From The Back Pew: A parade by another theme

As I type this, the clock is slowly ticking toward the first Tournament of Roses Parade of the new decade.

Around this time, 100 years ago, the parade had no theme (and wouldn't have one until 1918, with the theme of “Patriotism”). The grand marshals of the 1910 parade were Dr. Francis F. Rowland and professor Charles F. Holder, both founders of the Tournament of Roses Parade. Rowland is the only person with the distinction of having been grand marshal seven times, according to the Tournament of Roses organization.

The Tournament of Roses we see today is actually a resemblance of a similar event called the festival of roses in Nice, France, held over a period of 10 days leading up to the eve of Lent, or Mardi Gras.

So you could say the Rose Parade is French, in a way.

“At the time of carnival Nice, France, erupts into a citywide party, with parades in the daytime and evening and a large bonfire and fireworks on Mardi Gras itself,” according to the travel website Destination 360. “Flower processions, floats and parties make Nice the place to be for carnival in France.”

According to the site, the carnival predates the Tournament of Roses Parade by about 600 years, with first mention of the festival recorded about 1294.

“At the height of the carnival, Nice is awash with flowers,” Destination 360 says.

Indeed, according to the book “Tournament of Roses: The First 100 Years” by Joe Hendrickson, when the parade was first founded, Rowland praised Holder's idea, saying: “My wife has just returned from a festival of roses in Nice, France. Let's call our festival 'The Battle of Roses.'”

But the Rose Parade, beyond its flowers, gallantry, bands and Rose Queens has another intrinsic value to it: family. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people will line the streets of Colorado Boulevard this weekend to spend a night out in the bone-chilling cold in order to stake that one piece of sidewalk real estate that, for one evening at least, is more valuable than one of Donald Trump's most exclusive hotels.

The one thing I've noticed in walking along Colorado Boulevard on New Year's Eve night is that nobody goes alone. There are always families, either in tents or in blankets, huddled against the cold, keeping themselves entertained by roasting marshmallows or hot dogs or shooting silly string at each other or at passing cars. And I can't help but wonder if the next Rose princesses will come from the among the ranks of those huddled in the cold this weekend, inspired by watching this year's queen and court pass by on their lavishly decorated float.

I can't help but wonder if there is a little boy or girl somewhere who will be inspired this weekend to pick up an instrument as they see the University of Oregon marching band pass by in perfect formation.

I'll be going up and down the boulevard this weekend asking families why they participate. Sure, it's to watch the parade. But is there something else? What's the connection between watching the Rose Parade on the street and braving the cold for just two hours of entertainment in the morning when they could watch it at home while staying warm with their family?


GET IN TOUCH Michael J. Arvizu is a reporter for the La Cañada Valley Sun. Reach him at (818) 637-3263 or by e-mail at michael.arvizu@latimes.com. GET IN TOUCH Michael J. Arvizu is a reporter for the La Cañada Valley Sun. Reach him at (818) 637-3263 or by e-mail at michael.arvizu@ latimes.com.

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