The two hour Tournament of Roses parade took place on New Year’s Day in Pasadena California. This year marks the 129th anniversary of a parade that began January 1st 1890. In case you’re puzzled, the parade was not held for 4 years because of World War II, but resumed in 1946.
The two hour Tournament of Roses parade took place on New Year’s Day in Pasadena California. This year marks the 129th anniversary of a parade that began January 1st 1890. In case you’re puzzled, the parade was not held for 4 years because of World War II, but resumed in 1946. Previous Marshals of the parade include Shirley Temple, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Bob Hope. Actor and musician Gary Sinise was this year’s Grand Marshal.
The theme was “Making a Difference,” well represented by the 44 float entries, 400 horses and 21 marching bands. The plant and flower covered floats stem from the early flower decorated horse carriages. The steel and chicken wire framework is sprayed with polyvinyl and serves as the base for the natural plant materials. Only real plant parts can be used on each float. Bark, leaves, seeds, plant fibers and a total of 18 million flowers (500,000 are roses in vials) must cover every square inch of the floats. Everything is held in place by about 5,000 gallons of glue. Costs per float may range from $250 to $260,000.
Black is a tough color to find in the natural world. Fat Choy (a cyanobacterium species of Nostoc) when dried looks like soft black hair and was used on some floats. Corn silks and husks, Pampas grass, chrysanthemums, carnations, countless other plants and, of course, roses were in abundance. Parsley was stuffed between leaves that needed more cover. The commentators remarked that red roses do not show up well on television. Taller floats had to maneuver under one overpass along the parade route. This usually meant parts on hinges that could be lowered.
The Sweepstakes Award winner for most beautiful float went to “Rising Above” by the investment firm Singpoli American BD. What stood out were the Marigolds and orange ‘Tangelo’ carnations that surrounded a striking Koi pond. Crown City Innovator Award for the most outstanding use of imagination, innovation and technology was awarded to “The Grand Tour” by Amazon Prime. Nine people pushed each of the three large moving wheels that were attached to rotating smaller cogwheels; no mechanical engines needed. Not so with the Ag PhD float created by the South Dakota Rural Farmer TV and radio show and countless volunteers. Their “Salute to Farmers” float was designed to reconnect the city to the country. The 110 foot long float was constructed above a motorized chassis. It had seeds from all 50 states with 100 farmers, a tractor, combine, silo, water tower, two enormous USA flags….and a big tow truck hooked up to the front pulling it all. Apparently the chassis transmission or engine croaked, but the float kept going and all the farmers waved. Hooray to American farmers.
Interspersed between the floats were bands from the USA, Mexico, Australia, Japan and Canada. The OU Pride of Oklahoma marched first, soon followed by the Georgia Redcoat Band. Their halftime performances were impressive, but someone noted the band played “Boomer Sooner” 84 times during the game. Despite the band’s best effort, the double-overtime tied game was won by Georgia making the last touchdown. All-in-all, New Year’s Day was great, but super cold.
We found out the next day our cool Pennsylvania friend had died right before Christmas. Years ago we met in England and had since been friends. The Air Force veteran who had even been posted for a short time in Iceland had retired but accepted a job as fuels analyst in England where my husband was working. We discovered he and his wife were cat people. At this time pets coming with families from the USA were required to spend 6 months in quarantine (rabies prevention), so most people did not bring their animals with them. Our friends brought their four cats and we had our Simon (the Siamese) and Gerald, the orange tabby. The cats ate better food than we did and emerged 6 months later with silky coats and persnickety appetites. Canned cat food? Who are you kidding? They were fed fresh cooked food every day and their temporary billeting was immaculate. True, the quarantine facility could have equaled the maximum security prison at McAlester, but our cats received the best of care. Today, if we wanted to bring our cats into England, they must each have a microchip, up-to-date rabies vaccinations, health certificates from the vet, and a signature from the USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Inspection Service) on the EU health certificate. Much quicker and cheaper than a 6 month vacation!
I drew our new friends a humorous cat Christmas card that first year. They liked the card and asked next Christmas if they might receive another cat card. Seems that a tradition was starting. For the next 30 years I drew them cat pictures in pencil and pen and ink, painted cat caricatures in acrylics and watercolors, carved scratchboards, or used whatever was handy to make a card. The sizes were inconsistent and my pictures usually were drawn to the edges of the paper. They told me ten years ago that every card I had made them had been framed and a wall in their house was dedicated to the cat cards. I was thunderstruck because yes, some of the artwork was very realistic, but other cards had been drawn out of sheer fun and the perspectives were strange.
We parted company when my family moved from England, but the cat cards connected us through decades. Letters each year kept our families up to date wherever we lived. Our friends always maintained an exclusive cat room with beds, litter boxes, toys, perches and other amenities for their cats’ bedtime comfort. Each night the cats went to bed and the door was closed until the next morning. We thought how sensible. Our cats had the run of the house and in the morning they let us know, none too subtly, it was time for breakfast. If the toys carried and dropped onto our faces didn’t work, they’d begin chasing each other across the bed.
One story our friend told us showed his crazy side. When they lived in Florida their house had a pool. He said all their cats loved water and were good swimmers. He would occasionally toss them into the pool. Each would paddle back to him, be picked up, toweled off, and given a treat. One day he threw the new cat in. The cat sunk to the bottom like a stone. After a few seconds the cat still had not surfaced. He ran over and saw the cat calmly sitting on the pool floor looking around. Realizing the cat wasn’t going anywhere he kicked off his shoes and dove in to rescue the cat. The cat was fine and never again got close to water.