Happy New Year, everybody!
Oh wait –
Guess the year’s not quite “new” anymore. And it hasn’t been altogether “happy” either (I swear, if I never hear the word “variant” again, it’ll still be too soon…).
But hey – I’m gonna lob one more hearty “Happy 2022” out there, anyhow, just for good measure!
A brand new year doesn’t feel official unless I’ve begun it lounging in my pj’s in front of the tv, sipping champagne and gobbling up the Rose Bowl with a little Rose Parade on the side! Two out of these three last year wasn’t bad (no Parade…) – but this year, it was back to the full Tournament of Roses experience! Plus, I’ve embraced a new New Year tradition (even though it means putting on clothes) – I go out to view the post-Parade display of the float entry from my hometown of Burbank!
Right in my own backyard, I get to stop and smell the roses!
I’ve been enjoying Tournament of Roses football and festivities pretty much my whole life! For a long time, it was strictly a couch potato-y tradition, until as a UC Berkeley student, I road-tripped to Pasadena with friends and attended a Rose Bowl game live –
Because if you’re going to hit one Bowl game (my record so far), it might as well be ”the granddaddy of them all”!
Regrettably, this pilgrimage wasn’t because my alma mater was playing. Cal hasn’t been in a Rose Bowl game since before I was born (which makes me feel old). And the last time they won? That would be all the way back in 1938 (which makes me feel bummed – but then a little less old, so that’s okay).
Even if my own team wasn’t there, I remember what a rush it was to have a seat in the bleachers for such a historic event in sport!
I also caught the Tournament of Roses Parade on another college road trip! (Some studying must have happened too back then – but when, I have no idea.) On a New Years Eve day, our keen – if inexperienced – little group staked out a spot along the Parade route to make sure we’d have a good vantage point for the next day’s proceedings. Okay, technically we were “Parade route adjacent” since thousands of more savvy and warmly dressed fans had already lined Colorado Blvd. for as far as we could see. So we had to settle for laying blankets and sleeping bags out just a little ways down a cross street where we still had a very fine view.
The mention of sleeping bags shouldn’t suggest that any sleeping took place that night. I mean any. Whatsoever. We did try – after reveling in the most massive and marvelous New Years Eve party I’ve still ever been to, our gang did attempt to get some shut-eye in the pre-dawn hours. But dude (or “bud”, since this wasn’t long after Fast Times at Ridgemont High came out) that sidewalk was totally cold and as hard as, like, cement – seriously, it was no bed of roses!
I have to own that the lack of sleep kind of made the Parade itself – the actual point of the trip – a little challenging to see through to the end. Even so, my Parade escapade was a wonderful adventure, and definitely one I’ll never forget!
A few years later, I got an even closer (and much more rested!) look at a Rose Parade float when I moved to the SoCal town of Sierra Madre.
I was puzzled one New Years Eve on hearing the faint sound of jingly music playing outside my apartment. Santa had been through the week before, so I couldn’t imagine what this might be. Turns out Sierra Madre’s float entry was cruising by!
In all the years I’d watched the Rose Parade on tv, I hadn’t spared much thought for the crazy amount of planning and effort involved simply in getting all those floats and bands and equestrian units and I-don’t-know-what-alls into position for the big day – let alone getting them out one by one in front of the cheering crowds!
But there in the dark of a New Years Eve night, I felt I’d been let in on a secret. Here was my new hometown’s float along with its devoted guardians, treading a careful path down the hill to Pasadena from the warehouse where it was born. I got to see for myself that its Parade journey began long before passing the first grandstand – and it sure didn’t make that journey alone!
Eventually, I discovered too that a float’s journey doesn’t end with the Parade. Burbank’s float, for example, goes on display in the corner of a parking lot for a few days after, giving residents the chance to get right up to see the tiny details as well as the big-picture look!
Running with the 2022 Parade theme of “Dream Believe Achieve”, Burbank’s float – “An Unlikely Tale” – depicts a dragon’s hovering over the shoulder of a young knight as they read a book together. It won the Mayor Award for the most outstanding float from a participating city!
The official rules call for the entire float to be covered only with flowers or other natural materials like leaves, seeds or bark – and it’s a real delight to get up close and see the huge variety of floral choices and how each is used!
Several times a day there in the parking lot, the float was brought to life again as it was in the Parade. The dragon (covered, according to myburbank.com, in 1,500 pounds of split peas!) flapped his wings and puffed smoke out of his vast nostrils to the accompaniment of noble sounding music!
While still looking splendid even close up, the float did carry reminders that these flights of floral fancy are made to dazzle for only a brief moment in time. After they’ve been inspected by judges, described by tv hosts, and have put 5 1/2 miles on their Fitbits, their flowers begin to wither or fall away, finicky mechanisms fail – and the bloom comes off the roses.
On top of that for the Burbank float (or actually, not on top), the young knight’s head came off his body somewhere along the way…
I kept driving past, hoping the boy might have been made whole again. But I guess the mishap was considered part of nature’s taking its course – and headless he remained. I’d have felt sadder about it except the lad seems to have accepted his fate with a smile.
Now, I drive daily past an empty and far less festive corner. I expect the prize-winning float’s flowers have wilted by this time. And the split peas have – well – done whatever split peas do when they don’t become soup.
But my memories of this year’s float, and all the other floats and flowers past? Well, whether regarded from the comfort of my couch or right up close, from the curb of an unforgiving sidewalk or by any other view – to me, these roses still smell just as sweet!