January 1st, 2009 we had a chance to experience the120th annual Tournament of Roses in nearby Pasadena. The theme that year (there's always a theme) was "Hat's Off to Entertainment."
Unlike folks who camped out overnight (which I personally think is crazy) we choose to leave our home around 7:30am, arriving towards the end of the parade around 8:30am. For us as family, much more do-able. And this year friends (who recently moved here from the midwest) joined us.
“Bollywood Dreams” - The City of Sierra Madre, a small community next to Pasadena, pulled off this amazing float. It's great seeing smaller cities from the area (Duarte, West Covina, Flintridge/La Canada, South Pasadena, etc) build incredible - and award winning - floats, the vast majority of work being done by volunteers.
The City of Los Angeles has an entry every year, but as good as what these much smaller cities do.
We were on Sierra Madre Blvd, north of the 210 Freeway, sitting on a grass median. We parked (free, of course) in a neighborhood and walked about five short blocks.
Weather was great. About 70 degrees, and sunny. We got to know some of the people around us, shared snacks ... strangers I met ten minutes earlier made sure my kids had a good seat. How great is that?
The parade is six miles long, five miles of which is along Colorado Blvd. The parade turns north at Sierra Madre Blvd. and continues for another mile. Sierra Madre becomes a residential street: it's pretty wild having a parade of this calibre pass by single family homes.
Most floats are simply amazing! Click on any of these photos for a larger (and more detailed) image. Considering we only waited about an hour for the parade to start, we had great seats. Most of these photos were taken simply standing (although a couple of times I stood on a metal folding chair). We brought chairs to sit on - which we highly recommend.
These photos are just a few of the 46 different floats that rolled by this year. Every square inch of visible surface area has to be covered with plants, flowers, or organic material.
Back when I was a student at UCLA, a couple of fraternity brothers and I got up early to try and see the parade. It was dark and cold as we wandered along Colorado Blvd around 5am looking for a place to sit. We didn't know what we were doing. I was tired, wished I had brought a chair, and really wished I back in bed. When the parade finally came by, we were on the wrong side of the street -and staring into the sun. Lame. I promised myself I would never go back.
Ten years later a friend suggested we go, but this time he had a plan: show up at towards the end of the parade (around 9:30am) - with step ladders, so we could see. Worked great! I understand Pasadena has since banned ladders - but a metal folding chair can work, too as long as you're behind the crowd and not blocking anyone else's view.
As I said, it was sunny and about 70 degrees. More amazing than the floats is the fact that it's only rained on the parade once in over fifty years. If you're not familiar with Southern California, it rains here in the winter. The fact that the parade has only experienced rain once since 1956 is remarkable.
A few years ago, I began to wonder, "Does God like the Rose Parade?"
Before answering that, maybe a better question is "does God like flowers? Does He like plants, animals ... His Creation?"
I think the answer to that is, "yes."
"God saw all that He had made, and it was very good." Genesis 1:31
Why are there so many varities of plants and animals?
Why are there so many kinds of flowers?
Why are they so beautiful?
The diversity of life on earth is amazing. I remember thinking years ago "God isn't a theologian - He's a biologist!"
The Tournament of Roses doesn't try make any sort of theological statement. Sure, there are little nods to faith, much of which seems grandfathered in from previous generations: the Salvation Army band participates every year, the Lutheran Layman's League has an annual Christian-themed float (this year's theme "Hat's Off to Entertainment" was trickier than usual to work with). Most significantly, the parade organizers have a policy never holding the parade on a Sunday. In our secular, 24/7 society, that's incredible, really.
In a world of war, famine, suffering, and - yes - school shootings ... is it trivial to even ask if God likes something like the Tournament of Roses?
Maybe. But maybe not.
He [God] waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of His work. He makes grass grow for the cattle and plants for man to cultivate - bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that He planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees ..." Psalm 104: 13-16
"The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of goves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the bloosming vines spread their fragrance." Song of Songs 2:11-13
originally published 11/21/09
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