In the late 1800s, Charles Fredrick Holder and Frances F. Rowland of the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club sponsored the Battle of the Flowers to highlight the idyllic climate of Southern California. Holder said, “In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.” The battle itself was an “afternoon of chariot races, jousting, foot races, and tug-of-war” as well as a bicycle race, polo played on burros, and an orange race where “contestants raced down a line of fifty oranges, spaced two feet apart, and put them one by one into a basket.”
Leading up to the tournament, however, was the very first Rose Parade. Horse-drawn carriages, decorated with fresh flowers from Hunt Club members’ gardens traveled down Colorado Boulevard to the Tournament Grounds on January 1, 1890, and that event has been repeated every year since.
The 2020 Rose Parade featured 39 float entries, 17 equestrian groups, 20 marching bands, and 4 cars. That’s right, only 4 cars. The only vehicles allowed in the parade without being covered in living organisms carry the Mayor of Pasadena, the parade’s Grand Marshal(s), the Tournament of Roses President and the Rose Bowl Game Hall of Fame Inductees.
When you mention the Rose Parade, what most people think about are the elaborate floats covered with flowers. Every single one of those floats was created by a team of volunteers who work without pay, to create award-winning spectacles guaranteed to make crowds swoon.
Each year, over 700 thousand people attend the parade, and more than 50 million watch it on television. But, what if you want to do more than just watch?
This past December, we connected with a group so that we could volunteer to help decorate one of the floats. You can find a list of organizations that need volunteers on the Tournament of Roses website if you’re looking for an opportunity to do the same. The warehouses where the floats are assembled are filled with millions of flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds, spices, pods or bark, since every visible inch of every float must be covered with organic material. The most delicate of the flowers, including the parade’s namesake roses, are each in a small vial of water to keep them alive and fresh for as long as possible.
Once you’ve spent several hours helping to craft a work of floral art, you won’t want to miss your opportunity to see it in its natural habitat. A seat in the grandstands is well worth the price of admission. (If you prefer to sit along the roadway, be aware that people start waiting in line for a seat more than 24 hours in advance.) Make sure to arrive early, as there are a flyover and other special events that lead up to start time. If you will be near the beginning of the parade route, you’ll also have a great opportunity to watch the pre-parade festivities. Regardless of where you end up seated, though, make sure you bring snacks and water (no hard water bottles, and check on-line with parade security beforehand about current regulations). And whatever you do, don’t drive. Parking is next to impossible. Get up early, and take a ride-share to get you where you need to be. Some hotels in the area even offer shuttle service and parade packages. Endless Travel can help you find a worry-free package that will make your parade experience absolutely amazing.
After the parade finishes, you can walk to the Rose Bowl for the football game (or take a shuttle if that’s part of your package). Surprisingly, the first football game associated with the parade wasn’t played until 1902, and football didn’t become a regular event until 1916. In the years since, the game has become a bigger and bigger spectacle, so make sure to get to your seats early for stunts, more flyovers, and all sorts of pre-game excitement that makes up the full fan experience. And don’t get out of your seat at halftime! The university bands that play can be absolutely incredible!
Post-game, you’ll want to have dinner plans well away from the stadium, as everything nearby will be completely packed. Make sure your transportation plans are cemented in advance as traffic control around the stadium afterward prevents ride-share pickups from getting to you.
The Rose Parade fun doesn’t stop just because New Year’s Day is over, either. The next day, the Tournament of Roses Committee presents “A Showcase of Floats.” This will give you a chance to get up close and personal with the floats, so you can see just what seeds, flowers, fruits and other items made each of them possible.
The Rose Parade and Rose Bowl make up the most well-known New Year’s Day celebration in the modern world. When you are ready to be a part of it, make sure you partner with Endless Travel to get your year started off right.