Little Bits of History

The Granddaddy of them All

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 1, 2011

January 1, 1890: The Valley Hunt Club of Pasadena, California hosts the first Tournament of Roses parade. The parade is always held on January 1 unless the date falls on a Sunday. This rule was established in 1893 when it was felt that a parade would frighten tethered horses and disrupt Sunday worship services. The first parade consisted of horse-drawn carriages draped in roses [hence the name of the parade] followed by a foot race, polo matches, and a tug-of-war. There were 2,000 spectators the first year.

One of the early Rose Parade participants

Within the next few years marching bands were added. Motorized floats were added shortly thereafter. There were ostrich races, bronco busting, and one year there was a race between a camel and an elephant, with the elephant winning. Since 1923, the Rose Bowl, a college football game, has been played after the parade. For 51 years, from 1955-2006, it never rained on the parade. In 2006, it made up for lost time and poured the whole day. Since 1918, each parade centered around a theme for the floats.

The Grand Marshals have been a varied lot. Shirley Temple, child movie star, hosted in 1939 and fifty years later in 1989 and again in 1999 – the longest time between hostings. Edgar Bergen brought Charlie McCarthy, a ventriloquist dummy to co-host. Kermit the Frog and Mickey Mouse have both been Grand Marshals. Ex-President Eisenhower and not-yet-President Nixon have both held the position. Men from the Moon were Grand Marshals when the crew of Apollo 12 took the stand.

Only fresh flowers are used on the now professionally designed floats. Most American florist shops would need five years to sell as many flowers as are used on each float. Today, more than a million people line the 5.5 mile path watching for 2.5 hours. It takes about 65,000 man-hours of planning to pull off the event. There are 935 members of the Tournament of Roses Association with 38 student ambassadors working in 34 committees to get the show on the road. The floats remain on display for at least two days after the parade.

“Some of us are like a shovel brigade that follow a parade down Main Street cleaning up.” – Donald T. Regan

“I want to be so famous that drag queens will dress like me in parades when I’m dead.” – Laura Kightlinger

“Let the parade go on, … It’s a huge benefit to the city.” – Jack Mahoney

“It was an unbelievable moment. The Rose Bowl is the greatest bowl game there is. It was the greatest memory of my life.” – Joe Germaine

Also on this day:
Julian Calendar – In 45 BC, a new calendar went into effect.
The Times (London) – In 1788, the London Times was first published.