Happy New Year from Pasadena
Theme Park Insider's hometown also hosts this little parade every New Year's Day. Here's a personal look at this year's Rose Parade.
Written by Robert Niles
Happy New Year from Theme Park Insider world headquarters in Pasadena, Calif., home of the 116th annual Tournament of Roses Parade. Once again, official TPI kids Natalie and Brian joined me on the short walk to the parade route, waking early after a late night cleaning their room of flood damage.Tweet
We'd spent the past week in Denver, escaping the rains that pounded Southern California this week. Yet the leaky roof over our townhome allowed enough rainwater to flow through to provide an unwelcome reminder of the storm when we arrived. After what happened in South Asia the same week, however, you'll hear no complaints from us about stinky carpets and some soggy books.
Disneyland kicked off the parade this year, following last year's embarrassing plug for the Tower of Terror ride. Someone at Disney obviously said the right things to the Tournament of Roses committee -- or, wrote the right amount on the check -- because not only did Disneyland's float get to lead the parade down Colorado Boulevard, Mickey Mouse served as this year's Grand Marshal.
Nor did Disney risk alienating the crowd with an ill-advised design. The park went old school with this year's float, offering a castle-inspired design that anyone familiar with one of Disney's afternoon parades would recognize. Of course, this version of the castle float was executed on grand scale, covered in the blooms, leaves, seeds and spices that the Tournament of Roses demands.
Universal might have cloned the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but no theme park will ever be able to duplicate the Rose Parade. The requirement that every inch of every float's surface be covered with organic material imposes a too-brief lifespan on these floats. In a week, they'll be potpourri. Given that Disneyland likes to keep its floats around for, oh, a decade or so, no theme park with a desire to stay in the black would be able to run a Rose-type parade for longer than a weekend. Which isn't long enough to recoup its investment.
But with nearly six miles of Orange Grove, Colorado and Sierra Madre Boulevards on which to show its parade to nearly a million visitors and a billion-plus television viewers, theme park economics do not apply to the Tournament of Roses parade. And thank goodness. It's a refreshing delight to see themed entertainment roll by on which no expense has been spared. For a change.
While Disneyland got the parade off to a rousing, and appropriate start, the largest cheers went up for the float from Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory/CalTech. JPL's rocket man featured body parts depicting JPL's various missions, including two Mars Rover feet. Leave it to the folks who figured out how to navigate the Martian surface to dream up such an inspiring design.
But my two favorite moments from this year's parade were personal. My daughter attends the McKinley School in the Pasadena Unified School District, and this year marked the return of the PUSD Honor Band to the Rose Parade line-up after a three decade absence. The Tournament once welcomed its home school district into the parade, but after a court-ordered racial integration of the district, PUSD bands disappeared from the line-up. Affluent, white families in this diverse community fled the public schools for private academies. And the public schools became a power base for politicians rather than a place for kids to learn.
A few years ago, after previous failed attempts, a group of progressive parents declared they'd had enough, and began the task of reintegrating Pasadena's schools, bringing white families back into the district, while improving facilities, curricula and teaching for the growing Black, Hispanic, Armenian and Asian communities that the district continues to serve. And one of the goals that these parents set was to get PUSD back into the Rose Parade. Thanks to the hard work of these parents I had the pleasure of sitting with today, as well as the courtesy and generosity of the Tournament committee, a diverse, well-trained and talented group of Pasadena middle and high school students finally got to show their stuff to the world on their hometown's most famous stage.
My daughter's school wasn't the only one in the family that got to show off, however. Today, I also got the chance to cheer on my high school alma mater, as the Lawrence Central High School Spirit of Central from Indianapolis marched the long route, too. I didn't play in the band at LC, but I was a founding member of the school's Central Sound show choir, which like the marching band and orchestra, has gone on to claim numerous national championships. Now that PUSD's back in the Rose Parade, I hope that it uses schools like Lawrence Central as role models for how diverse public schools can accomplish great feats on a national scale. (And the fact that LC's former superintendent now runs the Pasadena schools should help make that happen!)
And, as always, the rain stayed away. No rain has fallen on the Rose Parade for 50 years, and after this week's deluge, many worried that fortunate streak would end. But Mother Nature loves Southern California.
At least when the TV cameras are on, I guess.
Happy New Year to you and your family, and I look forward to hearing from many of you lurkers on Theme Park Insider in the year ahead.
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