TRAVEL: Destination Pasadena’s  Rose Parade

Bam! Tournament of Roses has chef Emeril Lagasse as Grand Marshal



The lovely little city of Pasadena, California grabs the spotlight every New Year’s Day with it’s grand tradition of hosting the Rose Parade.

The world renown event delights everyone who tunes in the annual TV broadcasts to be awed and amazed at the colorful floral floats and super-sharp marching bands. But to truly appreciate the “Wow” factor of the “Parade of Parades,” you have to be there in person. It is so overwhelmingly beautiful, for the rest of your life, every time you enjoy the sweet smell of flowers, the experience will come rushing back to you. That’s a good thing.

The theme for the 119th Tournament of Roses Parade is “Passport to the World’s Celebrations.” And super-chef Emeril Lagasse has the honor of being the Grand Marshall for 2008.

Lagasse is the perfect choice for leading the world’s largest New Year’s celebration. He is known for good food, good time and good fun, and promises to “kick it up a notch” for the crowds that line the parade route.

“It is truly an honor to be a part of one of our country’s most beloved New Year’s Day traditions,” reports Lagasse. “In my hometown of New Orleans, we are all about celebrating traditions with family and friends. I look forward to beginning 2008 with the Rose Parade, and paying tribute to the festivities and traditions around the globe.”

Also part of the festivities is pretty Dusty Gibbs, who has been crowned as the 90th Rose Queen for the celebration.

The first Tournament of Roses was staged way back in 1890 by members of Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club. They were former residents of the East and Midwest eager to showoff the area’s mild winter weather.


While the rest of the country was buried in snow, a club member suggested holding a festival “to tell the world about our paradise” with flowers blooming and a bountiful of fruit.

In the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands and floats. The founding members organized games in town– including ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations and a race between a camel and an elephant (the elephant won we’re told).

The tradition grew as Eastern newspapers began to take notice of the event. In 1895, the Tournament of Roses Association was formed to take charge of the festival, which had grown too large for the Valley Hunt club to handle.

In 1902, the Tournament of Roses decided to enhance the day’s festivities by adding a football game– the first post season college football game ever held. At first the football game wasn’t well received, and was abandoned in favor of Roman-style chariot races. But in 1916 football returned and later “The Rose Bowl” was built to host the games.

Nowadays, the Tournament of Roses features elaborate high-tech floats with computerized animation. Exotic natural materials from around the world are brought in to decorate. A few floats are still built exclusively by dedicated volunteers from their sponsoring communities, but most are built by professional float building companies and take about a year to construct.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to work on the City of Burbank’s float just for a day, preparing the flowers to be placed on the circus-themed floral masterpiece. More skilled workers do the painstaking work placing each flower, seed and leaf in its proper place.

But it’s all worth it when you see your float along the parade route and you know you had a part in that beautiful, sweet-smelling creation.

Of course Pasadena is a fun place to visit throughout the year, but on New Year’s Day it really blossoms.

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Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who have written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 30 years.