Thursday, December 29, 2016


Float from the early years

Float from recent years

   This uniquely American event began as a promotional effort by Pasadena's distinguished Vally Hunt Club.  In the winter of 1890, the club members brainstormed ways to promote the "Mediterranean of the West".  They invited their former East Coast neighbors to a mid-winter holiday, where they could watch games such as chariot races, jousting, foot races, polo and tug-of-war under the warm California sun.  The abundance of fresh flowers, even in the midst of winter, prompted the club to add another showcase for Pasadena's charm; a parade would precede the competition, where entrants would decorate their carriages with hundreds of blooms.  The Tournament of Roses was born.
   "In New York, people are buried in snow", announced Professor Charles F. Holder at a Club meeting.  "Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear fruit.  Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise"!

Queen and her court today
Queen and her court from years gone by


    During the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands and motorized floats.  The games on the town lot (which was re-named Tournament Park in 1900) included ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations and a race between a camel and an elephant (the elephant won).  Reviewing stands were built along the Parade route, and Eastern newspapers began to take notice of the event in 1895, the Tournament of Roses Association was formed to take charge of the festival, which had grown too large for the Valley Hunt Club to handle.

Band picture from recent years
Band picture from years past

  The Tournament of Roses has come a long way since its early days.  The Rose Parade's elaborate floats now feature high-tech computerized animation and exotic natural materials from around the world.  Although a few floats are still built exclusively by volunteers from their sponsoring communities, most are build by professional float building companies and take nearly a year to construct.  The year-long effort pays off on New Year's morning, when millions of viewers around the world enjoy the Rose Parade.

Grand Marshall, Bill Cosby

Grand Marshall of Parade, Richard Nixon

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