T on January 3rd, 2009

It wouldn’t be New Year’s in Southern California without Pasadena’s Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game.  Like most of the country, I grew up watching the game and parade from far away on TV.  The colorful flowers and sunny blue skies were like rubbing salt into the wound for Easterners dealing with gray skies, snow, ice and wind.

That was actually pretty much the intent of the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club, when they organized the first parade, featuring horse-drawn carts covered with flowers, in 1890.  New California transplants from the East thought it would be nice to hold a parade in the mild weather that featured the flowers that bloomed year-round.  TV wouldn’t be around yet for a few more decades, but newspapers on the East Coast began to hear about it and cover it.  Today, most of the floats are built by professional float-building companies, with work commencing right after the year’s theme is chosen in January.  It’s incredible what can be created with flowers, live plants and seeds, and the designs seem to get better and better each year.

I’ve now seen the parade floats three ways: a few days before, as thousands of volunteers work in the cold to complete the decoration by New Year’s Eve; on New Year’s Day, sitting in the stands watching the completed floats go by; and, like today, after the parade, when you can see them up close and personal.  I think of all the ways, I like the latter best.  This year I got the feel for each float watching the parade reruns on TV, so it was neat to be able to see them afterwards, close up and completed.

I am biased toward the city of Huntington Beach, and was thrilled that it won the Mayor’s Award for best city entry.  It deserved it – not only did it capture the spirit of the city, but it did it in a very creative way, featuring a surfing family, pelicans and dolphins.  Up close, it was really impressive to see how the designers used plants to create the water and sea creatures that added to the effect.

My other favorites were also city entries.  The city of Sierra Madre put together an amazing tribute to Bollywood, and the designs of the ornate tapestry were outstanding.  That example featured oranges and kumquats. They also featured some beautiful trees and a jumbo elephant.

I also really liked the entry from the city of Los Angeles.  Given that the theme was “Hats Off to Entertainment”, it was fitting that this city showcased its contributions to the entertainment and the arts.  The float fittingly featured many of the landmarks I’ve visited and covered on the blog this year: City Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, Griffith Park Observatory, and the Hollywood Sign.  The design of the float featured these in a novel and colorful way.

In past years, I’ve always made arrangements in advance to secure parade route seating. I figured it was way better than camping out in the cold the night before (though in my younger days….)  But several folks at work said they parked even after 8AM a few blocks away from the end of the parade route, walked up to Colorado Boulevard and had a great view.  So, maybe next year it’s time to watch the parade in person again.

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