Rose Parade returns with smaller-than-normal crowd

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PASADENA — The 133rd Tournament of Roses Parade made a colorful return to Pasadena Jan. 1 with a smaller-than-usual crowd lining the sidewalks to see dozens of elaborate floral floats, high-energy marching bands and equestrian teams in the iconic New Year’s Day tradition that was called off last year due to COVID-19.

“Dream. Believe. Achieve.” was the parade theme, a celebration of “education’s ability to open doors, open minds and change lives.”

“Education paves the path to success with a world of opportunities achieved through knowledge, compassion and determination. Education is the great equalizer,” Tournament of Roses Association President Robert Miller said. “As a community college educator, I have seen firsthand the life-changing miracle that education provides.”

The UPS Store took top float honors for the third consecutive time, winning the 2022 Sweepstakes Trophy for its entry “Rise, Shine & Read!” featuring a proud father rooster reading to his family of chicks on a 35-foot-tall, 55-foot-long animated float.

The float, built by Irwindale-based Fiesta Parade Floats, demonstrated the importance of literacy.

Parade festivities began with a performance by Grammy-winning singer LeAnn Rimes, featuring a remixed and re-mastered version of “Throw My Arms Around the World,” created specifically for the Pasadena celebration.

Rimes, who first appeared in the Rose Parade in 2006, was accompanied by the Rose Parade Dancers, the Mark Keppel Dance Company, Rose Parade Flag Bearers and four drummers. A burst of fireworks set the stage for the two-hour parade.

Many spectators along the 5 1/2-mile parade route staked out their spots overnight despite unseasonably low temperatures. In 2019, the event drew an estimated 700,000 people in person, while 37 million people watched the television broadcast.

This year’s crowd was noticeably smaller as the Southland endured another winter COVID-19 surge.

Parade organizers said they went ahead with the event since it is outdoors where the risk of transmission is lower and because ticketed spectators and fans attending the Rose Bowl later in the day were required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test result. Masks were also required to be worn throughout the parade.

Some Rose Parade traditions remained from the first parade in 1890. That included the requirement that every inch of the 37 floats be covered with flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds or bark. The most delicate flowers, including roses, were placed in individual vials of water, set into floats one by one.

This year’s grand marshal was Emmy-winning actor LeVar Burton, who is also a director, educator and lifelong advocate of children’s literacy and known to generations of children for his role as host of PBS’ “Reading Rainbow.”

La Canada High School senior Nadia Chung reigned over the parade as Rose Queen, joined by the six members of her Royal Court.

The parade also featured 17 marching bands. In a Rose Parade first that highlighted the theme of education, the Band Directors Marching Band included 270 band directors from across the United States and Mexico, ranging from recent music education graduates to retired veteran directors.

Other bands included the Los Angeles Unified School District All District High School Honor Band and the U.S. Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band, including musicians from Camp Pendleton.

Seventeen equestrian teams on the parade route included The New Buffalo Soldiers, a group of first responders who present a historical representation of the 10th Regiment, Company H of the U.S. Cavalry, formerly enslaved individuals who served as soldiers but received little recognition for their sacrifice.

The parade wrapped with a grand finale headlined by Grammy nominee Jimmie Allen and an appearance by the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army Parachute team.

Following the landing of the Golden Knights, Allen performed his hit song “Good Times Roll,” accompanied by his four-piece band, the Rose Parade Dancers, the Mark Keppel Dance Company and the Rose Parade Flag Bearers.

Allen made history as the first Black artist to launch a career with two consecutive No. 1 hits off his 2018 debut album, “Mercury Lane.” His two-time platinum debut single “Best Shot” claimed the No. 1 spot on country radio for three weeks.

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