The 1990 Tournament of Roses Parade : Away From the Parade’s Glitter, the Grunt Work Goes On
Mark Brevan was crouched in a submarine-like cockpit Monday, behind a wall of lavender orchids and yellow tulips, on a 55-foot-long replica of a toy marching band.
He peered at the crowd through a small hole in the flora. Then he hit the gas on the Honda automobile engine powering the float and began rolling out at the officially designated speed of 2 1/2 m.p.h.
It was 8:10 a.m. on Orange Grove Boulevard and the Tournament of Roses had begun.
“Nobody can see me in here,” said Brevan, 38, who says he has driven a float in the parade for the last 23 years. “But it’s fun because I can see them and they all have a smile on their face.”
Although they don’t wave to anyone and no one waves to them, Brevan and hundreds like him form a quiet army that year after year keeps the wheels of this parade turning. From street sweepers to security guards to seat-cushion salesmen, they endure a near-sleepless night to participate in a spectacle that millions of others watch from their living room couch.
“Normally, you watch it on TV,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Forte, who sipped a cup of coffee as he directed pre-dawn traffic Monday. “This way, I feel like I’m a part of it.”
Tournament of Roses officials rode mini-scooters along the five-mile route to keep an eye on the floats. Red Cross volunteers combed the streets looking to treat injured or exhausted spectators. And drivers of dozens of specially designated RTD buses hauled loads of parade-goers from every part of the county.
“It gives me goose bumps just to be here,” said Michael Bateman, 29, who drove eight stallions from Connecticut to be ridden in the parade by a group known as the Ebony Horsewomen.
Many of these unsung helpers profited from their ordeal. Young churchgoers hawked programs at $4 a pop, a percentage of which their religious groups were allowed to keep. Parking lots tripled and quadrupled their prices. And concessionaires sold huge quantities of caramel-covered apples and pink cotton candy.
“It’s a good way to spend your New Year’s if you’re in need of money,” said Keith Hartwig, 36, as he pushed a cart full of sweets and Rose Bowl pennants up the street. “And I’m in need.”
Many others, however, agreed with the sentiments of Rich Bloom, a Tournament of Roses official who has volunteered his services for the last 19 years.
“It’s hard to describe,” said Bloom, 57, whose wife, Carol, was a Rose Princess in 1954. “But somewhere deep inside there’s something that just tells you to do it.”
By the time the parade ended more than two hours later, a different kind of crew had hit the streets. Mike Kuzmanich, 54, who works for Barricade and Flasher Inc., drove his truck around posting “Detour Ahead” signs so the cleanup could begin.
“We should have been one of the floats,” he joked. “It’s fun to be a part of this.”
Left behind by the parade was a horrific amount of shredded newspaper, confetti, soda cans and leftover food. Before Pasadena’s garbage crews arrived, Mark Porter had pulled out a broom and swept piles of refuse off the sidewalk in front of his sister’s clothing boutique.
“It’s a terrible mess,” said Porter, 27. “But I guess that’s just part of it all. One day a year’s not too bad.”
Some cleanup assignments were less glamorous than others. Jayne Bak, 27, marched with shovel and garbage bag behind an ensemble of horses.
“Last year,” the Simi Valley volunteer said cheerfully, “we heard there were two elephants. This year, we’re hoping they’re not here.”