade, and they still decorate all of the automobiles featured in the parade.
The Rose Bowl
If you follow Orange Grove Blvd, once filled with Pasadena’s old-money mansions, and go into the Arroyo, you will find the Rose Bowl constructed in 1922 by Myron Hunt.
The Rose Parade
The floats line up by the Tournament of Roses headquarters at about 2 or 3 in the morning. TV stations are set up at the curve (near the Norton Simon Museum) and the route is approximately 5 miles long.
Pink and blue lines are painted permanently on Colorado Blvd. Pink is for the floats to follow and the blue lines are for crowd control.
When the Rose Parade first started it was a flower parade and roses were included later. They decorated carriages, bicycles, and horses. Now the decoration of the floats is done by major float designers and all must use only natural elements for decorations.
The parade used to go down Raymond Ave past the Victorian-style Castle Green, which was once a luxury hotel and ended at Tournament Park. Now it goes down Colorado Blvd to Sierra Madre Blvd. and ends at Victory Park.
Float Fest takes place at the park, where floats can be viewed up close, on the day of the parade and the day after.
Rose Parade trivia
The parade never takes place on a Sunday and if Jan 1 falls on that day it will take place on Jan 2. The reason is that in the 1890s churches had horses tied up and it scared them.
All of the volunteers for the Tournament of Roses wear white suits and are known as “white suiters.” They started wearing white because most places in the East have an unofficial ban on wearing white after Labor Day
The first Queen’s Court took place in 1905. Then, the Rose Queen was chosen by classmates at Pasadena High School where the parade now ends. The first queen was Hallie Woods who was given $10 to make her gown. Now, thousands of young women apply. They must reside in the Pasadena College District, be unmarried with no children. In addition to riding on the float, they receive scholarships, transportation, makeup, and more.
Notable Rose Queens includes Mae Sutton (1908) who became a tennis superstar and Sophia Bush (2000) who became a well-known actress.
Grand Marshall’s are named each year and are usually celebrities, politicians, scientists, and other notables. LaVar Burton was Grand Marshall for the 2022 parade.
Isabella Coleman was one of the first float decorators in the early 1900s. She pioneered the technique of gluing flower petals when she was just 17 years old, as well as using water-filled vials and decorated more than 250 award-winning floats over the years. She also came up with the idea of a steel undercarriage welded to a truck so the driver will be invisible. Coleman was the first female member of the Tournament of Roses Association and there is a trophy named after her.
The average cost of a float is between $75,000 – $150,000.
The first parade flyover was performed by C.P. Rodgers, a coast-to-coast pilot, who flew over the parade in 1912. Now a stealth bomber flies over.
Mack Sennett who started Keystone Studios entered a float of famous actors and actresses in 1913. Unbeknownst to them, he filmed it for the film “Sleuths.” Thousands of extras were not paid and the film no longer exists.
The Doo Dah Parade was created in 1978 as a satire of the Rose Parade and used to take place on Jan 1. Now, it is held closer to Thanksgiving in other locations but has been temporarily gone online due to the pandemic.
Enjoy some images of the floats in the Rose Parade – click on images to view full-size.