Tens of thousands of people gathered under partly cloudy skies Wednesday morning for the 131st annual Rose Parade, cheering scores of colorful floats that rolled down the 5.5-mile route. This year’s theme was “The Power of Hope.”
The Rose Parade had three grand marshals this year: Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez, actress Gina Torres and actress, dancer and singer Rita Moreno.
Clad in a fuzzy white sweater and a tiara, Moreno waved and smiled at the crowd as her old-fashioned car adorned in roses passed along the parade route. “My grandsons!” she yelled to the TV cameras, pointing at two young men sitting next to her.
Here is how the spectacle unfolded, from the end of the parade until its start:
‘It’s beautiful to see us all together’
Alyssa Conde, a 20-year-old retail worker from Downey, said she felt a sense of pride during the parade when she realized she was surrounded by fellow Latinos in the crowd.
That joy was heightened when she saw Costa Rican and Salvadorian dancers groove down the parade route, and a throng of Salvadorians nearby held up flags and cheered.
“I feel very proud,” Conde said. “Our people have gone through a lot, especially in Mexico and El Salvador, and they’re being heard.”
The parade’s three grand marshals are Latina. Laura Farber is the first Latina president of the Tournament of Roses Assn., the organization that plans the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl.
It was Gerardo Echavarria’s second time watching the parade, and he immediately noticed the difference. “I was pretty emotional because I’m Mexican and to see bands representing my country was amazing,” he said, walking down a route deserted after the floats had passed by.
Toward the end of the parade route, Esprit Jones, 39, held her 7-year-old daughter, Brielle, who was wearing pink earmuffs with a unicorn horn. Mother and daughter wound up close to the end of the parade to “cheer the bands on as they finished,” and so Brielle could have more time to sleep, Jones said with a laugh.
Jones said she started coming to the parade with her cousins when she was Brielle’s age. Now, she loves keeping that tradition alive with her daughter.
“It’s fun, the energy of it,” said Jones, who lives in Pasadena. “I want her to be exposed to other people. There are so many ideas and different cultures here, and it’s beautiful to see us all together for one cause, even if it’s just for a day.”
Fighting for flowers is a tradition that never fades
Some people fight over foul balls and home-run baseballs. At the Rose Parade, it’s flowers.
When Julie Strauss, 38, of Claremont, darted out into the parade route, she had competition.
“This guy was turning around to get it, and I was like, oh no, this one’s mine,” said Strauss, who came back to her family’s front row seats with an orchid, which she gave to daughter Scarlett, 6.
“You gotta be quick,” Strauss said, as her sisters cheered.
The Rose Parade is a family tradition, and so is collecting souvenir float flowers.
Strauss’ niece, Jessy Fisher, 12, joined the fray for the first time.
After a brief run-in with the tail end of a color guard, she returned from her first flower-picking excursion with a yellow rose. She giggled and sniffed her prize, noting that the petals were beginning to droop.
A rose by any other name.
Parade veterans seek out their favorite spots
Sisters Pat Torres, 65, of Whittier, and Silvia Wilson, 64, of San Diego, have been coming to the parade for decades, since they were children in the San Gabriel Valley.
They are such regulars at the Rose Parade that they have several groups of “Rose Parade neighbors” they see regularly along the parade route. This year, Dean Hanson, 76, of San Francisco greeted them with a “hello, sweeties.” Then the veterans traded notes on the other familiar faces they’d seen so far.
Torres and Wilson have staked out the same spot along Colorado Boulevard, outside an Urban Outfitters, for two decades. Not only do the bands have the most energy at the beginning of the parade, but the spot faces southeast, so they get to enjoy the warmth from the sun when it rises, Wilson said.
The blue line that keeps crowds away from the parade route bends slightly inward to their right, widening their view of the approaching floats and bands, Torres said.
To claim the spot this year, Wilson said she started camping out with a rotating group of family and friends on Monday evening.
“I like the energy of all the bands that participate,” said Wilson, who’s adamant about attending. “Last year, when we were visiting the East Coast, I said we have to be home by the 29th so we can do this.”
A short walk to see the floats
As a new resident of South Pasadena, Sheldon Fuller was able to avoid the hassle of waking up early to snag a spot along the parade route.
He woke up at his leisure and walked two blocks to see the floats. Fuller first saw the parade when he was 16 years old with his dad. But he thinks it’s more “powerful” now than ever, with the country facing mass shootings and the impeachment of the president.
“I think it’s beautiful,” Fuller said. “There’s all walks of life who put on a cultural exposition.”
Politics makes an appearance
As the crowd dispersed after the parade, some used it as an opportunity to rally for their favorite presidential candidate.
A group of attendees who support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders walked through the crowd, yelling, “Feel the Bern!” and singing “Bernie” to the tune of the classic chant “Olé, olé, olé.”
For Andy Au, the Rose Parade was an opportunity to promote Andrew Yang. The pharmaceutical sales representative’s post, with a flashing bike light and a Yang sign, was enough to stand out at dawn.
Au said he had talked to people about economic theory and referred others to Yang’s website. Au said he wasn’t working for Yang’s campaign, and came out to support a candidate who is “not a politician.”
“He’s running on a platform putting humanity first,” Au said. “It’s completely out of the box.”
A few people made snarky remarks when they saw Au passing out fake $1,000 bills with Yang’s face in the center, referencing the candidate’s platform supporting a $1,000 monthly universal basic income.
The fake money also stopped April Schiada, 59, in her tracks. The Covina resident, who paid $110 per ticket for four reserved bleacher seats, and $45 for parking, said she could see how Yang could appeal to younger voters. She said she thought of her 17-year-old son who would be graduating this year.
“What teenager doesn’t need a thousand dollars?” she said.
Someone has to clean up after the horses
There are a lot of tough jobs involved in pulling off the Rose Parade each year. Being a volunteer pooper scooper is one of them.
“It’s the funnest, most exciting thing!” said Ger Alderson, a former kindergarten teacher, who enjoys spotting her students in the bleachers.
Alderson and her husband, Will, grew up watching the parade. That tradition has continued in honor of Will’s late father, who was also a big fan of the festivities.
They’ve enlisted their neighbors, Rich and Cathy Hanson, to help clear manure. They dressed in Dr. Seuss character costumes that Ger Alderson made by hand.
Will, dressed as the Grinch, forcefully pushed forward his scooper to pick up the first pile of manure in their path as Cathy and Ger pranced near him, to cheers and laughter.
Who won the Rose Parade float awards?
The Tournament of Roses announced its 24 float awards Wednesday morning. Here are five of the top awards:
- Sweepstakes: Awarded to the UPS “Stories Change Our World” float for the most beautiful entry
- Americana: Awarded to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants “The Voyage of Hope — 1620" float for the most outstanding depiction of natural treasures and traditions
- Animation: Awarded to the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day “Plant a Garden ... Believe in Tomorrow” float for the most outstanding use of animation
- Golden State: Awarded to the Huntington Library’s “Cultivating Curiosity” float for the most outstanding depiction of life in California
- Judges: Awarded to Donate Life’s “Light in the Darkness” float for most outstanding float design and dramatic impact
Video: The magic of the Rose Parade
Halfway through parade, no major mishaps
We are midway through the Rose Parade on a spectacular blue-sky start to the new year. There have been no major mishaps so far, unlike last year, when a float caught fire and caused a delay in the procession.
Well, there was one little hitch — literally. The UPS float, which won the Sweepstakes Award for the most beautiful float, suffered mechanical issues Wednesday morning and was towed along the 5.5-mile parade route by a massive white truck.
Staying fueled up has been a big part of the day, and before the floats started rolling, the Kansas Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church had its own mini party.
Stephanie Vaughn, who sits on the church’s education committee, was slinging cups of coffee and hot cocoa to the 64 congregation members who took a bus in the night before to see the spectacle.
Their makeshift kitchen was serving up a brown bag breakfast with apples, oranges, boxes of raisins, homemade banana bread and hard-boiled eggs.
“We look forward to this every year,” Vaughn said, who began the tradition five years ago.
The floats are rolling, and a B-2 soars overhead
Shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday, a man in the bleachers along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena yelled, “Look up, look up!”
On cue, a throng of people craned their necks and pointed their smartphones toward the sky as a B-2 Spirit passed silently above the crowd.
The stealth bomber flyover, and a performance by singer Ally Brooke, marked the beginning of the 131st annual Tournament of Roses Parade.
The nip in the air Wednesday morning was a welcome reprieve from the snowstorm that Sandra Brockman, 60, and her aunt Helen Haydock, 85, left behind in Wisconsin. Brockman wore red shorts to support her Wisconsin Badgers.
When Haydock’s husband died in June, and Wisconsin made the Rose Bowl, she said, she decided to go to Pasadena to see the floats she’d admired on television for years.
As the floats passed by, there was a prolonged cheer for a group that marked the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States.
“Of course, I support Wisconsin,” Haydock said, “but I really wanted to see the floats.”
Floats were designed and built by companies including Trader Joe’s and the UPS Store; local charities and cities; and Wisconsin and Oregon universities.
The award-winning Chinese American Heritage Foundation float honored World War II veterans, the 75th anniversary of the allied victory in the war and the sacrifices of women and minorities in the military.
The 75-foot-long float depicted six iconic moments from the war. The black-and-white images were created using crushed walnut shells, cinnamon, ginger, red millet and nigella seeds.
Temperatures in Pasadena reached the mid-60s by the afternoon, with skies clear and mostly sunny. The Santa Ana winds predicted for the region’s mountain areas had no impact on the festivities.
Chilly start to the morning
But the morning was cold. People who arrived bright and early to watch the festivities wore a kaleidoscope of colors on their heads, including sports team caps, New Year’s hats and traditional Christmas hoodies.
Laura Rodriguez, 26, sat warm and cozy with the help of a fuzzy purple blanket and a beanie from the Disney movie “Lilo and Stitch.” Her Christmas present, the insurance agent from Artesia said, was “perfect to cover my ears.”
Rob Wasserman, 48, and Steve Kramer, 52, walked along Colorado dressed in white overalls and poop emoji hats.
The friends from St. Louis had the job of walking along the parade route with shovels and buckets, scooping up manure. Last year, Wasserman said, he wore a pink hat decorated with a small poop emoji. This year, they decided to go all out.
Stephen McGee wore an Oakland Raiders hoodie under a black pea coat and gray scarf, clasping a cup of tea in his mitten-covered hands.
The Long Beach native had never been to a Rose Parade before, but he knew it would be cold. The 39-year-old had watched the parade on KTLA growing up, he said, but had never attended until his girlfriend invited him this year.
McGee said he loved talking to the people standing next to him. Some were first-timers like him. Others were seasoned Rose Parade veterans. One of the people he met refilled his teacup and gave him a free hot dog.
“I’ve been putting it off every year,” McGee said. “I’m ready to experience it. I’m looking forward to it all.”