As the City of South Pasadena was enjoying another high achievement, celebrating a third straight trophy win in the books, other cities with self-built floats, along with many others on a much larger scale – those commercially constructed – walked off with their share of honors in Monday’s 135th running of the Rose Parade.
Showcasing top-notch entries has been a way of life in recent years for South Pasadena, which earned the Bob Hope Humor Award for “Spark of Imagination” in 2023, a year after the Founder’ Award again went to the city for “Dream. Believe. Achieve.”
Among a long list of winners, all fulfilling the task of covering all surfaces of the float with flowers or other natural products – like bark, seeds or leaves and thousands of flowers in water-filled vials – are a difference maker in winning and losing.
A sampling of those earning the highest praise by Tournament of Roses judges featured:
• Trader Joe’s, earning the Animation Award for their entry “A One, A Two,…A One-Two Three Broccoli.
• The Bob Hope Humor Award, going to the UPS Stores, for “Shock & Roll-Powering Musical Current.”
- Fantasy Award went to the City of Alhambra for its “Keep Dreaming” float. It was honored for most outstanding display of fantasy and imagination.
• The Most Extraordinary Float, with a theme of “Jingle on the Waves,” won by Newport Beach and showcasing the longest entry in the parade in five parts.
• Winning the Wrigley Legacy Award was the Downey Rose Float Association for its “Rhythm of the Caribbean” float. It won for outstanding display of floral presentation, float design and entertainment.
• San Diego Zoo grabbed the most prestigious award, the Sweepstakes for “the most beautiful entry: encompassing float design, floral presentation and entertainment. Creatively, it’s float was, “It all Started with a Roar.”
- UPS Stores captured the award for most whimsical and amusing float for their “Beat of Achievement” entry.
Along with 40 floats, mixed in were 21 bands from all over the land, like the United States Marine Corps kicking off the event, joining yearly entries like the Tournament of Roses Grand Marshall, this year the distinction held by Andra McDonald, and teams on horseback, 18 in all, like the New Buffalo Soldiers, transforming themselves back to the Civil War Days.
South Pasadena was among six self-built floats, constructed and decorated by teams of all volunteers, in the parade, joining La Canada, Downey, Sierra Madre, Burbank and Cal Poly universities. And proudly, they all walked off with an award.
Two bands and floats representing Michigan and Alabama, both squaring off in the College football playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl later in the day were there. South Pasadena’s Phoebe Ho, seated under a brilliant jeweled crown, waved gracefully as a proud member of the Royal Court.
Making their traditional return, the Budweiser Clydesdales, a fixture since 1953, went the distance with a Dalmatian seated next to a pair of drivers.
South Pasadena’s entry in the 50th position was a safari of sorts as a giraffe, elephant, toucan, orangutan and snake seemingly were gyrating to the lively sounds of the Sylvers’ 1970s hit “Boogie Fever” – the name given to the float. It depicts a turntable falling from a cargo plane into the rainforest and the animals turning up the heat after placing the record on it to the delight of the group.
Portions of the parade brought plenty of live entertainment for parade-goers. The excitement started with recording artists David Archuleta, Cassadee Pope and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child got the street party going.
Second came a performance by Alexandra Star, singing a tribute to Ft. Lauderdale as a vacation destination. Next was music from James Burton, Amanda Shaw and Sean Ardine with a celebration highlighting the state of Louisiana. They were followed by The Illinois – the middle of beats & blues, paying tribute to what else, Illinois, before artist Jordan Sparks closed out the two-hour parade with a three-song medley. Twenty-eight dancers, acrobats and a choir joined her as the crowd applauded.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for parade officials, however, as a pair of separate incidents slowed down the progression of what is usually a two-hour affair. Pro-Palestine protestors held signs reading “CEASEFIRE” at one point along the route, disrupting the pageantry for about 20 minutes. Efforts by the group in demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas War brought police officers to the scene.
In an unrelated incident, authorities arrested a woman described in her 20s, reportedly for assault with a deadly weapon after she attempted, according to news reports, to drive a car through barricades near the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Chester Avenue.
One of the highlights of the parade for baseball fans was seeing the DIRECTV float carry a group of boys from El Segundo, who won the Little League World Series. Cramped tightly together, they enjoyed the fanfare down the route of appreciative fans.
And of course, the cheers for the pooper scoopers, those enthusiastic volunteers in white overalls with a giant red rose on the back, never gets old. South Pasadena had ties to at least four of them – former mayor Diana Mahmud, Chamber of Commerce CEO Laurie Wheeler and retired couple John Vandercook and Peggy O’Leary – all saying they enjoy being a part of the show.
“It’s a hoot, it’s so much fun,” said Vandercook, who has been cleaning up after horses during the parade for three years, far short of his wife Peggy, earning the title “Queen of Pooper Scoopers,” with a total of 33 to her credit. “It’s a wonderful way to start the new year.” The job, described by Vandercook, entails watching if the horse’s tail starts lifting, then briskly running out from the sideline with shovels and brooms to do the deed.
“I just can’t give it up,” said a smiling O’Leary, who has to be setting some kind of record for her longevity in the role. Wheeler believes it was her seventh year doing the task, enthusiastically saying, “I love it. How could you not love being out here New Year’s morning, everybody’s happy, everybody’s cheering? It’s just a great group of people to work with. It’s a great way to start a year.”