Lance Tibbet’s Pasadena roots are deep. This year’s Tournament of Roses president was born and raised in Pasadena; he graduated from Pasadena High School and attended Pasadena City College. His business — wholesale nursery Magic Growers, Inc. — is based in Pasadena.
“I went through all the schools, my business is here, I live here, a few years ago I said, ‘Maybe I’m a little too provincial, maybe I need to get out into the world?’” Tibbets said.
In the past year, he’s certainly accomplished that — in the most Pasadena role of all.
As president for the 129th Rose Parade and Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, Tibbet had the enviable task of visiting each of the parade’s marching bands, “traveling around the country and traveling around the world, spreading the good work of the tournament.”
What he’s learned is how much the Rose Parade means to folks well beyond his hometown, even witnessing one woman break down in tears when he planted a small Rose sticker on her lapel.
“It’s phenomenal, you go from places like Colorado Springs, where I understand there are about 400,000 people, to Louisburg, Kansas, which has 4,300 people, so you get this really good cross-section of America,” Tibbet said. “And regardless of how big the community is, they’re all excited about the Rose Parade, about getting the opportunity to represent not only their high school, but their city and their state, and in some cases, their country.”
What’s also become clear to Tibbet is how perfectly these bands play into the theme he selected for this year’s parade: “Making a Difference.”
The idea was inspired by George Bailey in the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a traditional holiday favorite in the Tibbet family home.
“The core of the story and the sentiment is about making a difference,” said Tibbet, a volunteer member of the Tournament of Roses since 1980. “So I was thinking about the Tournament and what it does to give back and make a difference, and Pasadena in particular, being a native and second generation, I know this city is very philanthropic, so I wanted to tell those stories.
“And the thing that’s been really cool about it is that we continue to hear stories, pretty much on a daily basis, about people doing good things and being nice neighbors — about people making a difference.”
Including, definitely, the bands Tibbet and his wife, Amelia, visited.
In Utah, the Westlake High School band invited their guests to come out and do some community service projects with them, including clearing brush and weeds along a long walkway, the type of giving back that’s required along with rehearsal for that particular group of musicians.
In St. Louis, Tibbet met the Lindbergh High School band, which holds “Sunday Night Lights” regularly. “It’s an opportunity for kids and people with some kind of chronic or terminal disease to play football, to be in the band, to be a cheerleaders,” Tibbet said. “And the community comes out and supports that — and it’s something a band member started.”
In Albertville, Alabama, there is a former music teacher who’s “like a grandpa to everyone in the band,” who not only voluntarily helps train the percussion players, but also, unbeknownst to the young musicians, buys instruments for the kids who can’t afford them.
In Ontario, Canada, the Burlington Teen Tour Band, is supported entirely by the community, members of which, in turn, request the band to play at various community functions, such as a recent block party in honor of a 4-year-old girl who was suffering from a serious illness. Two hundred of the 250 members of the band attended that particular event, Tibbet said.
Closer by, in Corona, the student band members passed a hat among themselves when Tibbet was in town, and drummed up about $1,100 to be donated to Five Acres, a Pasadena-based nonprofit that offers care for families in crisis.
“We need to tell these stories,” said Tibbet, who will ride in the Rose Parade this year alongside his family, including his father, Bert Tibbet, a 24-year Tournament of Roses member, and sons Seth and Joel, the latter of whom is the third generation of the Tibbet family to join the Tournament of Roses.
“What we’ve come to learn is that a great band is a great community; there’s a support system there, whether it’s the band boosters or the chamber of commerce or the board of education. That help and support makes it a positive experience.”