Rose Parade kicks off with a smaller but enthusiastic crowd
Just before 6 a.m., Kelly and Nathan Alexander warmed up next to a roaring propane fire pit outside Total Wines & More on Colorado Boulevard as they waited for the Rose Parade to begin.
The parade – started in 1890 as a promotional event by a local social club to show off Pasadena’s notoriously mild winter weather – was to begin under clear skies and temperatures in the 40s. It was downright mild compared to the blast arctic that gripped much of the country the week before Christmas.
Kelly, who celebrates her 37th birthday on Monday, is an Arcadia native who grew up coming to the parade with her church youth group, camping out on the boulevard “millions of times,” she said.
Last week the couple, who now live in Colorado Springs, loaded their five children – ages 8, 12, 14, 15 and 17 – into an RV, drove around snowstorms in Arizona, returned visited family in Southern California, then headed to the town of Roses. They staked out a prime spot on the 5.5-mile route on Sunday afternoon – surprised there seemed to be far fewer overnight campers than in years past.
“It was really dead,” Kelly said. “Usually it’s a wild party. But the people who were here were having fun.
Usually held on New Year’s Day, the event takes place on Mondays as part of the “never on a Sunday” parade tradition. The original organizers did not want to interfere with worship services. The 134th Rose Parade comes three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the parade was canceled for the first time since World War II. Last year it reverted to smaller crowds, with coronavirus safety measures that included requiring parade participants and spectators to wear masks in ticketed areas and show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
There are no such mandates this year, although health officials are recommending masking up in large crowds – and staying home when sick – amid a winter surge in coronavirus cases. COVID-19, influenza and RSV that has strained hospitals across the country.
The theme for this year’s parade – an expression of hope and resilience – is “Turning the Corner”. The Grand Marshal is former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived being shot in the head in 2011.
“The idea of ’turning the corner’ also resonates from a national perspective,” Giffords said in a statement. “Our country has faced years of a deadly pandemic and political rancor. Yet medical advances and bipartisan compromises have helped us take steps towards a better future, even if those steps are not always as fast or as sure as we would like, but I have learned the importance of incremental progress – and that progress begins with having the courage to hope, and then acting on that hope.
This year’s parade includes 39 floats, 21 marching bands and 16 equestrian units, according to the Tournament of Roses.
By Sunday evening, enthusiasts had begun to gather along Colorado and Arroyo Boulevards in preparation for the parade the next morning.
A trumpet playing “Last Christmas” cut through the bustle of traffic along Colorado near Delacroy Avenue as 17-year-old Nick Tea carried a fully inflated air mattress over his shoulder. The La Crescenta High School senior was looking for a campsite that his friend, Grant Barton, had staked out.
The couple said they braved the cold weather overnight to support Barton’s girlfriend, Uma Wittenberg, who is a princess in this year’s parade.
Earlier in the day, Richard Lugo was one of hundreds who showed up for a brief preview of the parade as the floats made their way from a warehouse in Irwindale, where they are built, to the parade route in Pasadena .
Lugo said he grew up going to the Rose Parade. From the age of 8 until he was an adult, he and his extended family woke up early every New Year’s Day and walked from his grandmother’s house in Pasadena to the parade.
“Some years we didn’t sleep at all,” Lugo said.
This year he continued the tradition with his 5-year-old granddaughter by taking her to check out the floats.
“It’s quite a show,” he said.
Los Angeles Times