The Rose Parade begins with a smaller but enthusiastic crowd
Just before 6 a.m., Kelly and Nathan Alexander warmed up by a roaring propane fire in front of Total Wines & More on Colorado Boulevard while waiting for the Rose Parade to begin.
The parade — started in 1890 as a promotional event by a local social club to demonstrate Pasadena’s famously mild winter weather — was scheduled to begin in clear skies and temperatures in the 1940s. It was downright mild compared to the Arctic blast that swept through much of the country in the week leading up to Christmas.
Kelly, who celebrates her 37th birthday on Monday, is an Arcadian native who came to the parade with her church youth group and camped out on the boulevard “by the millions,” she said.
Last week, the couple, who now live in Colorado Springs, loaded their five children, ages 8, 12, 14, 15 and 17, into an RV, skirted snow storms in Arizona, visited a family in Southern California and then drove into the city of roses. They staked out a prime spot on the 5.5-mile route on Sunday afternoon – surprised that there appeared to be far fewer overnight campers than in previous years.
“It was really dead,” Kelly said. “Usually it’s a wild party. But the people who were here had a good time.”
The event is usually held on New Year’s Day but takes place on Monday as part of the tradition of the ‘Never on a Sunday’ parade. The original organizers did not want to disrupt the services. The 134th Rose Parade takes place three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the parade was canceled for the first time since World War II. Last year it returned to smaller crowds, with coronavirus safety measures including requiring parade participants and spectators to wear masks in ticketed areas and provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
There are no such mandates this year, although health officials are recommending masking in large crowds — and staying home if ill — amid a winter spike in cases of COVID-19, flu and RSV that has strained hospitals across the country.
Harbor City’s David Rivas runs in his alien costume with the South Bay Runners Club early this morning and runs the 10 mile distance ahead of early Monday’s Rose Parade.
(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)
This year’s theme for the parade – an expression of hope and resilience – is ‘Turning the Corner’. The Grand Marshal is former Arizona Congressman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a headshot in 2011.
“The idea of going around the corner also resonates from a national perspective,” Giffords said in a statement. “Our country has faced a deadly pandemic and political rancor for several years. Yet medical advances and bipartisan compromises have helped us take steps toward a better future, even if those steps aren’t always as quick or as certain as we’d like, but I’ve learned the importance of incremental progress — and that Progress begins with having the courage to hope and then acting on that hope.”
According to the Tournament of Roses, this year’s parade consists of 39 floats, 21 marching bands and 16 cavalry units.
By Sunday night, enthusiasts had gathered along Colorado and Arroyo boulevards in preparation for the next morning’s parade.
A trumpet playing “Last Christmas” pierced through busy traffic along the Colorado River near Delacroy Avenue as Nick Tea, 17, carried a fully inflated air mattress over his shoulder. The La Crescenta High School senior was looking for a campground that his friend Grant Barton had marked out.
The couple said they braved the chilly weather overnight to support Barton’s friend Uma Wittenberg, who is a princess in this year’s parade.
Earlier in the day, Richard Lugo was one of hundreds who turned out for a brief preview of the parade as the floats made their way from a warehouse in Irwindale, where they were built, to the parade route in Pasadena.
Lugo said he grew up watching the Rose Parade. From the age of 8 until he was an adult, he and his extended family would wake up early every New Year’s Day and go to the parade from his grandmother’s house in Pasadena.
“We didn’t sleep at all for a few years,” Lugo said.
This year he continued the tradition with his 5-year-old granddaughter, taking her for an early glimpse of the floats.
“It’s quite a spectacle,” he said.