Take it from your Tournament of Roses Examiner. Most parades are pretty much the same. Regardless of the theme, they have floats, horses, bands, and a few celebrities. There are exceptions. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with its huge balloons, for example, and any Lakers victory march.
So what is it about the Rose Parade that drags 700,000 people out on a cold Pasadena morning, and garners coverage on around a dozen television outlets?
“What makes us unique in my view is floral-covered floats,” newly-installed Tournament of Roses President R. Scott Jenkins told Examiner in an interview on Wednesday. “That’s what puts us on the map.”
That will be his focus as he leads the Tournament in planning the 2014 Rose Parade, the 125th to go down Colorado Blvd. in celebration of the New Year. Jenkins wants to increase the number of floats, which has dropped off in recent years, and put more emphasis on fresh floral materials and entertainment. “It’s essentially Back to the Future,” he said.
“We’re trying to rejuggle the balance a bit,” he said. “We’re shooting for 45-50 floats.” Since the Tournament of Roses is known for its punctuality, and since any entries coming along past the two-hour mark are cut off by several of the broadcasters, more floats means cuts in other entries.
Jenkins has cut the number of bands in the 2014 parade from 23 to 20, and wants to see smaller units. Equestrians have been cut from 21 to 15, with a new emphasis on performance rather than just walking along the parade route. He understands the criticism this has drawn, but sees that as a positive reaction. Criticisms from fans of the bands and equestrians “are because they are really fond of the parade,” he told us.
More floats means more sponsors
Jenkins is looking for commercial supporters rather than civic organizations. “We love our non-profits and we love our civic entries,” he said, but budgeting is a problem for them, and it would be difficult for a new self-built float organization to get off the ground.
Though the economy is improving for companies, “It’s still pretty tough in California” for cities, he said. He mentioned that the City of Beverly Hills will be returning to the Rose Parade in 2014. The way to expand the number of floats is to attract more companies that can better plan and budget, and can afford to add more entertainment value with more moving parts, Jenkins said.
“The float builders are excited about the notion of having more sponsors.” The fledgling Paradiso Parade Floats was especially glad to see new sponsors come in. Builders are also excited about the theme, “Dreams Come True,” and the increased emphasis on florals and the bigger flowers that have more impact. Last week at the theme draft meetings, where the Tournament reviews the designs for the upcoming floats, Jenkins said there were some extraordinarily creative themes, though a lot with a circus motif.
Added entertainment value can be achieved in the look of the float, its design and colors, or with “lots of bells and whistles, things moving up and down or twisting.” A Ferris wheel is classic, he said, or a celebrities, performers, a jazz band on the floats.
There are two issues that Examiner readers have brought to our attention, and we asked Jenkins about them: using more California grown materials, and bringing in more international floats.
“Sure. It makes a lot of sense,” he said, to use California grown flowers, but he cited economic concerns for float builders and sponsors. Builders have to consider the budgets of their clients and use materials they can afford. “We try to give a lot of flexibility to builders,” he said. “Not over-regulate. To large extent, try to stay out of their way.”
For some Rose Parade-viewers, the small number of international floats is a concern. The International Trophy can only be awarded to a float sponsored by an organization outside of the 50 states and Washington D.C., and for the past dozen or so years, there have only been one or two qualifying entries each year.
“We are aware of the issue,” Jenkins said. “Both the builders and the Tournament, working together, need to do a better job of marketing our events to the international community. We are making a better joint push this year.”
So what about the bands and the equestrians?
“We give a lot of thought to the length of the parade and how much bands consume,” Jenkins said. “250 to 300 members is a decent size, I’m comfortable with that.” In the past, some bands have hit the 500 mark, which he considers too big.
As Tournament president, Jenkins visits each band and presents a Tournament of Roses flag as an invitation to participate in the parade. He was excited about the quality and variety of this year’s entries.
Four of the crowd’s favorite bands will be returning in 2014—The Salvation Army, Los Angeles Unified School District, U.S. Marines, and the Pasadena City College Tournament Band. Two slots are held by the universities competing in the Rose Bowl Game and two by winners of competitions. The remaining 12 bands have been announced, and will appear in an article in this column.
The 15 equestrian units—down from 21 in 2013—will be more entertaining, Jenkins promises. He isn’t enthusiastic about costumed units that just ride down the route.
“I gave the [equestrian] committee chair instructions that I’d like to see more entertainment value,” he said. “I would like to see them do more so, if you’re a spectator, there’s more to watch.
“Medieval Times is an example,” he said, periodically jousting for the crowd. “I would like to see equestrian units that do more performance. My focus is, show me that you can entertain hundreds of thousands of people on the parade route.”
Since not all the equestrian units perform at the arena show, Equestfest, we asked if that could be a requirement. Jenkins, who “wrote the script” for the first Equestfest in 1989, said his hope is that entertainment-oriented units will want to participate in the show. Units that only walk the route are not likely to want to appear at Equestfest.
More entertainment for parade-viewers
Over the years, the Rose Parade has trended down in viewership, Jenkins said, partially because there is so much more to watch and so many different ways to watch it. “When we were growing up, there were three L.A. channels, and the Rose Parade was on all three,” he said. Now there is a plethora of channels, and IPads and other non-traditional delivery options.
“There are lots of different ways to be entertaining,” he said. “Macy’s has a lot of entertainment on the floats,” with entertainers who appeal to a younger audience. “That’s an area where we need to do better.”
Jenkins would also like to add “new and exciting elements to a very traditional institution. “I would like to have an experience with different kinds of entertainment,” he said. We have used bands and horses to separate floats and antique cars for celebrities.” He threw out some ideas to spice up the parade between floats: trick bike riders, pogo stick jumpers, a human shot out of a cannon.
“What I’m trying to achieve on January 2nd is when people go back to work or school and say they saw the Rose Parade, they’ll say, ‘Did you see X, Y, Z?’”
He mentioned the surfing dogs on the 2012 Natural Balance float, and we mentioned the Kit-Cat float with its skateboarders and dancers. “That kind of stuff,” he said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes, people say, ‘Hot dog, that was fun!’”
And the Grand Marshal?
Though Jenkins previously told the Pasadena Star-News that he hadn’t given a thought to the 2014 Grand Marshal, he told Examiner that he has thought about it a great deal. “That is a dilemma,” he said. A clue might be in what Jenkins calls the tagline to the theme, “Dreams Come True.”
“‘Dreams Come True’ feels passive,” he said. They come true, “but only if you pursue them. Courageously.”
The theme of the 125th Rose Parade and 100th Rose Bowl Game is “Dreams Come True” The Tournament of Roses is a celebration that lasts several weeks in the fall and winter, with the high points being the Rose Parade presented by Honda and the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. Keep following your Tournament of Roses Examiner for the latest news and for upcoming announcements.
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