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.

We’re Going To The Tournament Of Roses Parade

rose parade

Every New Year’s Day Helaine would gaze at the tube and tell me how “one day” she’d like to see the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. Tomorrow she gets her wish. I ordered tickets and a parking pass and gave them to her on Christmas Day. It was a huge surprise and proof it is better to give than receive.

You actually don’t need tickets to see the parade. People are already lining Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena and the parade is 19 hours away! That process just seemed too iffy.

I read the instructions on the parking pass yesterday. Be parked by seven and be prepared to stay until the parade is done! The lot will be staged like long term storage with cars blocked in. My assumption is their 7:00 AM deadline is a little flexible, we’ll still be up very early.

The parade gets underway at 8:00 AM, but doesn’t pass our location until a little before 9:00. The line-of-march takes 2&#189 hours to complete.

On a good day we’re an hour from Pasadena. I have no idea how traffic will be. We plan on leaving the house around 5:30 AM. We’ll only be off the freeway and on Pasadena streets for a few blocks.

Doppler will come along hidden in a shoulder bag. Shhhh. Clicky’s coming too.

We’ve been to Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. That will be tough to beat. It was spectacular. The big difference will be the weather. It should be in the fifties when we arrive, but close to 70&#176 by the time we’re done, all under sunny skies.