Observations From The Tournament Of Roses Parade

We attended the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena yesterday. I think it’s almost as good as Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Helaine liked this one more. You can’t lose either way.


With no traffic it’s a 1:05 trip to Pasadena. It didn’t take much longer Wednesday morning. We left the house around 5:15 AM. Things went smooth until we pulled into the parking garage near our seats.

I’d purchased parking before the event, so I was assured a space in a garage on the Pasadena City College campus. Which space was mine was a little more difficult. I had to hunt around until I found something.

Still early, we sat in the car and made believe we were resting.

There was a lot of foot traffic approaching the bleachers. At times we were stopped. Jammed. The crowd was well behaved, but there should be more access to open space.



There is an official seller of bleacher seats at the parade. I bought two a few weeks ago. We were assigned seats in Row JJ–up high.

Our view was unobstructed, but probably a little too high and too far back. Being on the curb would be better, but you have to show up as if it’s a $29 HDTV on Black Friday at WalMart, to get a spot.

I brought my camera and shot away with reckless abandon. I mostly shot with a medium telephoto (28-70mm) then changed to a longer (70-200mm) lens toward the end. The longer reach of the second lens produced more pleasing shots, though it was often too long to capture an entire float.

Shots from the shorter lens had too much natural contrast in a small space. The camera just couldn’t do it justice.

The Dog

This was a tough call for Helaine and me. Would it be too long to leave Doppler alone? We took a chance and brought her.

We saw a few other dogs–none in the stands. Doppler was in a bag, pointed backwards, as Helaine walked past the usher. I followed closely, shielding them as we turned upstairs.

She was quiet. She didn’t fidget. She sat on Helaine’s lap.

How could someone have abandoned this dog?

We are exceptionally lucky to have her. She is as well behaved as a dog can be. She is better behaved than some humans, specifically me.

The Setting

Pasadena is beautiful, nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and featuring very tall, thin palms. The mountains are starkly visible north of the main drag, Colorado Blvd.

It was 41&#176 when we arrived. Quickly, the temperature rose to the sixties before topping out in the 70&#176s this afternoon.

Blue skies. No wind. Dry air.

It takes no getting used to.

The Floats

A few were really strong, but only a few.

Any float that had “people” looked creepy, as did one that had “dogs.”

Every surface of every float must be covered in a flower or plant or seed. I think there’s a loophole there. Sort of like those cake bakers on TV who make cakes which are mainly inedible! Lots of surfaces looked too flat to be legit… At least to me.

Some were unexpected. eharmony.com had a float. It wasn’t the one where the gay couple was married. Theirs was sponsored by an AIDS awareness group.

The Sea World float had extra security marching right alongside it. Earlier PETA demonstrators had blocked it and been arrested. Not where I could see.

Which reminds me…



There were police on site, but they surely weren’t doing the kind of ‘security theater’ we’ve come to expect in the 21st Century. No bag checks. No nothin’!

I felt no less safe.

The crowd was well behaved, but restrained in a very cramped space.

Around halfway through the parade I noticed a small white object hovering a few hundred feet behind the route. I couldn’t get a good shot, but it’s a definitely quadcopter. I understand they’re considered safe, but safe enough for this situation? A panic here would have been catastrophic.


The marching bands were cool–every single one! It’s not something you see all-the-time, for sure. All those feet and instruments in sync and on key!

What an undertaking bringing these kids, some from Pennsylvania and other points east, en mass to California. The bands often have over a hundred members, plus costumes and instruments.

Michigan State

Nearly everyone in our section was a Michigan State fan. Go Green. Go White. I shouted it with them. Everyone loves a party.

Helaine noticed one car with Michigan/Spartan side view mirror covers! Seriously? Can there still be unexplored marketing possibilities?

Michigan State must be making a mint off their trademarks. They’re licensed for nearly everything.


Vin Scully was the Grand Marshal. He smiled and waved and looked old. He doesn’t sound his age on-the-air.

Lynn Swan drove by. The top three winners of The Voice had a float.

KC and the Sunshine Band performed, while in motion. Harry Casey is older. There’s a lot of that going on.

Daryl Hall performed with his band. If John Oates was around, I missed him.

The After Parade

Immediately following the parade is a sort of anti-parade. Small groups of protesters march with signs and banners and even a few crudely made floats.

They’re not part of the line-of-march. They weren’t invited.

They’re taking advantage of their First Amendment rights in one of the few places they can be seen by a large audience.

11 thoughts on “Observations From The Tournament Of Roses Parade”

    1. I would go again if I could watch from ground level. I’m not sure I’m ready to make the commitment necessary to sit at the curb. Buying parking before going was the right thing to do.

  1. Geoff: thanks for you creativity, reporting, fotos, and, of course, Doppler! A big storm is bearing down here in Connecticut, and we still don’t believe it will snow unless you tell us. Happy New Year and all the best.

  2. Great pics Geoff, especially of Doppler!!! I am not big on crowds, at least not like that. I would prefer to watch from home. I can handle our small town parades….nothing like that!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!! Your pictures never disappoint!!!

  3. I am so glad that you posted so many great photos. I think this parade beats the one in Herald Square except for one thing…the lack of Broadway performances. But that is just me.
    My favorite float was the one with the three green aliens (?) that rolled off the main float and drove around; it was like four floats in one!
    I too was impressed with how far some of those band kids had traveled and how much fundraising must have been done. FYI, there was at least one dog on a leash that appeared on the preshow on the Hallmark Channel.
    And who knew that there was an ‘after parade!’

  4. If you parked at PCC, I know exactly where you saw the parade. The bleachers must have been over the pools in front of the college. Different companies erects seating along the parade route and sells tickets. If I was going to do it again, I would catch a local bus, which would drop me off at Green & Lake, bring with me some portable seating & sit along the curve. You can get some real shots of the floats, bands and horses. I wish I could post a picture here of my uncle who rode his horse in the parade for several years.

    As I was watching the parade, a friend of mine from SO CA called me. We talked about old times, going to the parade together. A bunch of us would go down to the parade on New Years Eve. Usually by the time parade showed up, I was ready to go to bed. Those were good times.

    Thanks for posting information about the parade and sharing with us the pictures you took.

  5. Great pictures–luckily you had the telephoto lens–you needed it from that high up. I, personally, can no longer climb that high up into bleachers, without feeling as though I would topple over.–and I once climbed mountains–on trails.
    Glad to see Doppler enjoying it,she really is a sweet dog–as have been most of your dogs–going back to Ivy! I was upset with the parade–not with the floats, but the lack thereof. Going back not that many years ago–this used to be a 3 hour parade–many floats, large and small. Cal-PolyTech used to have one,as well as La Canada & a few other towns– didn’t see that they did, this year. There wasn’t so much of the live performing going on–but rather, most floats were mechanized. The best one in my mind was the Alien one–I hope they performed further on down the line. My critique has to do with the fact that the parade is now “made for TV” and has to be timed between games. Used to be that several channels ran it and one, I think Ch 5 out of NY would re-air it later in the day. Now everything is run by the cable companies etc..I agree with Carole–sitting curbside with my hot/cold snacks and a blanket for warmth, was the best way to go—don’t know that my body would cooperate now–but it was good. Parade would begin at 8AM, and the last float or horse cotillion would go by at 11AM. No politicians, just plain folk and hollywood stars–Gene Autrey and Roy Rogers were still riding, in my day. Carole, when you were out there, was there still a Christmas Parade in ? Burbank,or Hollywood? That is another parade made up of Hollywood folk. I worked at Children’s Hosp LA and lived in Glendale.
    Now–what is a quadcopter? I thought you were going to say the object was a drone–or is that the same thing? I/ve said before, I am not tech oriented.
    I am really glad that you thought to do that this year–who knows, next year you might be working–.

  6. Barbara, the 2 Cal Poly campuses would build a float, half on one campus and the other half on the other campus. You can see the floats and etc up close & personal, but you need to arrive early, so you can find a place to sit along side the street. My uncle who played Sgt Preston of the Yukon rode his horse several times. I took pictures of him. There is a Christmas Parade in Hollywood. Saw that parade several times, but the last time was back in the 80’s.

  7. Carole,
    Thanks for the reply–My time out there goes back to the mid ’60’s. We generally arrived curbside between 11PM New Years Eve,(first time), and 1AMish,(2nd time). Slept on the sidewalk or sat and drank hot(non alcoholic)beverages. The first time, I had family friends of my parents living in Pasadena, and they directed us as to parking and setting up. My beef now is how they have shortened the parade to comply with the wants of the cable companies. I guess it goes with the times we find ourselves in, in today’ world.

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