Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Tournament of Roses Parade

The Rose Parade, a Southern California institution, welcomed the New Year for the 127th time, and as usual, it was spectacular.

One of the most significant aspects of this year's parade is that it's the last year that Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards will host KTLA's local broadcast (the go-to Rose Parade broadcast for Southern Californians) after thirty-four years. It's hard to imagine hearing other voices host the legendary parade. Here's what they themselves have to say about it via

As always, it was a treat to listen to Bob and Stephanie as the floats, marching bands, equestrian units and classic cars made the famous turn from Orange Grove onto Colorado Boulevard. Here are some that really caught my eye:
  • The opening festivities were preceded by the annual B2 flyover. I've always wanted to see it in person. As impressive as it looks on TV, I think that's the only way to really grasp how amazing it is.
  • The parade is broadcast to 200 countries.
  • The USMC Marching Band, belting out Battle Hymn of the Republic, got big cheers. Rose Parade attendees tend to be a patriotic bunch. 
  • The Downton Abbey float was gorgeous and that theme music gave me goosebumps as usual. Elizabeth McGovern, Lady Grantham herself, was aboard and looked fantastic. 
  • The Dakota Thunder Shires in harness were a truly impressive sight. Shires are the largest breed of horse; they can mature up to 2700 pounds. To give you an idea of how big they are, the average thoroughbred or quarter horse weighs in at about 1100-1200 pounds. 
  • The Medieval Times horses are gorgeous, as are their riders outfits. I went to Medieval Times once years ago, and seeing them made me want to go again. I remember that our King was hot. 
  • The Toho High School Marching Band made the trip to Pasadena all the way from Nagoya, Japan. They are known for their precise and unusual routines and they got a big cheer from the crowd. In true Japanese fashion, they practice like crazy, four hours per day on weekdays and eight hours a day on weekends, under the supervision of their bamboo sword-wielding director (he doesn't use the sword on them).
  • Bob: "Here's a float with a lot of heart." Two giant hearts, to be exact, courtesy of Union Bank. Damn, I'm going to miss Bob and Stephanie.
  • The Salvation Army Band makes its 97th appearance in the parade. The band's musicians range in age from fifteen to seventy-five.
  • The Northwestern Mutual float was a real heartstring-tugger. A thirteen year old aspiring ballerina named Peyton (last name not give) was aboard with her parents. She has been battling cancer for the past year. The float featured a ballerina dancing amongst depictions of ballet/arts landmarks from around the world. Titled "Dancing Into Adventure", the float deservedly won the Past Presidents' Trophy for Most Creative Design and Use of Floral and Non-Floral Materials. Bob: "God bless her, little angel." I wish her all the best.
  • As always, good to see The Valley Hunt Club, founders of the Rose Parade. According to Stephanie, a bad rose crop the first year almost resulted in the creation of the Orange Parade (oranges were a major California crop back in the day).
  • The Pasadena City College Marching Band did a heck of a job belting out The Magificent Seven theme. 
  • Obviously I'm partial to the equestrian units, but the American Endurance Ride Conference was noteworthy due to the group's senior member, a 91 year old endurance rider. Keep in mind that in these events they can cover anywhere from 25-100 miles per day. Bob is a fount of information on the equestrian units; I hope his departure doesn't result in short-shrifting of the units in the future.
  • Disneyland's massive float boasts an airborne Millenium Falcon, Chewbacca, C-3P0 and stormtroopers along with classic Disney characters. Happy 60th birthday, Disneyland!
  • Bob and Stephanie introduce their replacements, Leeza Gibbons and Mark Steines. They have huge, if not impossible shoes to fill, but say all the right things and for our sake and theirs I hope they knock it out of the park next year.
  • The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Mounted Unit included an appearance by Pearl, one of Gentle Carousel's miniature therapy horses. A truly amazing organization, they visit hospitals, victims of natural disasters and trauma victims, including heading to Sandy Hook after the shootings there.
  • Awesome! Trader Joe's float is titled "Fearless Flyer" - which of course is also the name of their mailer/flyer. It features a guy literally flying and won the Fantasy Trophy. It also got a big cheer - TJ's is hugely popular here in Southern California.
  • It's a fire-breathing dragon! For real! Marco Polo: East Meets West takes the Sweepstakes Trophy with their gorgeous Orient-inspired float. The dragon is actually belching flames. Those kind of pyrotechnics always go over well with the Rose Parade crowd.
  • YAY!!! It's the Budweiser Clydesdales! Magnificent animals. Cannot say enough about how impressed I am with how well trained they are. These horses can exceed 2000 pounds each. 
  • The Rose Parade takes an unexpected and uncharacteristic downturn with a float from the TV show The Bachelor, featuring bimbos in a hot tub and some Z-list reality star. What next, the Kartrashians? Leave the decent people our one last bastion of class, please. You shouldn't have to explain Rose Parade floats to your little kids.
  • The parade closes with a rousing rendition of God Bless America by the New Directions Veterans Choir, followed closely by the float "Jesus is the Light of the World" presented by the Lutheran Hour Ministries. The guy waving from the float is, unfortunately, not the real Jesus. We could use him the way the world's been going.

You bet I got choked up when Bob and Stephanie signed off for the last time. It's tough to see them go.

The Rose Parade continues to be a bright spot in Southern California and the world, a joyous kickoff to a new year. Congratulations to the City of Pasadena, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and KTLA Los Angeles for another amazing presentation.

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