Don’t Rain on My Rose Parade


Graphic by Bella Tiner ’21.

The holidays have looked very different for nearly every American this year. Fewer seats were filled at the Thanksgiving dinner tables as families were forced to stay home due to losses of loved ones or concern for the spread of COVID-19. Further still, many extended families aren’t expected to gather under the tree on Christmas morning while social distancing rules continue to limit gatherings. 

And though it doesn’t take place until News Year’s Day, the cancellation of Pasadena’s century-old, flower-laden tradition is already being felt. The Rose Parade, the much-anticipated, furthest bookend of the holiday season, normally takes place right in this reporter’s front yard.  

When you read the phrase “front yard” you might not think it’s meant literally, but it’s true. Less than a half-mile from the parade’s start at the Tournament of Roses House, the giant bleachers viewers see on TV sit right on the front lawn every year.

Workers start installing those bleachers around November, as it usually takes two months to set them up throughout the lengthy parade route. The five-mile path starts on Orange Grove Blvd at the Tournament House and makes a right turn onto Colorado Blvd, where it continues until a left is made onto Sierra Madre Blvd. 

Year after year, the parade can be a nuisance; the excitement of living right on the route having worn off years ago. The bleachers obstruct views, attendees revel overnight and leave trash in their wake, and the marching bands worry the neighborhood pets. But the familiar clanging of metal structures being erected that signals the start of the holiday season is missing, and missed, this year, and it only makes the reason why more poignant than ever. 

The Rose Parade, which was canceled in July due to COVID-19, has been a New Year’s staple in Pasadena since 1890. It was started by members of the Valley Hunt Club to celebrate the abundance of beautiful flowers in Pasadena, even during wintertime. What started as a small festival grew and in 1895 the Tournament of Roses Association was established to plan future parades.

Nowadays, the Rose Parade is one spectacular sight to behold. Enormous floats built with organic materials from around the world take to the streets on New Year’s Day, surrounded by horses, cars, and marching bands. Two of the bands are from the same two colleges as the football teams playing later in the day at the equally historic Rose Bowl. Another attraction is the Rose Queen and her Royal Court sitting atop one of the floats; the selection process for the Court is yet another canceled event that many seniors at Mayfield traditionally participate in.

What makes this year’s canceled parade so significant is not just the reason it was canceled, but the fact that it was canceled at all. The Rose Parade hasn’t taken place just three other times, all during World War II in 1942, 1943, and 1945. The rarity of this occurrence further emphasizes the monumental impact that this virus has had on our world this year.

While Pasadena residents may not get to spend New Year’s Day watching the parade, craning their necks to see over the crowds, keeping people safe should be our priority this holiday season. Thankfully, KTLA will make up for the absence by airing a 2-hour Rose Parade TV special on New Year’s Day. The special will feature celebrity guests, musical performances, and a deeper look into floats of the parade’s past.

Here’s to hoping that next year’s Rose Parade will carry on — then those ghastly bleachers can once again be enjoyed in all their glory.