By Matthew Sprott
4:30pm the day before the parade, I walked down Colorado Boulevard enjoying the festivities among families and friends as they held their spots for the impending parade. People in cars sprayed silly string at the people on sidewalks and vice versa. Drivers honked and shouted Happy New Year! Several people walked around holding signs for their causes, church goers passed out pamphlets, families played games and barbequed food, mobile vendors sold miscellaneous treats and souvenirs, all while parade workers boarded up store windows to prevent possible looting. Police officers stationed themselves at every other street corner and several news teams captured the wondrous night. Everyone awaited the magic of the upcoming day.
5:30am wake up time for my duty as a float timer. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and hurried to my assigned location at Sierra Bonita. Because of my location, I received the code name “Bonita” which I used whenever I made a radio call. The parade had a spectacular opening as a B2 stealth bomber flew low overhead. The silent but deadly craft got mistaken by children as they ran around saying, “I got a picture of the UFO”. As an alien fanatic, I laughed so much at their sweet naivety and creative imaginations. Motorcycle cops then cleared the streets in a fashionable style as they performed maneuvers to pump up the crowd, such as circling one another. The cops cleared out the street except for one man. Crowds cheered as a 60 or 70 year old man in an Olympics running uniform (short shorts and a sleeveless shirt) jogged slowly down his invisible red carpet. Written in white on a football he carried as well as in red on the back of his shirt was “I <3 Jesus”. Crowds screamed joyously at this man and I commend him for his faith. After he passed, I saw the first float coming down the street.
My amazement for the parade caught me so off guard that I forgot to record the time for the first six floats. I then recalled my duties (to record the time each float passes a certain mark and report gaps between floats that exceeded two street poles) and focused my attention. Seeing the humungous floats up close and knowing the effort behind the design and creation processes dazzled me, though the sheer prestige of the parade dazzled me even more. Aware that the Tournament of Roses holds international prestige, I became a child lost in his imagination. On this glorious day, millions of people all around the world watched the parade on TV, a sight I was privileged to witness firsthand. What an incredible thought! Bands marched to the beats of the songs they played, some went beyond and even did some sidestep routines, and gigantic floats moved gracefully across the street, some doing tricks like movements or fire bursts. Even the horse dung clean-up crew aroused cheers from the audience as some danced and others did pushups. When a float broke down, a tow truck from the nearest intersection came to the rescue. The truck, now part of the parade, also received thunderous applause and loud cheers from the crowd. The excitement of the day carried so far that the crowd didn’t see any aspect as mundane; to them every part was spectacular. More than the parade itself, I fell in love with the excitement of being part of an event of such an extreme scale. All in all, I enjoyed hearing the bands perform and seeing the beautiful floats and although I think the parade is overrated, I recommend you see it live someday just so you may experience it firsthand and make your own judgment.
After the parade, people quickly left their seats on the ground and bleachers and traffic resumed. Trash lined the streets as people went home. For such a world-renowned event, I was surprised that parade officials didn’t set up trash cans.
The bleachers once carrying many spectators now stand as a skeleton to the recent celebration. Miscellaneous wrappers once in the hands of cheering crowds now lie as ruins of what occurred. Even though Pasadena has returned to its solemn state of being, deep down inside I trust that the joy still lives. I’m confident that all who shared in the festivities feel uplifted and am so comforted by the idea that each person will take the joy received and share it with others. Being an attendee myself, I’ll be sure to do the same.