You're usually guaranteed to see at least one star each year at the annual Rose Parade. The real luminaries of this parade are, of course, the spectacular floral floats, but each year's parade also has a celebrity Grand Marshal who leads off the phenomenal procession, often a major Hollywood star.
What started out in 1890 as
a small parade of horse-drawn carriages decorated with roses, has blossomed
into one of the greatest parades on earth, and what is, without doubt,
the most beautiful parade in America.
The parade is usually held
the morning of New Years Day, so this year, the Rose Parade took place on Friday, January 1, 2015.
The Grand Marshal was going to be Olympic athlete-turned-WW2 war hero and P.O.W., 97-year-old Louis Zamperini, whose life inspired the bestseller Unbroken.
But the 2015 parade also included a special "Downton Abbey" float, which included an appearance by actress Elizabeth McGovern, who plays 'Lady Mary' on the hit show, and who starred in movies such as "Ragtime" and "Once Upon a Time in America".
The Grand Marshal in 2012 was J.R. Martinez, a decorated, badly wounded veteran of Iraq who stars in the ABC soap opera "All My Children", and competed on "Dancing With the Stars".
In 2011, the Grand Marshal of the 122nd annual parade was cooking show star Paula Deen.
In 2010, they opted for a Grand Marshal with a name from recent headlines: hero pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who successfully landed his commercial jet plane on the Hudson River in NYC.
The Grand Marshal of the 2008 Rose Parade was actress Cloris Leachman, who gained fame as 'Phyllis' on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", won an Oscar for the movie "The Last Picture Show", and has recently staged a comeback (at age 82), kicking up her heels on TV's "Dancing With The Stars".
The Grand Marshal of the 2007 Parade was "Star Wars" director George Lucas, accompanied by two hundred marching stormtroopers and floats inspired by the landscapes of the Ewoks' world and the planet Naboo... Other stars on other floats included Marie Osmond, animal expert Jack Hanna, and the Oak Ridge Boys.
The Grand Marshal of the 2006 parade was none other than Mickey Mouse. This marked only the third time that a non-human character has headed the parade ('Kermit the Frog' did in 1996, and the puppet 'Charlie McCarthy' was Grand Marshal in 1940). The famous mouse will also toss the coin before the 91st Rose Bowl football game.
The 2003 parade had not one, but three different celebrity Grand Marshals. In keeping with the theme about kids ("Children's Dreams, Wishes and Imagination"), they had Bill Cosby, Art Linkletter and Mister Rogers. All three gentlemen, of course, had a long history of entertaining children.
In 1995, Grand Marshal William Shatner (Captain Kirk from "Star Trek") rode his own horse up the parade route. In 1994 it was Angela Lansbury ("Murder She Wrote").
Other past Grand Marshals have included Lorne Greene (1981), Jimmy Stewart (1982), Danny Kaye (1984), Gregory Peck (1988), and old blue-eyes himself, Frank Sinatra (in 1990).
Grand Marshal Walt
Disney brought along Mickey
Mouse for his parade appearance. Edgar
Bergen (as you might expect) brought along
dummy Charlie McCarthy.
Other stars who have served as Grand Marshal include John Wayne,
(twice), Mary Pickford,
and Erma Bombeck.
In 1999, there were three Grand Marshal's: Shirley Temple Black (returning for the third time), Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and Hollywood producer David L. Wolper (as well as the late baseball great Jackie Robinson, represented posthumously by an old friend.)
The year 2000 saw Roy Disney as the Grand Marshal, along with old pal Mickey Mouse, of course.
The 2001 parade had as its
theme "The Fabric of America"; and the Grand Marshal
was NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.
Many people enjoy the party atmosphere on Colorado Ave on New Years Eve. For less intrepid souls, reserved grandstand tickets for the Rose Parade can be purchased from TicketMaster.
Also, you might want to phone
the city halls of the various towns in the greater Los Angeles area,
and inquire about their package plans for the parade. Many cities (such
as Torrance and Lakewood) charter buses and reserve blocks of bleacher
seats for community field trips to the parade. If you call early, you can
be sure of a good seat. Generally, combination tickets (including bus transportation
and grandstand seats) cost between $50 - $65 per person. Buses leave most
sites at around 6 AM to 8 AM. (November isn't too early to phone about
Parade route: the Rose parade begins near the Wrigley Mansion/Tournament House on Orange Grove Boulevard & Ellis Street, then heads north up Orange Grove Boulevard (four short blocks) to Colorado Boulevard. The parade turns right (east) on Colorado Boulevard (past the Norton Simon Museum) and travels east on Colorado Blvd for about three and a half miles. It finally turns north again up Sierra Madre Boulevard, to Paloma Street (and Victory Park). Post-parade viewing area (you can see the floats up close after the parade) is on two streets: Sierra Madre Boulevard and Washington Boulevard.
Phone: (626) 449-4100 (live) or (626) 449-ROSE for a hotline for 24-hour detailed recorded information about the parade, or (626) 793-9911, to reach a holiday hotline run by the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau, which can give you live reports on traffic, directions, parking, seating, etc.
Sharp Seating Company (reserved grandstand seats and reserved parking for autos and RV's, at least two months in advance): (626) 795-4171. (Tickets go on sale the second week in February following the previous year's parade!)
The Pasadena Police Dept. (information on parking and overnight camping): (626) 405-4621.
Community bus field trips:
City of Torrance: (310) 618-2930.
Getting there: From Hollywood, take the Hollywood (101) Freeway south to the Pasadena (110) Freeway, then take the Pasadena (110) Freeway north (about nine miles) to its end on Arroyo Seco Parkway. Go north to the parade route. (Pasadena Freeway traffic is surprisingly light on the hours before the parade.)
Parking: For regulations about parking on city streets, call the Pasadena Police Dept. Reserved parking for cars and RV's is available from Sharp Seating. The lots are usually right next to Colorado Boulevard. (Be sure to know where you will park far in advance. Don't just drive into town on the day of the parade and expect to find a parking spot.)
Admission Price: Curbside viewing is free. Paid reserved seating in bleachers is available, usually at around $30 - $70, from Sharp Seating Company (preferably at least two months in advance). Reserved parking will add another $20 or so.
Hours: The parade is held each January 1st (New Years Day), unless New Years falls on a Sunday (then the parade is held the next day, Monday). The parade begins promptly at 8:10 AM. The parade takes a little over 2 hours to pass any one spot on the parade route. The first units reach the end of the 5 1/2 mile-route at 10:20 AM. It passes the mid-point (Lake Avenue) at around 9:10 AM.
viewing of floats (at Victory Park, on Sierra Madre Boulevard) is held
after the parade, on January 1st, from 1:30 PM to 4 PM. (Come early! Long
lines are the norm.) On the second day, January 2nd, the floats are on
display from 9 AM to 4 PM.
[For more information on
this subject, you can access the official Tournament of Roses website at
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