It’s hard to think of a parade and not think of the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.  It is just something we have all grown up with, and something, it seems, will always be there.  Every New Year’s morning the beautiful floats and booming marching bands glide by our television screen.  The colors are spectacular, and while most of the country sits in a deep freeze, the weather in Pasadena is always warm and inviting.  

It’s been a tradition since the first parade was staged in 1890.  The members of Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club wanted others to know what fine weather they enjoyed in this region, in the hopes that vacationers would want to come and share it with them. 

The word ‘tournament’ was added because the first festivals also contained foot races, sack races, polo matches, and tug-of-wars, thus adding the element of competition.  Carriages where pulled by horses and were adorned with beautiful, fragrant fresh roses and other flowers.  Each year the parade was held on January 1st, except on years that New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday.  During these years the parade was held on Monday January 2nd, so as not to disturb the many churches along the parade route. 

As the years passed, the “Tournament of Roses” grew.  More and more people attended and became involved in both the preparation and the parade itself.  It eventually grew out of its home at the Valley Hunt Club, and spilled onto neighborhood parks and city streets.  Marching bands became an addition and more sporting events and competitions became part of this annual festival.  As technology grew so did the elaborate floats and motors were added to both propel and animate them. 

Today the Tournament of Roses Parade is viewed by approximately 40 million viewers in the United States.  The parade is also shown in nearly 100 other countries around the world.  It is estimated that about 1 million people will watch the parade in person also!  This is far from the original 2,000 that attended back in 1890 and has proven to be a huge attraction for this Southern California city.  The Rose Bowl Game, which features top college football teams, follows immediately after the parade, and is sold out year after year ahead of time. 

There are strict regulations that need to be followed for each and every float involved in the parade.  Each year the parade has a theme, and the floats entered must be appropriate for that particular year’s theme.  Height and width requirements must be adhered to, and the entire surface area of the float MUST be covered by some kind of flower, petal, seed, leaf, bark or other acceptable natural material.  Many times the floats are operated by hydraulic lifts and motors inside.  Organizations and companies take the entire year to build these elaborate floats and each is judged in a number of categories.  Historical and mythical characters that tower high above glide effortlessly across the city streets.  The parade route is 5 ½ miles long and generally takes about 2 ½ hours to complete. 

What better way to wind down after a busy holiday season then to relax in the sun?  If the winter winds are nipping at your nose, and you feel the need to get away to some warmer climate, consider visiting the warmth of Pasadena during one of America’s greatest parades.  The Pasadena area holds so much activity and is close to so many great attractions.  Fly into the Burbank airport and be close to all of the action, or try close by LAX as a backup option.  It’s a fabulous way to start off your New Year! (Related: Fun Ways to Spend The Holidays in Southern California)