The March That Starts It All

By Alex Gleitman on December 29, 2009 at 7:00 am
Now that's what I call a floatTBDBITL will lead out this bad boy (Photo/O.W. Sjogren)

As Jason mentioned yesterday, the Buckeyes have already partaken in a Pasadena tradition of The Beef Bowl at Lawry's. While stuffing slabs of meat down the throats of young gridiron stars is certainly both classic and entertaining, there is another tradition that defines the "Grandaddy of them all" much greater. That tradition being the Tournament of Roses Parade.

The 2010 edition of one of college football's great traditions will be the 121st in history and will take place at 11am ET/8am PT. As always, the parade will be broadcast previous to the game and will feature floats from the likes of Jack in the Box, Ronald McDonald House Charity, Subway, Trader Joe's, Anheuser-Busch, and more. TBDBITL will also be marching with the floats, as will a group of other national and local bands and a whole stable full of equestrians. Special in 2010 is a fly-over conducted by pilots of the Fighting Redcocks of Strike Fighter Squadron 22 of the Navy. They will fly four F-18 jets over the area to begin this year's parade.

2010 Rose CourtThe 2010 Rose Bowl Queen and Royal Court

Every year the parade committee names a Grand Marshall, Queen, and Royal Court of the event. This year's Grand Marshall is Chelsey Sullenberg, a pilot who is famous for successfully landing and evacuating a US Airways flight in the Hudson River this past January. Sullenberg saved the lives of 155 people in the process. Past Grand Marshalls include Shirley Temple, President Eisenhower, Bob Hope, President Nixon, and Cloris Leachman. Sounds like a fun crew to me.

Each year, thousands of girls ages 17-21 try out to be named Rose Bowl queen. Out of the 1,000+ want-to-be beauty queens, only seven girls are chosen for the Royal Court with six being princesses and one being crowned queen. This year's lucky winner is Natalie Innocenzi, just 16 years of age from Arcadia, California. Her princesses are Katherine Hernandez, June Ko, Lauren Rogers, Kinsey Stuart, Ashley Thaxton, Michelle Van Wyk. They were all appointed to their honors in October and since then have carried out the responsibilities of promoting the parade by attending over one hundred events in the Pasadena area. They usually receive scholarship money and a 30 piece wardrobe, while missing a lot of school to their dismay from October through January. For those readers under the age of 18, you can see the seven girls riding a float in the parade on New Year's Day.

Valley Hunt Club StandardThe float it was all named after

The parade's start goes all the way back to 1890 when members of Pasadena's Valley Hunt Club organized the first edition on New Year's Day and the event has been held on January 1 every year, with the exception of when the first day of the new year falls on a Sunday. In this case the parade is moved to January 2, a rule instituted in 1893 to "avoid frightening horses tethered outside local churches and thus interfering with worship services." The Rose Bowl, following tradition, is also never played on a Sunday, but more likely for reasons having to do with a certain professional football league.

Reverting back to the Valley Hunt Club, their idea to host a parade originated from wanting to show New Yorkers who were buried in snow that California had great winter weather and was a "paradise" (possibly the first non-traditional tourist pitch). In order to show the Empire State and the rest of the world their "paradise", the club decorated horse-drawn carriages in flowers and held events such as foot races, polo matches, games of tug-of-war, and more in front of a crowd of 2,000+ people. The flowers on the carriages lead Professor Charles F. Holder of the club to name the event "The Tournament of Roses", and the rest is history.

As the event grew over the years live music in the form of bands and parade floats began to join the Tournament of Roses and by 1895 the parade got too big for just the club to handle. To help run the event, the tournament was turned over to the city and from that point on the new Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association organized the annual festivities. This lead to a cascade of events that helped the event grow, including the lot of land the parade was held on being named Tournament Park, reviewing stands being put up along the parade route, and new events such as ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations, and a race between a camel and an elephant being brought to the tournament helped create popularity throughout the nation.

The Bucks Come Marching InPasadena won't know what hit them

The wild animal activities were eventually replaced by just floats, bands, and the more mild equestrians, but the current parade route follows the same path of the original which is along Colorado Boulevard, a main street in Pasadena and former segment of the famous US Route 66. The streets are sealed off the day before the parade so that only participants can have access to the path which begins in front of Tournament House. The parade's route starts by going north on S. Orange Grove Blvd., beginning at Ellis St. It passes the grandstands, and the main television and media stands at Colorado Blvd. and continues east on Colorado until turning north on Sierra Madre Blvd. While on Sierra Madre, the parade must go under the 210 Freeway Overpass (damn those L.A. freeways), causing the larger floats to collapse to prevent any damage or accidents. Finally, the parade ends at the "post-parade area" when it crosses Paloma St. by Victory Park and Pasadena High School. The total route is 5.5 miles and the event takes about 2.5 hours to complete.

While the tradition of the original parade is still there in form of The Valley Club's flower-decorated horse drawn carriage float, there has certainly been many changes since 1890 in the form of making the event big business. Tickets to the parade are sold for a price of $53, while pre-parade and post-parade events are also going to cost you a small price. In the end, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association certainly has gotten the hang of the 20th and 21st centuries and realized the money maker their event could become, but the spirit of sharing their "paradise" with the rest of the country still remains. The Parade of Roses is a must-see event and while I couldn't make it out this year, I hope it's something I get to see in 2014 when the Buckeyes are playing for the next national championship held in Pasadena.