History of the Rose Parade

“In New York, people are buried in snow,” announced Professor Charles F. Holder at a Valley Hunt Club meeting in Pasadena, CA in the late 1880’s. “Here our flowers are blooming, and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”

Little did professor Holder know, the festival would become a long-standing incredibly famous American New Year’s tradition.

Members of the prominent Valley Hunt Club were originally just looking for a way to celebrate Pasadena’s charm and beautiful weather, which they affectionately called the Mediterranean of the West.

The winter holiday festivities included traditional outside games that could be enjoyed under the warmth of the California sun, such as, chariot races, foot races, jousting, polo, and tug a war. The parade, the most famous part of the whole thing, was actually kind of an afterthought.

The parade event was added as another contest. It consisted of entrants decorating their carriages with the abundance of fresh flowers available in Pasadena at the time. They paraded in before the games began, officially known as the kick off to the Tournament of the Roses.

Just five years after the first event, the Tournament of the Roses had grown so big that it needed a separate association to run it. The small club could no longer keep up with the year around task of preparing, planning, and organizing this massive event.

It now takes over 80,000 hours and about a thousand volunteers on more than 30 committees to bring the celebration to life. These volunteers are affectionately known as “White Suiters” because of their distinctive white uniform and for the self-sacrifice in their volunteerism that makes the festivities a success.

One huge difference between the original parade and today is who enters the competition. Originally, it was mostly high-spirited volunteers sponsored by their communities. While volunteers do still enter the parade, it isn’t the majority of what is seen on New Year’s morning by millions all over the world. Today the competitors are mostly professional float building companies with high tech equipment. Most of them spend over a year building their floats!

Held annually since January 1, 1890, the Rose Parade has become a New Year’s Day tradition. We may not all agree on which float is our favorite, but we can agree that the Valley Hunts Club achieved their goal of sharing their Mediterranean in the West paradise with the rest of the world!