Sneak Previews of Forthcoming Books : The First Rose Parade

‘ “Let’s have a festival and tell the world about our paradise.” ’


From “Tournament of Roses: The First 100 Years,” by Joe Hendrickson, just published by The Knapp Press, Los Angeles .

PASADENA’S Valley Hunt Club was a proper setting for the birth of the Tournament of Roses. A century ago, when Pasadena was a sleepy burg of 4,882 souls, Prof. Charles Frederick Holder lifted a handful of newspaper clippings about the great New York blizzard of 1888 and addressed the club’s members: “Gentlemen,” he said, “in New York, people are buried in snow. Here, our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s have a festival and tell the world about our paradise.”


Dr. Francis F. Rowland said he liked the professor’s idea and added: “My wife has just returned from a festival of roses in Nice, France. Let’s call our festival ‘The Battle of Roses.’ ”

Thus was the Tournament of Roses born. The members of the Valley Hunt Club voted that on the first day of 1890 they would mount a parade of decorated carriages and stage an afternoon of public games.

When the big day arrived, the young men of Pasadena competed in footraces, tug-of-war matches and jousts. Newspaper ads invited citizens to watch the promenade and games as they picnicked under giant oak trees. A wagon load of ripe oranges was distributed. Youngsters scattered rose petals along the dirt road that was then Pasadena’s main street.

More than 3,000 people attended. The Pasadena Evening Star reported: “The greatest festival of similar nature ever held in the country.”

Copyright 1988 by Joe Hendrickson.