Garden Better: Rose Guide

The Rose Parade




For over a century, Pasadena, California, has hosted the annual Tournament of Roses. This event has become one of the hallmarks of the New Year's Day celebration. Aside from the annual Rose Bowl football game, the Tournament of Roses also includes a Rose Parade which features marching bands, equestrian units, and floral floats.

The founders of the Tournament of Roses, Dr. Francis Rowland and Prof. Charles Holder, wanted to honor the mild Californian climate with a floral festival. They could thus celebrate California's climate by holding the festival in the middle of the winter while those on the other side of the country were suffering through snowstorms and the like. This tradition began in 1890 with a simple procession of flower covered carriages, modeled after the Bataille de Fleurs - Battle of the Flowers - in Nice, France.

The Rose Parade has changed a lot since its early years. Today, the Rose Parade features hundreds of floats, brightly and elaborately decorated with flowers. The float-making process begins with a specially-built chassis, upon which is built a framework of steel and chicken wire. This is followed by "cocooning", a process which involves spraying the frame of the float with a polyvinyl material that is then painted in the same colors as the flowers that will later be applied to the float. Part of what makes these floats look so vibrant and alive with color is that, as per Rose Parade rules, the entire surface of the float must be covered with organic material. Of course, many of the floats utilize flowers alone. Others, however, creatively incorporate things like fruits, leaves, beans, spices and tree bark. This is quite a time-consuming process that usually begins shortly after the previous year's Rose Parade and lasts throughout the year with the finishing touches taking place after Christmas.

Each float is designed with the Rose Parade's yearly theme in mind. Themes from the past have ranged from the 1918 theme, Patriotism, to the 1937 theme, Romance in Flowers, and from the 1971, Through the Eyes of a Child, to the 2004 theme, Music Music Music. Also changing yearly is the Parade's Grand Marshal. This position holds quite a bit of stature as the parade is viewed by millions in over 150 different countries and territories throughout the world. Past Grand Marshall's included Richard M. Nixon in 1959, the Apollo 13 astronauts in 1970, John Wayne in 1973, and Mickey Mouse in 2005.

Today's Rose Parade floats are alive with color, sound, and movement. Some floats feature computerized animation while others host bands and famous personalities like the NAMM float of 2006 where Grammy winning musical artist Toni Braxton performed. Floats can also include other forms of live entertainment like the FTD float of 2006 which featured magician Lance Burton.

Marching bands are also an exciting feature of the Rose Parade. The first marching band to appear in the Rose Parade was the Monrovia Town Band in 1891 with fewer than 20 members. Today, marching bands that participate in the Rose Parade can easily consist of over 200 members. Each year, over 50 musical groups compete for one of the sought after 16 openings in the Rose Parade.

Another one of the highlights of the Rose Parade are the equestrian units. In the Rose Parade's early days, horses were a necessary part of the Parade as they were needed to draw the carriages occupied by Parade participants and the Grand Marshall. In that same tradition, today's Rose Parade features various equestrian units consisting of hundreds of horses each.

What began in 1890 as a simple festival to celebrate California's mild winters has turned into a beautiful yearly tradition. The Rose Parade is viewed worldwide and grown into a multi-million dollar event with nearly 1,000 volunteers. The Rose Parade route, roughly 5.5 miles long, is lined by eager spectators of all ages. The Rose Parade is truly a unique event and a beautiful way to welcome the New Year.







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