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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tournament of Roses: The Rose Parade 2017


On New Year's Day, my wife, teenage kids, and I drove down to Los Angeles to see the Tournament of Rose (more commonly known as the Rose Parade) in Pasadena. The Parade is normally held on New Year's Day, except when January 1st falls on a Sunday, as it did this year. So, technically, we enjoyed the Parade on Monday January 2nd. 

Above, a detail from one of the many floats, this one "Prosperity in the Wild," sponsored by Western Asset. Every square inch, including the face and bodies of the tigers, is covered in flowers or organic material. 


Here's another view of "Prosperity in the Wild" - which was awarded Directors’ Trophy for outstanding artistic merit in design and floral presentation.


Floats are sponsored by either corporations, by service organizations, or by local Los Angeles area cities. The City of Downey out did themselves again, this year with "The Gold Rush." This float had an actual working roller coaster style mine cart as the rolled through the streets of Pasadena. Here's a link to a 30 second video of the mine cart in operation. Downey was awarded the Governor’s Trophy for best depiction of life in California. 


24 organ, eye and tissue transplant recipients rowing in unison made up the "Teamwork in Life" float sponsored by Donate Life California. This is a great example of a float sponsored by a service organizations.


The City of Burbank's delightful "Home Sweet Home." Burbank is adjacent to the northeast border of Los Angeles, on the eastern edge of the San Fernando Valley, and it home to both Warners Brothers and the Walt Disney Studios. Like other cities that regularly participate, Burbank's float is paid for entirely through donations, and designed, built and decorated entirely by volunteers. 


One of the huge myths about seeing the parade is that you have to camp out the night before, or get there at the crack of dawn, to get a viewing spot. Not so. Sure, some people camp out on Colorado Blvd the night before, or get up at 4am, for a choice curbside seat. Others pay the big $$ for a bleacher seat along Colorado Blvd closer to the start of the parade.

Meanwhile, we got a good night's sleep, leaving our hotel in Woodland Hills at a very reasonable at 8am. No traffic - so got to Pasadena by 8:30am, and found a great spot on Sierra Madre Blvd around 9am, with our metal folding chairs. The Parade begins at 8:00am in downtown Pasadena, taking 90 minutes to arrive where we were. Very doable!

Above, 24 Hour Fitnesses' Crown City Innovation Trophy for best use of imagination and innovation to advance the art of floral design. 



Here's another commercial float: the "Spirit of Hawaii," sponsored by Dole, winning the Sweepstakes Trophy for most beautiful entry in the parade with outstanding floral presentation and design.


And another service organization float: "Doing Good in the World," sponsored by Rotary's International, and winning the Princess Award for the most beautiful float under 35 feet.


The Fantasy Trophy for most outstanding display of fantasy and imagination was awarded to BDK, A Singpoli Affiliate for their float “The Monkey King: Journey To Success.”


Detail from the Monkey King float. 


The American Armenian Association's "Field of Dreams" float, winner of the Past Presidents Trophy for most creative design and use of both floral and non-floral materials. Metro Los Angeles is home to the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia, with nearby Glendale being really the hub for the Armenian American community. 


Northwestern Mutual's "Waves of Hope," winner of the Animation Trophy, for - of course - best use of animation. 


We've been to the Parade many times, especially when we lived in Los Angeles. Here's a link to some photos from back in 2010.

Most years it was sunny and warm - Chamber of Commerce weather. This year, it was in the mid 50's - which would be balmy in New York or Chicago, but pretty chilly by Southern California standards. The scarfs and hoodie were't for show. Of course, those marching along the six mile parade route no doubt appreciated the cooler temperatures.

Behind us, one of the many outstanding marching bands. 



Every year there's one float this really stands head and shoulders above the rest. This year it was the creative and whimsical Books Bring Us Together, sponsored by The UPS Store. 


The float was designed to spotlight The UPS Store's ongoing support of the Toys for Tots Literacy Program. The float was awarded the Isabella Coleman Trophy for best presentation of color and color harmony through floral use, and featured a 42 foot tall giraffe. Really outstanding. I actually followed this float a couple blocks, taking additional photos. Love it. 


Not all floats are whimsical and fun. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation sponsored "To Honor & Remember Orlando" in memory of the 49 individuals killed, and 53 injured, in last June's terrorist attack/hate crime in Orlando. 49 doves were released as the float. The float was a sobering reminder of the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil since September 11th,  2001 - and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in US history. The float was also awarded the Lathrop K. Leishman Trophy for most-beautiful noncommercial float.


Some commercial floats are subtle, some not so much. The California Milk Advisory Board's "Legacy of Generations" felt a bit like rolling billboard. Got to love the chunky milk coming out of the bottle - doesn't that mean it's way past it's expiration date? 


In contrast, the Ragu Pasta Sauce "Simmered in Tradition" - also promoting a food product - took a much more subtle, and in my opinion more effective approach. Sure, there's a plate of spaghetti towards the front of float, but it's not the main focus. 

The float won the National Trophy for best depiction of life in the U.S.A., past, present of future, and featured a farmhouse and fanciful tomato vine along with birds and butterflies. 


In many ways, this float - as well as several others - remind me of one of the Apostle Paul's sermons in the New Testament. I suppose I'm unique, I tend to think about this sort of thing a lot

Preaching the gospel in the city of Mediterranean city of Lystra, Paul said: "We are brining you good news, telling you to turn ... to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He as shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." Acts 14:15-17


Joy. And beauty. A common argument against Christianity is summarized in the simple "what about suffering?" In other words, if God exists, why is there suffering? 

Perhaps a more difficult question - at least philosophically - is "what about beauty?" If God doesn't exist, how do we account for the beauty we see around us? Or life itself. Why is there something - rather than nothing?


I doubt the good people at Ragu were thinking much about theology - or the provision of God - when it came to the design of this float. 

Yet, it's still there. This float and others pointing to the natural world around us and the Providence of God can't help but point to the reality of a Creator. Certainly, Christianity is more than acknowledging the existence of God. But it's a starting place.  


A final closeup. Well done, Ragu. 


I have never watched the TV show The Bachelor, but I like their float. Apparently, so did the judges. Their float "Echoes of Loves" was awarded the Princess’ Trophy for most effective floral use and presentation. 


Here's some additional details of "Echoes of Love." As stated earlier, every square inch of a float needs be covered by flowers or organic materials. 


Another view. 


For some reason a small door was open as it cruised by. Check out the driver (with the headset) in the center of the photo. 


California Polytechnic Universities float "A New Leaf" was awarded the Founders Trophy for the most beautiful float built and decorated by volunteers from a community or organization. Cal Poly is the ONLY university to regularly have a float in the Rose Parade. 


Since 1949, the float has been a team effort of the two university campuses: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Pomona. The two campuses are 240 miles apart, and over the years their floats have won over 50 awards. Way to go, Cal Poly!


A final float photo: "We Came, We Saw, We Covered" by Farmer's Insurance. Along the six mile parade route, the massive RV would rise up and then go back down to "cover" a group of dogs on vacation. Everyone wants to make sure they're "covered" (insured) right? Cute play on words. Farmers took the the Grand Marshall’s Trophy for excellence in creative concept and design.




And a final tip: we highly recommend bringing metal folding chairs. Sure, they're not as comfortable as cloth camp chairs - but the key is that you can stand on them. As long as you're not blocking anyone else's view, this allows for excellent viewing. And, if you get tired, you have a place to sit. All the photos on this post were taken from standing on a metal folding chair with my iPhone. So, yeah, it works. 

Here's some additional thoughts on the Tournament of Roses (the Rose Parade) from a previous post

More to see in Pasadena after the Parade, and in Los Angeles that afternoon. That'll have to wait until next time. 

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