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10 highlights and lowlights of the 125th Rose Parade on Jan. 1

Biggest surprise: ‘Adventures in Space’
Biggest surprise: ‘Adventures in Space’Ramona Monteros

All a matter of opinion, of course, but in the spirit of all the New Year’s lists coming out, your Tournament of Roses Examiner wants to share the best and biggest and most exciting moments of the 125th Rose Parade, which took place on Jan. 1, 2015.

Flip through the attached list and add your own comments by visiting All Things Rose Parade on Facebook.

What was your favorite float? Which did you like the least? Do you have a favorite band or equestrian unit? What did you think of the award-winners, and those who didn’t win? Here are my “entries.”

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Columnists are not notified of comments via Disqus, so if you have a question or would like a reply to your comment, please post on Facebook at All Things Rose Parade or email lbmonteros@yahoo.com. The theme of the 125th Rose Parade and 100th Rose Bowl Game on Wednesday, Jan.1, 2014 was “Dreams Come True.” Subscribe to Tournament of Roses Examiner by clicking the "Subscribe" link for the latest news and for upcoming announcements.

Biggest surprise: ‘Adventures in Space’
Biggest surprise: ‘Adventures in Space’ Ramona Monteros

Biggest surprise: ‘Adventures in Space’

No contest here.  “Adventures in Space,” sponsored by Public Storage and built by Paradiso Parade Floats, wowed the crowd and the unprepared media with a first-ever double-decker modular float.  The rocket ship carrying three aliens stopped and opened up like a clamshell.  The three spacemen in separate floats rolled down a front ramp, whirled around the street, and returned via a rear ramp.  The top came down, and off it went.  Photos and a video are here.

Best float that didn’t win an award: K9s4Cops
Best float that didn’t win an award: K9s4Cops Ramona Monteros

Best float that didn’t win an award: K9s4Cops

Okay, this is debatable.  Trader Joe’s stacks of cheese and pickle on wheels was another in a long line of clever and whimsical entries from the grocer.  Rotary had a cute gingerbread train that made me hungry, and Los Angeles displayed some of the most beloved historical sites (plus Kobe Bryant).  But I really loved that big furry King Shepherd atop “Working Together for Safer Communities,” modeled after the organization’s mascot Johnny Cash.  The dog, not the man.

K9s4Cops works with law enforcement agencies that can't afford the $10,000 price tag of a trained K9.  The dogs assist officers by detecting narcotics and explosives and apprehending suspects.

Worst float: ‘The Voice’
Worst float: ‘The Voice’ Ramona Monteros

Worst float: ‘The Voice’

Generally, parade-goers don’t respond well to floats that are meant only to hype a company.  Last year’s “Cars Land” sponsored by Disney Resorts was pretty blatant, but it also put on a great show with music, dancers, animation, and a mobile Mater rescuing the float from a staged breakdown.  “The Voice,” sponsored by NBC, had little to commend it.  A huge hand with the “V” sign, a stage featuring the latest winner, Tessanne Chin, and one of the big red chairs right on the front offered neither beauty nor fun.

Most inspiring moment: Honoring our veterans
Most inspiring moment: Honoring our veterans Ramona Monteros

Most inspiring moment: Honoring our veterans

As “Our Eyes Are on the Stars,” sponsored by Wingtip to Wingtip Association rolled by, the crowd spontaneously took to their feet to honor the women who had served as WASP—Women Airforce Service Pilots—who risked and sometimes gave their lives to test and ferry military planes across the country during World War II.  We were fortunate to interview three former WASP at Fiesta Parade Floats prior to the parade.  These courageous women did not receive military benefits until 1977.

Most overhyped: Anti-whatever demonstrations
Most overhyped: Anti-whatever demonstrations Ramona Monteros

Most overhyped: Anti-whatever demonstrations

Two floats that excited quite a bit of pre-parade controversy were SeaWorld “Sea of Surprises” for portraying Orcas and other sea mammals at play, and AIDS Healthcare Foundation “Love is the Best Protection.”   If there was a boycott of the Rose Parade over the same-sex marriage that took place aboard the AIDS float, it was not noticeable in the sold-out grandstands or packed streets, and there were no more anti-gay protestors the post-parade crowd than usual.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) mounted a vigorous media campaign prior to the parade, urging the Tournament of Roses to drop the float.  The actual sit-in in front of the float, however, took place out of camera range and lasted only a few seconds.

Best cornering: Nagoya Minami High School Green Band
Best cornering: Nagoya Minami High School Green Band Ramona Monteros

Best cornering: Nagoya Minami High School Green Band

This is probably something only a band geek would notice, but it’s a measure of a band how well it navigates the 109-degree corner at Orange Grove and Colorado while playing for the cameras.

The United States Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band, with its military training and Rose Parade experience, made its usual precision-perfect square turn, but this year’s best turn goes to Nagoya Minami High School Green Band from Japan.  The files moved forward in a start to the typical square turn, when suddenly band members began swiftly cutting through to end up at the top of the turn.  Amazing!

Best ride: The Budweiser beer wagon pulled by 8 Clydesdales
Best ride: The Budweiser beer wagon pulled by 8 Clydesdales Ramona Monteros

Best ride: The Budweiser beer wagon pulled by 8 Clydesdales

Originally, they pulled the City of St. Louis float, then the Anheuser Busch entry, but until 2014, the Budweiser Clydesdales had never appeared as an equestrian unit in the Rose Parade.  Missing for the past two years, fans often ask why they aren’t in the parade anymore.  Tournament prez R. Scott Jenkins brought them back as his personal conveyance.  He and his family sat high atop the red beer wagon, which was festively decorated for the occasion.

Best-loved participant: Vin Scully
Best-loved participant: Vin Scully Ramona Monteros

Best-loved participant: Vin Scully

It would be difficult to overestimate the love Los Angeles area fans have for Dodgers announcer and 2014 Rose Parade Grand Marshal Vin Scully.  Some sportscasters are known for the colorful speech and constant chatter; “Vinnie” is known for his silence, for letting the cheers of the crowd sweep over the radio and television audience.  He’s the best in the business, and also the most humble.  As Rose Queen Ana Acosta observed, recalling Scully saying that he just reports what heroes do on the field, “How does he not realize what he means to the people of Los Angeles?”

His ride was pretty cool, too.  He chose a green 1950 Oldsmobile 98 Coupe Convertible, built the year he called his first baseball game.  It may be rare—there are only seven known to exist today—but a man and professional like Vin Scully is rarer still.

Dumbest idea: Mixing horses and fireworks
Dumbest idea: Mixing horses and fireworks Laura Berthold Monteros

Dumbest idea: Mixing horses and fireworks

Parade horses are trained to handle a lot of noise and spooky situations, but following directly behind a float with a booming confetti cannon is a challenge to the best trained steeds.  When the Stella Rosa float let off a volley just after the turn onto Colorado, the horses carrying the Medieval Times king, queen and one knight started and tried to turn around.  They were quickly controlled.  Hermanos Bañuelos Charro Team followed The Voice, but they left a larger space between and seemed to hold tighter reins.

Biggest heroes of the day: Scott Jenkins and crew
Biggest heroes of the day: Scott Jenkins and crew Ramona Monteros

Biggest heroes of the day: Scott Jenkins and crew

R. Scott Jenkins and the other 934 Tournament of Roses volunteers plus friends certainly win accolades for a great Rose Parade, from the opening motorcycle stunts by the Pasadena Police Department to the closing entry, which made the turn onto Colorado at 9:59 a.m.  He saw his “dream come true” with an increased number of floats and more emphasis on fresh floral materials, and he saw parade watchers’ dreams come true with shorter, less extravagant opening and closing acts.  Television viewers got to see the entire parade in the 2-hour time slot allotted for the Rose Parade, unlike last year’s that cut off a float and an equestrian group. 

He also did what many fans thought to be impossible: He convinced Vin Scully to finally say “yes” to the Grand Marshal spot.    

Other plusses from my seat: Jenkins brought the Budweiser Clydesdales back to the parade as his ride; the volume of the music on the floats was turned down, so it didn’t bleed into sound from the other floats or bands; the float judges awarded trophies two stunning floats—SeaWorld and AIDS Healthcare Foundation—despite pressure from activists.