Tournament of Roses Parade

United States' flag
North America » United States » California » Los Angeles » Pasadena
January 1st 2014
Published: January 7th 2014
Edit Blog Post


Standing in front of float I worked on.
Hello everybody,

The parade was as fabulous as I had imagined it would be. The weather was picture perfect. We had bleacher seats about half-way up and about half-way along the parade route. I noticed that the ticket (it was part of the package I bought) sold for $55.

The event started in 1890 when a bunch of stodgy businessmen wanted to prove that they could grow roses in winter. Today it is a non-profit, volunteer-run event that will consume the lives of hundreds of people for the next year. There are 245 core volunteer members. They must live within fifteen miles of Pasadena. Each year there is a turnover of about 20%. They are chosen by group interviews. These are the people you see during the parade on TV: distinctive in their white suits, bought at their own expense.

Floats must meet a number of requirements. There are 24 awards, but no actual trophy and no money--just bragging rights. The most points are given for best floral use and display. However, clever use of materials is also noted, for example, the dragon skin that was made from halved brussel sprouts. Use of animation is also rewarded and we saw a dog catcher running, raccoons popping out of garbage cans and flying horses with flapping wings. Float building is a multi-million dollar business. The theme for this year is "Dreams Come True." It starts with a specially built chassis and then a frame of steel and chicken wire is constructed. It is sprayed with a polyvinyl material, and then painted to indicate the colour of flowers that are to be attached. Sometime in May, when the chassis is finished, they take it out for a road test to make sure it functions the way it should. Parts of the chassis may be used in subsequent years.

Every square inch of the float must be covered in plant material--natural plant material. For example, coffee beans are okay, but not roasted coffee beans. The attaching of flowers starts the day after Christmas. Thousands of volunteers are involved and they work in shifts 24 hours a day until all the floats are coated. They call them "petal pushers." Being a petal pusher was part of my adventure. I spent the morning gluing eucalyptus and silver leaf on a column on the China Air float. In the afternoon, I clipped statis flowers. These would be put in a blender and reduced to a powdery substance. Then glue is painted on the surface and the ground up statis is sprinkled on the glue to look like the ocean on the Polynesian float. Later, I clipped long stem roses to a uniform four inches. They were part of the 2,675 roses needed for Stanford University float.

It was great to be a part of this thing.

Some floats are over 80 feet long and need to be hinged to go around corners. Other floats have trees and high features that need to lie down to go under bridges. Floats must be equally decorated on both sides of the float--no pandering to the television cameras. They must also be interesting from the front and the back. We were assigned to a warehouse where five of the floats were constructed: 25 miles from the start of the parade route. The morning before the parade, they start moving the floats. They travel at 5 mph and it takes about fifteen hours to get them closer to the route. Some of these floats are over fifty feet in length. Each has two people: the driver

Amount of detail was amazing
in the back and an observer in the front who radioes instructions to the driver. The committee people spend the night fixing, tightening and getting the floats a final once over.

The cost? I had to ask. $50,000. to $400,000. per float!

And so I joined the estimated two million other people who lined the street to watch the 45 floats, 20 bands and numerous horse groups.

It was wonderful! Guess that's one more thing I can check off my bucket list.

Enjoy the pictures. Captions aren't always necessary!


PS. Number of roses flown in? One million!

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15



This float was dedicated to people who have received organ transplants. The photos were made out of seeds.

This float honoured the women who were test pilots during WWII. Many of these women, now quite elderly, rode on the float.

This police dog was 30 feet tall.

A flower made out of flowers.

This was the pillar I helped cover with leaves.

This float broke down right in front of the grandstand where we were sitting. Ironically, it was the Poly Tech float.

7th January 2014

On to the next
Oh, Donna, what a wonderful experience and how nice to be completing your bucket list while you are healthy enough to enjoy it. Now, on to the next in your bucket list and can't wait to hear what it is and hope you will share it with all of us!
7th January 2014

wonderful to get a chance to hear about your adventure. you have such amazing ideas!!!
8th January 2014

Rose Parade
Hi Donna: Nice blog! I really liked the historical background and the photos were superb. Provided a breathe of fresh air in a COLD Kingston day. Alan
8th January 2014

Rose Parade
Hi Donna: Nice blog! I really liked the historical background and the photos were superb. Provided a breathe of fresh air in a COLD Kingston day. Alan
8th January 2014

I didn't realize that the parade is made up of all the flowers. I will have to put this on my bucket list also.
8th January 2014

Rose Parade
The photos were great. On to your next adventure, the Panama Canal aright.
8th January 2014

Bucket Lists
Donna, This sounds like a great adventure. Strangely, just this morning I have done so many things in life that I have no more bucket list. But, maybe rethinking that would be a good idea. What are someother interesting things you have on that list. How about visiting me in Thailand!
8th January 2014

Hi Donna, What an incredible experience. Your description was so vivid and informative. Many thanks. Luckily, you missed this extremely cold weather we are having up here in Winterland. We leave for San Diego next weekend (18th) so leave some warmth for us!! Hopefully, Pearson will have re-opened by then.
8th January 2014

Absolutely beautiful!!
8th January 2014

These pictures were incredible! And really enjoyed the commentary! Happy New Year, Donna!
9th January 2014

Very nice. Glad you enjoyed the experience.
9th January 2014

Travelling Lady strikes again!
Most of us would never even think to put such an event on their bucket list but once again, Donna, you have amazed your blog followers. The photos are gorgeous and your blog, as always, is educational. I enjoyed it immensely. Thanks for sharing.
17th January 2014

Hi Donna. I'm late checking my email. As usual, I loved your comments and the photos are beautiful. Take care.

Tot: 0.693s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 16; qc: 63; dbt: 0.0214s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb