A look at the history of the Rose Parade


The Rose Parade marks the beginning of the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day and dates back to 1890. It has been held every year since except the 1942, 1943, 1945 and 2021.

The parade got its start thanks to members of the Valley Hunt Club, who wanted a chance to showcase the warmer winters in Pasadena, California that they were not accustomed to in the midwest and east coast.

“In New York, people are buried in snow,” said Professor Charles F. Holder at a Club meeting. “Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”

In the late 1890s, the parade looked a bit different from the state-of-the-art floats and top-notch marching bands we see today. There were horse-drawn carriages, foot races, polo matches, ostrich races, bronc busting demos and even tug of war. The name of the Rose Parade comes from the flowers that were on display.

The event was a success from the beginning thousands coming out to the first edition and it only grew from there as the football game was added in 1902, but was not played again until 1916. In 1923, the Rose Bowl Stadium was built for the game.

Each year, the parade is lead by the Grand Marshal, a position selected by the president of the Tournament of Roses. This year, it will be actor LeVar Burton. Past Grand Marshals include John Wayne, Richard Nixon, Walt Disney, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bob Hope.

In addition to the Grand Marshal, women ages 17-25 also compete for the title Rose Queen, a position that requires them to attend more than 100 events serving as an ambassador for the Rose Parade.

The parade itself has followed the same 5.5-mile route for several decades and over the years, bands and equestrians became more and more involved. Today, there are usually about 20 groups on horseback alongside dozens of the top high school and college marching bands in the U.S.

The modern parade also features between 40-45 floats a year and in addition to adhering to the year’s theme, they must follow another simple rule “every inch of every float must be covered with flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds or bark.” The parade used to have horse-drawn floats until electric ones fully took over in 1920. RFD-TV first entered one in 2009 with a ‘Hee Haw’ themed float.

There will be 43 total in 2022 and the floats have an opportunity to win 24 different awards and are selected by a trio of judges.

After a starting with a few thousand people in 1890, attendance in the 2000s has reached up to 1 million and typically exceeds 700,000 spectators.

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