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Tournament of Roses Parade

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Bollywood float, Tournament of Roses Parade
Rose Queen and Royal Court, Tournament of Roses Parade
Long Beach Mounted Police, Tournament of Roses Parade

Photos courtesy of Tournament of Roses Archive

Pasadena, California, hosts the annual Tournament of Roses Parade, popularly known as "America's New Year Celebration." It is a grand spectacle encompassing flower-bejeweled floats, marching bands, equestrian shows, an inter-collegiate football game, a Rose Queen with her Royal Court and a Grand Marshall to boot. This extravaganza attracts close to a million visitors with even more spectators watching on television worldwide. Well, you might ask, how does an RVer embrace all this pomp, glitz and glamour? Why don't you park your RV in Pasadena and let us show you exactly what to see and do at the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade.

Before we go there, let's backpedal a little to appreciate the history of this event. The Tournament of Roses Parade originated in 1890, when members of the Valley Hunt Club decided to showcase the wonderful weather of their new adopted home. The tournament started out as a parade of flower-bedecked horse-drawn carriages and games on the town lot. Today the festival has reached such immense popularity and scale that it is managed by the 935 members (the ubiquitous and tireless "white suiters") of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association and comprises of a parade of professionally built floats, equestrian shows, award-winning bands and the Rose Bowl football game.

Let's start with the run-up of events. On December 29 is the Equestfest, where the participating equestrians perform drills and tricks. You can even saunter over to the stable and chat with the riders if you so please. The Bandfest is held on December 29 and 30 and gives you a chance to watch the marching bands in action. These are award-winning high school and college bands that come from across the nation to participate in the Rose Parade.

December 28 through 31 allow you to view the decorating of the floats. Simple horse-drawn carriages have given way to professionally built, animated floats that are almost a year in the making. The rules state that only natural materials such as flowers, seeds, fruits, bark and grasses can be used in the decoration. No artificial flowers or colors are allowed. What's more, volunteers are always welcome and this is where all you RVers can really shine! Put on your work gloves and indulge your creative side. Not only do you get a chance to see your handiwork on display at the parade, but you take back wonderful memories of the fun you had!

The main event, of course, is the 126th Rose Parade that will take place on the morning of Wednesday January 1. This year's theme is Inspiring Stories, and the Grand Marshall is Louis Zamperini, former Olympian and a World War II prisoner of war. Mr. Zamperini was the author of Devil at My Heels and the subject of the best-selling book Unbroken, as well as the movie adapted from the book. Although Mr. Zamperini has already passed away in July, the upcoming tournament is dedicated to him. Both the year's theme and Grand Marshall are chosen by the President of the Tournament. One lucky Pasadena girl is selected as the Rose Queen and has a Royal Court of six princesses who preside over the parade with her. The parade is a spectacular lineup of floats, equestrians and bands. It follows the time-honored route along Colorado Boulevard. You can book tickets and watch comfortably from the grandstands. Or the more adventurous and ticketless souls can camp out on the curb and catch a spot starting at noon on New Year's Eve.

Following the parade, is the 101st Rose Bowl Game, also known as "The Granddaddy of Them All." Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. (PST). This inter-collegiate football game is held at the Rose Bowl Stadium, built especially for this event. The first Rose Bowl game was played in 1902. Traditionally, the game features a matchup between teams from the Big Ten Conference and the Pacific Ten Conference. This year's game is presented by Northwestern Mutual.

All you RVers who won't get a chance to see enough of the magnificent floats during the parade can view them up close between January 1 and 3, at the Post Parade Float Showcase. Walking within a few feet of the floats, you get to admire the details of the craftsmanship and appreciate the beauty and fragrance of the flowers.

As you can see, the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade offers tons of activities and excitement for RVers. All interested RVers can plan your trip in advance through a travel agency and get reserved parking spots for your RV, grandstand tickets, transportation to and from the various events. Alternately, go it alone. Special parking for RVs is available, volunteer for float decorating and join in the festivities. Either way, you are guaranteed to have a rosy New Year!

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