2010 Tournament of Roses Parade Prelude

by Parade Guy on December 30, 2009

Hi there!

It was a very busy week with two parades completed and an award winning float being built.  First, just a quick post about the 2010 Tournament of Roses Parade.

It is an amazing event from every possible perspective.  There is the long one hundred and twenty-two year history.  There is the very strong Tournament of Roses Association (www.tournamentofroses.com).  The floats, the bands, and the rest of the elements.  There are also a great deal of extra-parade events that make the whole experience worth the trip.

My involvement in Pasadena is multi-faceted.  I have volunteered for the last two years with both the Tournament of Roses Association and the La Canada Tournament of Roses Float Association.  For the Parade, I have been a guest of the Formations Committee and the Operations Committee.  With the La Canada, I have been welcomed in to help with the decorating of their float.  This post will deal with the Formation of the Parade.

The Tournament of Roses Association is made up of primarily of nine hundred and thirty-five volunteers.  These volunteers are assigned to one of thirty-four committees for a two year assignment.  Ascension within the organization is based on decision of the Executive Committee.  As you would imagine, there are committees that focus on Bands, Equestrian units, Floats, Specialty Units, and the other elements normally associated with a parade.  What you might not think about are elements like the Royal Court, Marketing, and my favorite, the Heritage committee.  This committee is responsible for promoting the Parade and all it stands for with various efforts including tours and other public relation activities.

From my perspective, the Formations Committee is responsible for the staging of every Parade element.  This includes working with the City of Pasadena to define the formation (staging) area, notifying residents of planned No Parking zones, marking the streets, posting the temporary street signs, using barricades to close streets and create Secure Zones, and then to finally starting bringing units into their assigned locations.

Before the Formation happens, there is plenty of coordination and work to be done.  The Formation Committee holds several work days prior to the Parade.  Every member of the Committee is expected to participate.  The Committee has a very structured hierarchy, with a Chairperson, two Vice-Chair people, several team leaders based on role and geographic area, and then a large quantity of worker-bees.  I am lucky enough to be a Guest Worker Bee.

Staging a parade is critical to its effective execution.  For the Tournament of Roses Parade, elements are staged in four primary areas.  Bands, Equestrian, Specialty, and of course, Floats.  Due to the complexity and the enormity of the event, Formation takes place in stages beginning the day before the Parade.

From a pure geography standpoint, the area of Pasadena that the Formation Committee is responsible for covers an area approximately sixteen blocks by eight blocks.  THAT’S HUGE!!!!!  I don’t even know how many square miles that is.  But I do know, based on hours of driving around and putting up no parking signs and moving barricades into place, that it’s a lot of road to be covered.

In general, the more elements of any one type there are in a parade, the more coordination is required.  For example, if you think about bringing up thirty or forty floats into your staging area, you need to make sure that either the floats arrive in the parade order, which is impossible, or that you have room for the floats to maneuver on the street around each other.

Strike up the Bands:

Creating a staging area for bands is a complex activity.  It is one of the few activities where you need to take into consideration humans.  Bands can’t be staged too early because of the weather, things like sleep and human comfort requirements.  With larger bands, they travel by bus and support vehicle, unload, stand around warming up, assemble and march to the integration point.  The delivery vehicles must be able to enter, unload, leave, and make it to the disband area.  For the Tournament of Roses Parade, this meant dealing with an added level of security both on arrival and exit.

What about the Horses?

For the Equestrian units, many of the elements include horse drawn wagons.  These wagons are given their own street, which is also marked with the unit’s number.  The horses don’t come into the staging area until early on the morning of the Parade.  One of the keys here is to choose a street that can be entered and exited without having to turn around.  The ability to pull through is critical to any element that depends on trailers.  From a timing perspective, the wagons are dropped off during the day on the 31st.  There is no correlation between the bringing in the horses and the wagons, as long as the wagons are in place before the horses.


Once the streets are marked and appropriately signed, the City places its barricades.  An outside vendor provides pylons that will be moved in place around the floats after they arrive.  This is one of the work activity that requires both planning and hands get dirty labor.  As the size of the floats varies, the number of pylons needed to secure it does too.  As the street maps are being drawn, the overall length is taken into account.  Orange Grove is marked with temporary paint for each of the float’s initial parking space.  The associated number of pylons are deployed at each parking spot the morning before the Parade.

Formation is done here in two stages.  The first one, getting into the assigned parking spaces starts at about eight pm when the streets are closed to traffic.  Because floats are self propelled vehicles that can be humongous (Snow Boarding Dogs was 114’ long) and mechanically very complex, a great deal of time is allotted for just in case.  This year, the student built float needed some of that time and a lot of kitty litter.  It is important to note that much like the inflation of the balloons the night before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, the Formation of the Floats is a public event where people start lining the streets of the Formation area early on the 31st.

Specialty Units:

Staging these types of units requires some finesse.  For example, elements like the Grand Marshal, the Queen and her Court, and the Mayor require some VIP treatment.  For early morning parades, there needs to be warm shelter, coffee, comfort stations, parking, and easy access.  The Tournament of Roses Parade is no different.  All of the specialty units are staged at the Association’s headquarters on South Orange Grove.  This allows the Formation Committee to take advantage of existing facilities, off-street parking, and security that is already in place for other reasons.  It does present a challenge for units leaving the grounds and turning on to the route.  This requires crowd control similar in scope to parting the Red Sea.

See ya’ on the route!

Parade Guy

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