“Wow, Bob, what a way to jump into the new year,” Grand Marshall LeVar Burton said as he introduced the Rose Parade livestream event. “We are so excited and proud to be able to bring the Rose Parade back to the streets of Pasadena this year and present to you the 133rd edition. The theme of this year’s parade, “Dream. Believe. Achieve.,” is a testament to the resilience and dedication of our first responders and the health care workers- and to every single one of you watching today- we thank you for what it is you do…”
“Bob,” of course, refers to Bob Miller, who in January of 2020 was confirmed as president of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association. It’s the president who has the privilege of choosing the event’s theme and, this writer has to say, it couldn’t be a better one this year after all our country and our world has experienced in recent years.
And the word “jump” was used both literally and figuratively since this year Bob Miller actually parachuted out of a plane to land onto the parade site. What a surprise, and what a captivating opener to be wished “Happy New Year” from someone just about to step out of a solid plane and into thin air… talk about faith!
*Image of LeAnn Rymes removed temporarily pending Permissions of Use approval*
Kicking off the New Year’s celebration was the multi-Grammy Award winning singer LeAnn Rymes- who has been an annual participant since she was a teen (with her hit song Blue)– with her unforgettable original song Throw My Arms Around the World. “I lay my belly on the ground, press my ear against the Earth, I can hear her cry inside that she’s never ever ever ever been heard… I fix my eyes upon the sky… maybe I can love it back to life…” are the plaintive words in this stirring number presented on the parade route as the Mark Keppel Dance Company performers presented a moving dance number. The song, itself, is impactful, and highly chair-dance worthy; add in those dancers and also a flag routine by ThinkBigStuff Rose Parade Giant FlagTeam and the combined effort is unforgettable. Wow! Not to be missed!
If those opening events were not compelling enough, a US B-2 Stealth aircraft then streaked across the sky at the number’s end: chill bump-worthy, too. We’re waiting for permission for use of an image of this amazing sight, along with some others including performers, equestrians, bands, and winning floats. Stay tuned.
Ending the event (spoiler alert) is the amazing eclectic Pop/Country Western performer Jimmie Allen who jazzed us all up with his fabulous Good Times Roll while dancers surrounded him and shared their impressive moves. Awesome percussionist extraordinaire Timothy Fletcher was on hand for opening and closing numbers, adding his amazing drum stylings to the performers’ numbers.
Media announcers for the Spanish translation event coverage (Univision Los Angeles) were Migbelis Castellanos and Luis Sandoval. Media announcers for the English translation of parade event coverage were KTLA’s Leeza Gibbons, Mark Steines, and Micah Ohlman (from the balcony of the Pasadena Elks Club). KLTA has covered the Rose Parade for 75 years!
The Rose Parade- or the “Tournament of Roses Parade” as we knew it as children, is a major production that is staged to coincide with the Rose Bowl Game (football). The parade route is along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena (Los Angeles),beginning at Green Street, then heading onto South Orange Grove Boulevard. Main viewing stands are located at Colorado Boulevard. The floats then (hopefully) fit under the Highway I-210 freeway overpass onto Paloma Street. The parade features a float competition, marching bands, equestrian and other groups from around the country and world which are very unique in themselves. However, the most unique aspect, in fact the parade’s calling card, if you will, is that each float- in order to be accepted and included in the event- must be covered with flowers, or mix of equivalents such as seeds, pods, and other naturally-occurring plants. Note that, this year, spectators were delighted by the use of Brussels sprouts, cut in half, used to represent scales on a storybook- even fire-breathing- dragon replica as scales! (Hopefully, we’ll have an approved image of that to use soon, too!)
Prizes are sponsored, fittingly, by FTD (the mega-floral and iconic company) and awarded in many categories, for the float competition. This year’s judges were Janet Gallagher AIFD, John Piper, and J. Keith White AIFD.
The Rose Parade began in 1890 as produced by Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club. Horses have played a hug part in the parade, and thousands of riders of all styles have traversed the parade route. In fact, an “equifest” event occurs just prior to the parade, so those equestrian groups traveling have much to do at the winter holiday time. Just some of the many equestrian groups that have taken part in the parade include All American Cowgirl Chicks, LA County Sheriff Mounted Enforcement, Victorian Roses Ladies Riding Society, Giddy Up Gals Drill team, United States Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, The Santa Rosa Palomino Club, Budweiser Clydesdales (from St. Louis, MO), and many, many more.
Bands taking part traditionally have come from all over the world. The first musical group to perform was the Monrovia town Band (1891). A fun fact (discovered during an online search) is that, in 1998, the Washington Township High School Minuteman Marching Band (from Sewell, New Jersey) was the first band, ever, to decorate all of its band members with flowers! There is also a pre-parade event for bands, a two-day gathering called “Bandfest” held at Pasadena City College’s Jackie and Mack Robinson Stadium.
At its 1890 debut, the Tournament of Roses/Rose Parade was a delight only to a local audience. Note that the first after-parade football game event- as a fund raiser for the parade, itself- wasn’t started until 1902. Since that time, viewers have been able to tune in and watch from around the world. One of this writer’s fondest memories- concurring with one of this year’s media reps, Mark Steines, includes watching “The Tournament of Roses” on television and oohing and aahing over the sights of people dressed in dance costumes and delicate florals attached to the floats enjoying the warmth and sunlight of Pasadena while snow swirled around outside our own East Coast homes!
One fun fact is that this event is held every year on January 1- 2021 being the exception due to Covid- however, if the actual day of the week of January 1 falls on a Sunday the parade event is moved to January 2, the next day, so as not to disturb Sunday religious services. Last year a TV special titled “The Rose Parade’s New Year’s Celebration” took the place of the actual, live event when it was determined that gathering so many people in close contact to both view the parade as well as decorate the already constructed floats with the myriad of flowers and other vegetative matter to give them the textures and hues required was not safe.
Another fun fact is that the owner of Wrigley’s chewing gum offered up the family estate home to be used as the parade’s permanent headquarters.
As if opening with Bob Miller’s parachute jump was not enough, (spoiler alert) this year the parade ended with its traditional 3-mile transfer of the football from parade route to stadium by way of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights, into the arms of Alfred Enoch (Harry Potter film series) accompanied by Timothy Fletcher’s drum rolls!
There’s so much more that could be said about this terrific event- but the best thing to do is to simply enjoy it. One idea is to cue it up with friends far and near and watch it “together.”
Take in this wonderful re-affirming, joy-bringing, FUN event, all the many aspects of it: theme, people, floats with flowers, people alive with music, dance, and song and offering “uplift!,” a variety of horses and their variety of people, and the artistic offerings of so many creative minds make the Rose Parade the inimitable gathering that it has been for so long!
Free to view OnDemand here:
💜Happy New Year, friends!
A big “thank you” to Nadia Lapusta and Igor Stubailo for generously sharing their photos taken on site; used with permission, both feature image and images in body of text as attested.