After a year off amid the pandemic, the Rose Parade is scheduled to return to the streets of Pasadena on Saturday, Jan. 1. Later, the “Granddaddy of ’em All,” the Rose Bowl football game, will kick off before an expected sellout at the stadium marking its 100th birthday.
The path back hasn’t been devoid of twists and potholes, however.
The frighteningly reinvigorated coronavirus outbreak had officials placing safeguards in place and vowing to monitor public-health updates until the final hour. With coronavirus cases almost doubling in just two days, Los Angeles County reported 27,091 new cases on Friday as virus-weary region concluded 2021. The pandemic forced the cancellation of scattered Rose-related events, including public float decorating and the Lawry’s Beef Bowl feast for the bowl game’s beefy participants.
A week of persistent rain also soaked pre-parade activities and cut down on their crowds — including the two-day Bandfest featuring Rose Parade marching bands, and Equestfest, the showcase for equestrian groups.
As the virus news worsened this week — with new cases topping 20,000 in Los Angeles County on Thursday — Kaiser Permanente officials announced they would remove 20 front-line medical heroes as float riders and “out-walkers” from its float, which will roll on without them. Other changes in the lineup could be possible, but no entry cancellations had been reported at the time this story was posted.
Because of COVID-triggered supply woes and shipment snarls, flowers, seeds and other items needed to cover the fabulous floats became something of a cliffhanger. Parade fans should not fret, officials said. The floats are now complete and were scheduled to move from Irwindale and Rosemead to Pasadena, beginning at 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 31.
County and city public officials urged people to mask up, get vaccinated, honor safety precautions and to keep high-risk people away from such large gatherings.
Councilman Tyron Hampton summed it all up: “If you don’t feel comfortable, then watch it on TV.”
Here are 10 things you should know about today’s return of the Roses.
1. Blooming in the shadow of COVID
The number of coronavirus cases in Pasadena were higher than ever before this week. Countywide, the sudden spike drove more people to hospitals, spurred havoc for restaurants and bars and shut down performances galore, such as “A Christmas Carol” at the Ahmanson and “Hamilton” at the Pantages.
Amid the grim news, the parade and game still had the green light as of Friday, with officials urging people to get vaccinated, tested and masked — and to keep higher-risk people at home.
County officials expressed confidence in Tournament of Roses officials and the city’s Public Health Department, which vowed to monitor coronavirus developments right up until launch time.
Tournament of Roses CEO David Eads noted the coronavirus scenario has been on the radar of the Tournament for some time because planning for this year’s parade started in February. A feasibility study by USC Keck School of Medicine was conducted and, Eads said, “all of our planning has been based on these scenarios.”
“If there’s a new health order that requires seating changes, we’ll be making those changes, but so far, that’s not required,” Eads added. “We’re in a different place than we were in than we were in a year ago before we had the vaccine. We can’t compare this year to last year.”
People who purchase tickets to watch the parade from grandstands along the route are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from within 72 hours of a scheduled event. Because the city is unable to enforce mega event standards for non-ticketed patrons, those witnessing the parade further down the route will not have to provide proof of anything. Officials have urged all attendees to wear facemasks.
Pasadena Public Health Officer Ying-Ying Goh encouraged everybody who is eligible to get a vaccine, proven to be effective in preventing coronavirus’ most severe symptoms, she said. But getting a booster doesn’t mean you’re not at risk of exposure during an outdoor mega event, Goh said. “So people who are concerned about getting infected with COVID should not go, because they are putting themselves at risk by being around other people.”
“We’re urging everybody to be fully vaccinated if you are eligible,” said Mayor Victor Gordo, who will ride in an automobile during the parade, “and be responsible as you move in and about the city, including on New Year’s Day.”
2. A brrrr-acing morning
Two words: Bundle up.
Thankfully, rain is off the schedule after a week of showers, however it was expected be way-chilly overnight Friday. Temperatures could dip down to 39 degrees, forecasters said.
3. TV: The sofa and jammies option
Those traveling no further than their sofas this year can don fuzzy slippers and fire up the TV to KTLA, starting at 8 a.m. PST, for a glimpse of this year’s parade. Also airing the parade are Univision — in Spanish — as well as ABC, NBC, Hallmark Channel and RFD-TV.
4. Grandaddy’s back
The 108th Rose Bowl Game — a.k.a. the “Granddaddy of ’em All” — kicks off at 1 p.m. PST with No.10 Utah facing off against No. 7 Ohio State, on ESPN.
Last year, the game was hurriedly moved to Texas rather than play before a limited or empty stadium as decreed by the state at the time. The decision proved disappointing for many and the echoes of a legal snarl endure.
5. The truly grand marshal
Actor, director and literacy advocate LeVar Burton, the 2022 grand marshal, embodies the 2022 theme, according to Rose Parade President Bob Miller — “Dream. Believe. Achieve.”
Though known for portraying Kunta Kinte on the landmark TV series “Roots” and Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” it was Burton’s advocacy for education — particularly his efforts to support literacy — that caught Miller’s eye.
“You’ll see why our grand marshal is the perfect choice,” Miller said, echoing this year’s emphasis on education.
Burton said he has never stopped dreaming, believing or achieving. “That is the process,” he said. “There is an absolute link between that which we dream and that which we achieve, and the middle connector is imagination.”
Burton’s portrait has joined the likes of John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck and other grand marshals in the hall of the Tournament House, and the well-known history buff considers it a high honor. “Not just in terms of a personal achievement but I think about what it means to my family,” said, who considers his wife, Stephanie Cozart Burton, a full partner in his public-service efforts.
The most exciting aspect of his selection, he said, will be welcoming a number of educators onto his float.
6. The Queen and her Court
Rose Queen Nadia Chung and this year’s Royal Court boasted stellar resumes, as usual, with lists of academic achievements and hundreds of hours of community service.
The queen’s court:
- Jeannine Briggs, John Marshall Fundamental High School;
- Nadia Chung, La Cañada High School;
- Ava Feldman, South Pasadena High School;
- Abigail Griffith Pasadena High School;
- Swetha Somasundaram, Arcadia High School;
- McKenzie Street, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy; and
- Jaeda Walden, La Cañada High School.
Chung previously admitted she had to pinch herself when her name was called out because she was surprised to have two selections from La Cañada High.
“I’ve been hoping for this moment since I was four because I just want to be able to encourage other young kids to pursue their dreams and believe in themselves,” Chung said, holding back “happy tears.”
7. Strike up the bands
Going for a walk in the sun after getting drenched during Bandfest on Wednesday and Thursday, a total of 19 bands this year will strut down the route this year, including the tuneful throngs representing the two Rose Bowl teams’ schools, Utah and Ohio State.
One participant, Kelly Leyva, thought her Tournament of Roses Parade appearance 31 years ago was a once-in-a-lifetime gig. But the Bonita Unified band director comes full circle this Jan. 1 when she returns to Colorado Boulevard as part of a dream team of band directors.
Leyva will be part of the Band Directors Marching Band, which includes directors from all 50 states and Mexico. Members range from recent music education graduates to retired veteran directors.
The group, part of a combined float and marching band entry, only had about two days practice, working on their maneuvers in the rain, weathering flight delays and COVID constraints to do what they tell their students.
Experience, however, is not an issue. Together, members of have taught a total of 4,539 years.
8. The Floats
Despite the race to the finish line spurred by the pandemic-era supply labyrinth, this year’s floats are expected to be no less spectacular — including a mix of perennial favorites and first-time entries.
But the floral finery pales in comparison to the courage, strength and compassion exhibited by those who ride on or march alongside the Donate Life float, featuring “floragram” tributes to their loved ones, people whose organs saved the lives of others after their own deaths.
Heart transplants, weeks-long comas and the heartbreaking deaths of family members forge the back-stories of the battles faced by the dozens of families who are honored by the annual tradition. They often bond, too, with the people whose lives were saved.
9. Up close and flower-full
Want to see the floats in person without getting up at dawn? Try Floatfest, the two-mile, close-up lineup of floats displayed on Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards in Pasadena.
Admission is $20, but free for children 5 and younger. Hours are from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 1; 7 to 9 a.m. Sunday, Jan., 2, reserved for seniors and disabled visitors; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2. Ticket sales end at 3 p.m. and the last entry is at 4 p.m.
Attendees are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from within 72 hours. Face coverings are required. Tickets and more information: sharpseating.com.
10. And an army of volunteers
And, of course, there are scores of equestrian groups, dignitaries, LeAnn Rimes’ opening performance, the famed flyover and many other attractions.
The unsung heroes, however, are the scores of volunteers — many clad in their iconic white suits — who pull the event together, this year, during rainy, complex, COVID-scarred times.
Source: Orange County Register