"In New York, people are buried in 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."
So said one of the recent migrants to California from the East regarding the plan to hold a Tournament of Roses. The tournament was not just a parade, but a series of activities inlcudng foot races, polo matches, chariot races, ostrich races, bronco busting and elephant & camel races. Organized by the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club, the tournament was first held in 1890. The parade was later followed by a football match, first held in 1902. The match was later called the Rose Bowl after Rose Bowl Stadium which was built in 1923.
The original parade featured floats covered in flowers pulled by horse drawn carriages. Bands would march in step between the floats for the 5 1/2 mile route. The parade attracted 2000 spectators who lined Colorado Boulevard.
Over the years some notable floats have included a peacock in 1920, a man on the moon in 1962, a working water slide in 1993 and an erupting volcano in 2008 or 2009. Preparation for each parade starts a year in advance. It takes 60 volunteers 10 days, working 10 hours a day, to make one float. Over 500,000 roses are used in current day parades.
Grand marshals have hosted the parade each year including:
Shirley Temple (1939)
Bob Hope (1947)
Richard Nixon (1953)
Walt Disney (1966)
Hank Aaron (1975)
Gregory Peck (1988)
Buzz Aldrin (1999)
George Lucas (2007)
In 2012, the Rose Parade featured 43 floats, 21 marching bands and 18 equestrian units (composed of 400 horses). Eight hundred thousand spectators lined the parade route, down from 2007 in which they had a million, a parade record.
This year's parade featured a float called "Canines with Courage" honouring the military dogs that risk their lives on the battlefield. A soldier on the float stepped off and surprised his wife who was in the crowd with their son. She had won a contest and had an all expenses paid trip to the parade.