An Insider's look at the annual Rose Parade

December 29, 2008, 9:23 PM · [Editor's note: In lieu of our regular Tuesday park visit, this week we are staying closer to home, with our annual look at the floats from this year's Tournament of Roses parade.]

The 120th annual Rose Parade steps off here in Pasadena, California on Thursday morning. But that isn't the first opportunity that folks have to see them any floral-decorated floats that comprise the New Year's Day parade. For three to four days before the event, people can watch volunteers decorate the Rose Parade floats, at several locations in and around Pasadena.

We've made a trip the float decorating an annual tradition at Theme Park Insider. In years past, I paid my $7 bucks and waited with everyone else to snake through the viewing queue. This year, though, I applied for a press pass, which allowed me closer access to the floats.

Not that that helped a great deal. Photographing Rose Parade floats presents a challenge. You need to step back to capture the full scale of the floats. But you need to get close - really close - to see the amazing detail of the individual flowers, leaves, petals and even seeds that cover every inch of every float.

The Rose Parade famously requires every part of every surface of each float to be covered by living matter. No paint or plastic allowed. That makes the Rose Parade an event that photos and television simply cannot do justice. You need to see the floats in person to fully appreciate them.

But I'll try anyway. ;-)

I shot more than 100 photos this morning, but narrowed those down to images from six floats that I found particularly interesting (and for which that I could get some decent shots). At this point in the process, the floats are structurally complete, but need much more decoration. Volunteers will be working around the clock until late on New Year's Eve gluing flowers and other decor onto these vehicles before they are driven to Orange Grove Blvd. in Pasadena for judging and the parade.

Scaffolding encases almost every float, as decorators can't sit or climb on the delicate flora they've applied. In addition, many of the floats are designed to extend, some rising up to 50 feet in the air. But all the floats are decorated while in their "down" position, allowing them to fit into the various warehouses where they are prepared.

The American Honda float will be the first you see in the parade.

This float will feature a 49-foot version of Honda's ASIMO robot, complete with top hat. (This year's parade theme is "Hats off to Entertainment.") Here we see the float from the back, with ASIMO lying face first in front of the massive podium.

Here's a close-up of ASIMO, holding his top hat, as workers apply seeds and leaves on his backpack.

Trader Joe's grocery stores have a float in the parade each year, and this year's theme is "Saturday Matinee," with various movie monsters and heroes, all wearing 3D glasses.

Here's a view from behind the float, with King Kong on his back, still clutching his box of popcorn.

Up front, we see workers applying beans to the Creature from the Black Lagoon, while a masked cowboy looks on.

The Farmers Insurance Group float is called "Family Outing"

Workers swarm the float, applying details to the trees, birds and other elements in the scene.

At the back of the float, several volunteers cover the float's country inn with petals and leaves.

There is one amusement park float in this year's parade, sort of. Cal Poly University's float theme is "Seaside Amusement."

Here you can see the carousel horses at the front of the float, with the stanchion of a parachute drop ride rising behind them.

A volunteer glues leaves onto one of the bumper cars that will drive around the Cal Poly float.

Bayer Advanced's float this year pays tribute to "The Wizard of Oz."

There's still much to be glued to this float. Volunteers started with the Scarecrow and are working their way down to the base of the float.

Here's a view from the back, with the Emerald City and the Wizard reclining back from what will be their upright position during the parade.

Finally, here's another film-themed float, this from the City of Glendale, California.

I walked up to the visitor's catwalk to get this shot of the entire float.

Then back down to the floor, for a close-up of volunteers applying leaves to the limousine grill.

I'll be on the parade route Thursday morning, taking pictures of these and other floats that I'll post here on ThemeParkInsider right after the parade.

Replies (3)

December 29, 2008 at 9:29 PM · AWESOME!!!
December 30, 2008 at 12:45 PM · This really put into perspective the reasons for the parade's popularity. I had no idea why you were so passionate about the parade every year, but now I know. (College football is not nearly as big in Canada as it is in the States - right now the big buzz here is about the World Juniors hockey tournament)
December 30, 2008 at 1:20 PM · I was born in LA (Pac-10, okay, back then Pac-8 territory) and went to high school in Indianapolis (Big 10 land), so the Rose Bowl was the game of the year for everyone I knew. And watching the Rose Parade from Indianapolis always reminded me of being back home.

Now that I am back in LA, this is also our community festival. Taking photos, I ran into a number of friends from my children's school, selling food and decorating floats.

Plus, the parade has great international appeal. Many people who do take the time watch closely the parade fall in love with it and eagerly search the Web for more photos and information. I'm happy to help provide some! :-)

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive