For my first blog of 2010, I must wish you a blessed new year. May 2010 bring you every good thing, and may all your Christmas dreams come true.
No holiday season would be complete at our house without a gander at the Tournament of Roses Parade, long called “America’s New Years’ Celebration.”
In my early days, I ooohed and aaahed a ‘plenty in front of a black and white TV set, and as a teen, I spent a New Year’s Eve sleeping in somebody’s driveway for a first-hand experience. However, these days I relax in front of my big screen with a mimosa.
As a kid, I remember Christmas cards from the Kansas kinfolk who couldn’t wait to see the flower-bedecked floats on TV on a bleak winter morning. Not until I lived through my first Midwest winter in college did I understand their awe.
In fact, for that very reason, the first Tournament of Roses parade was staged in 1890 by members of Valley Hunt Club, a social club in Pasadena, California. Most of them were former residents of snow country who wished to showcase the mild winter weather of their new home.
“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. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”
The first parades included various horse-drawn transports covered in local flowers, and eventually came to include ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations, and a race between a camel and an elephant. (The elephant won.) Eastern newspapers began to take serious notice of the event, and history was made.
In 1883, the Never on Sunday rule was instituted, to avoid frightening horses tethered at churches along the parade route. This rule stands today. If January first lands on a Sunday, the Parade is held on Monday the 2nd. And only twice in almost sixty years has there been rain..the parade goes on nonetheless.
In 1902, the Tournament of Roses decided to enhance the day’s festivities by adding a football game – the first post season college football game ever held. The Rose Bowl, granddaddy of them all.
The Tournament of Roses has come a long way since those early days of horses and wagons. On the five and a half mile route, floats today can exceed 100 feet in length, although they must watch out for a 90 degree turn in the road and a freeway overpass. They feature high-tech computerized animation and exotic organic material from all over the world. Each visible inch of the float must be covered with natural materials and these include much more than roses and flower petals. Ground rice, pinto beans, seaweed, poppyseed, and coconut bark are just a handful of the materials used. Who woulda thunk orange slices make good fish scales?
After the parade, floats are parked on display for two days, and a couple of years ago we got some great photographs.
Although most floats nowadays are built by professional building companies and take up to a year to construct, a few floats are still created by volunteers. The post-Christmas week flurry of activity is something I clearly remember from my teen years when our church group, the “Pedal Pushers” worked frantically to get our entry finished.
This year my favorite of the 40 floats was Donate Life which featured 76 “floragraphs” in memory of organ donors, the beautiful portraits done in flowers and seeds. And on a lighter note (I have two grand-pup bulldogs), the Guinness-record longest single-chassis float at 113 feet was sponsored by Natural Balance Pet Foods and featured snowboarding bulldogs. Tilman the star bullie, happens to be a hometown hero. Since the ski slope couldn’t be covered with plant material, it needed special permission to participate.
I hope you got to enjoy this year’s parade. And I hope you’ve gotten to enjoy my current release, Marrying Minda, or soon will. I’m thrilled the follow-up book, Marrying Mattie, featuring Minda’s sister will be released later this year. So, tell me about your parade experiences. Any Rose Paraders out there? How about Macy’s? Hometown charmers? Harbor Parades of Lights?