In a way, it was a huge victory for women, rightly so, recapping a day of festivities surrounding the 131st Rose Parade, viewed by thousands along Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard and millions more watching it worldwide on television.
Given the theme “The Power of Hope,” the 2020 floral spectacle was guided by South Pasadena’s Laura Farber, the first Latina president of the Tournament of Roses who spearheaded an effort to ensure that the B-2 Spirit Stealth bomber opening the parade was piloted by a woman. Not one but two float entries, including South Pasadena’s award-winning entry, “Victory at Last,” celebrated the 100th anniversary allowing women the right to vote.
The other carrying the same message included a 30-foot Statue of Liberty covered in eucalyptus leaves, recognizing the 19th Amendment as dozens of women in long white dresses worn a century ago walk behind the float.
Under ideal weather conditions, “The Power of Hope” themed parade started precisely at 8 a.m., right on cue without a hitch to the carefree frolic which has made it, perhaps, the best of its kind as 44 floats, 17 equestrian units and 20 bands, some certainly dragging at the end, made it down the 5-1/2 mile parade route.
It was welcome relief over a year ago when South Pasadena’s float was locked behind the huge Chinese American Heritage Foundation entry that caught fire, causing havoc just as the parade was ending. The long delay had many believing the parade was over as South Pasadena’s entry went down the route to little fanfare, as the crowd thinned out, amid the confusion at Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards.
In contrast, everything seemed to fall it its place at this year’s the parade. The UPS Store earned the float’s top honor – the Sweepstakes Trophy – for its “Stories Change Our World” entry showcasing tropical trees, parrots and monkeys.
Actresses Rita Moreno and Gina Torres and Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez served as grand marshals for the parade.
Waving to the crowd in all directions, the energetic Moreno seemed to enjoy the spotlight, as did Farber, who proudly took it all in with a bright smile going down the route.
South Pasadena’s Cole Fox, a member of the 2020 Royal Court, waved from start to finish, as she was joined by other princesses and 102nd Rose Queen Camille Kennedy on a floral masterpiece.
However, no one may have had more fun, enjoying the roar of the crowd every time they did their duty, than three pooper scoopers from South Pasadena, including Mayor Pro Tem Diana Mahmud, longtime resident Peggy O’Leary and Laura Wheeler, who heads up the local Chamber of Commerce.
It marked the 30th that O’Leary has been performing the service. “It’s the highlight of the year,” she said. “It’s just so great to see so many friendly, smiling people. It’s just a great way to start the new year. If we could hug and greet people like we do on January 1st we probably wouldn’t have any problems in the world.”
For Mahmud, in the role for a second straight year, it’s “just wonderful to be around all the excitement,” she said. “Everyone is just so happy and we have a front row seat to everything.”
Wheeler was back for her third go-around at picking up what horses leave behind. “It’s so much fun,” she echoed Mahmud’s enthusiasm. “We’re lucky to be this close at the start of it all.”
While the number unveiling the parade featured Ally Brooke, Emilio Estafan, Farruko, dancers and drummers belting out “Reach for the Stars,” the two-hour parade closed with a “La Bamba” performance by Los Lobos. In a first, the parade was stopped midstream for a live action, five minute production of Disney’s “Frozen,” currently on stage at the Hollywood Pantages.
Temperatures were in the high 50s during the early morning hours as parade-goers bundled up in hoodies and stocking caps, but the cold chill soon gave way to much warmer weather later in the day, reaching a comfortable 73 degrees at one point.
In traditional fashion, the parade was followed up with politics, this year’s event ending with a group in support of Bernie Sanders for president in November. “Feel the Bern!,” they yelled, followed by the “Ole, ole, ole” chant.
Pasadena Police reported no arrests during the parade, although three individuals received citations for being drunk in public on New Years Eve, down from seven a year ago. A shirtless man was arrested during the 106th Rose Bowl Game later in the day between Oregon and Wisconsin after he ran on the field and taken down by officers. As usual, security was tight along the parade route and individuals were asked to call 911 to report any suspicious activity.