January 04, 2023

Photo Essay: The First Monday of 2023 at the Pasadena Rose Parade

The last time I'd gone to the Rose Parade, it was 2020—and the year had already started off weird, even before the COVID-19 pandemic had taken hold. 

In 2021, it was canceled because of the pandemic. And in 2022, I'd had such a good time celebrating New Year's Eve the night before, I couldn't bear to get up early enough to make it to the parade on time. 
 Parade sponsor, Honda

But this year, New Year's Day once again fell on a Sunday—as it did in 2017—so the Rose Parade took place on Monday, January 2, giving me a one-day buffer/recovery day. 
Cal Poly Universities

Three years ago, I stood high above the action in the press box—but the view is actually better at street level.  
So this year, I settled into my front-row seat on Colorado Boulevard...

...two miles into the parade route (thanks to a viewing party hosted by co-working space Garner Exchange)...

...and waved a "Happy New Year!" to all the float riders, outwalkers, "white suiters" (staff members from Tournament of Roses), pooper scoopers (who follow the equestrian teams), and other float supporters as they sailed on by. 
San Diego Zoo Safari Park

This year's parade theme—it changes every year—was "Turning the Corner," which could be taken both literally and symbolically. 

Every year, all the parade participants turn the corner from their starting point on Orange Grove Boulevard (in front of the Tournament of Roses house, a.k.a. Wrigley Mansion) onto Colorado Boulevard, where they head east for 3.4 miles before they turn onto Sierra Madre. 

But maybe, in 2023, we're turning a corner out of the pandemic. Then again, I was hoping for that last January, too. 

California State Guard

We've all got lots of corners in our lives that we need to maneuver our way around—job losses, relationship changes, deaths, births. It's relentless.  


And it's impossible to see what lies ahead, when it means taking a sharp left or right to get there. 


Sometimes we don't even know what we're looking at, even when it's staring us in the face. 

 Catalina Foothills High School Falcon Band, Tucson, Arizona

Regardless, time marches on. 

Western Asset 

But be careful, because as the Western Asset float reminds us...'s a jungle out there. 

Rosemount Irish, Rosemount Minnesota

The Rose Parade is a  really great opportunity for marching bands and drill teams from all over the country and the world to come to Pasadena, California and play for local spectators and a national audience, thanks to the TV broadcast.  

 Odd Fellows & Rebekahs

It's also an opportunity for organizations to spread the word about their missions...

Trader Joe's

...and for corporate sponsors to entertain while they advertise. 

The Trader Joe's "Fearless Flyer" floats are a highlight every year...

...even when he's not flying but riding a kiwi-wheeled motorcycle...

...towing a pizza-powered pirate ship behind him.

In between the rolling floats, other performers add some variety to the show, like empollerada dancers...
...and the color guard from La Primavera, the banda de musica from Panama.

Kiwanis was back this year with a surfing bear...
...and the city of Alhambra took us "Up, Up, and Away" with their beautiful balloon...

...set against the backdrop of the landmark Alhambra arch and the still-blue sky of a not-yet rainy day. 

The cast of the Ramona pageant celebrated its 100th anniversary by walking the 5.5-mile route...
...while the Rose Queen and her court got to ride on a giant throne and wave for hours.

The Wizard of Oz made an appearance on the float by Healthy Housing Foundation—an effort by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to provide affordable housing to low-income people, with priority given to applicants with chronic health conditions like HIV.  

That's the organization that's revitalizing such historic Downtown LA hotels as the King Edward and the Barclay, making sure they're not just sitting there unoccupied.

Of course, it's easy for me to forget that the Rose Parade is actually a preamble to the annual Rose Bowl game...

...which this year pitted the Utah Utes college football team (who lost)... 
...against the Penn State Nittany Lions (who won).
   Blue Diamond

A lot of Rose Parade attendees then walk over to the Rose Bowl afterwards...

Blue Diamond 

...making for a full day's worth of excitement.

The parade alone is enough entertainment for me...

...although honestly I would prefer to do the parade and the post-parade float viewing ("Float Fest") if I had enough time and energy to do them both.

Because for me, watching the parade isn't a passive experience—but an active one, dancing along with the marching bands (even just in my chair), craning my neck to see what's next, and cheering everybody on. 

That was especially true for this year's Burbank float, "Adventure Awaits," whose hang-gliding VP of Float Steven Edwards and Treasurer (and co-designer) Robin Hanna were a major attraction for me to see the parade in person this year. (Stay tuned for a separate blog post on the Burbank float.)
    La Cañada Flintridge

One of the benefits of seeing the parade in person is experiencing all the animated elements...

 La Cañada Flintridge

...which aren't always "turned on" for the static displays at the post-parade viewing.

The disadvantage? You don't get to examine the floats quite as closely when you're stationed on just one side of them (fortunately in my case, camera-side) and they're moving past you.

 Norfolk State University Spartan "Legion" Marching Band, Norfolk, Virginia

But the Rose Parade is alive—it's a living thing, powered by people with seemingly endless amounts of energy, even on a cold Monday morning. 

And let's not forget the float builders (yes, even the pros) and volunteers who help decorate the floats to get them ready for their close-up...

...and the animals that put on their Sunday best (even on a Monday) for the sake of pageantry.

It's also fun to see all the creatures and critters depicted on so many of the floats every year...

Torrance the 2023 City of Torrance float, "For the Love of Nature." 
   City of South Pasadena

Sometimes in the fantasyland of Rose Parade floats, the animals take over...

 City of South Pasadena when the Einstein-esque mice of a "Weird Science" lab take over... 

 City of South Pasadena

...and let the proverbial cat out of the bag in an award-winning "self-built" float, "Spark of Imagination."

No Rose Parade would be complete without the Budweiser Clydesdales and dalmatian dog...


It's not hard to "Bee Inspired" by it all... 
...especially with the energy of the performers...
 Donate Life

...the artistry that goes into the floats...

Donate Life

...and the meaning and message behind some of them... the Donate Life float...

...which celebrates the lives saved by organ donors. 
 Mexico Buhos Marching Band

I was so glad to be back at the parade, so close from my viewing spot that I was practically in it.
And towards the end of the parade, we started high-fiving the Green Band Japan, whose members had traveled really far and had to wait a long time for their share of the spotlight. 

In fact, the parade had slowed down unexpectedly, which meant that national TV viewers missed the NASCAR float (featuring the LA Memorial Coliseum)...

...and the nightmare-inducing Snapchat float...

...which was maybe for the best, though it was one of the more memorable moments of the parade (asking myself and those around me, "What the heck is that?").

The final good news? None of the floats had to be towed this year. 

Even better? Though it continued to get cloudy and colder as the morning progressed, the rain held off until the parade passed by.
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