For the first time in 75 years, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association will cancel the nation’s largest New Year’s Day celebration, the 132nd Rose Parade, due to the pandemic and the resulting restrictions and guidelines put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, the association said in a statement on Wednesday.
With “reluctance and tremendous disappointment,” the TOR said, it will be unable to host the event in accordance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Phase IV reopening schedule.
“The health and well-being of our parade participants and guests, as well as that of our volunteer members, professional staff and partners, is our No. 1 priority,” said Bob Miller, 2021 president of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association. “Obviously this is not what any of us wanted, and we held off on announcing until we were absolutely sure that safety restrictions would prevent us from continuing with planning for the 132nd Rose Parade.”
La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Michael Davitt, who is also president of the LCF Tournament of Roses Association board of directors, expressed disappointment that this year’s LCF float won’t be rolling down Colorado Boulevard in 2021. The float was designed to depict animated “old dogs” learning new tricks in a skate park.
“We can certainly understand the reasoning behind the Tournament of Roses decision to cancel the 2021 parade,” he said. “We are, of course, disappointed that we will not be able to construct a float this year and share that with the world on New Year’s Day … but are hopeful that you’ll see it in the future. The safety of our volunteers is our highest priority. We hope everyone stays safe and looks forward to bringing you a fun and beautiful float in 2022.”
Meanwhile, Davitt said, the LCFTRA will continue to make improvements to the float infrastructure and prepare for the 2022 parade: “During this time, we will also make improvements to our operational structure, in order to grow our organization. We are very appreciative for everyone who has been helping this year to get where we are currently.”
Local preparation for the parade typically begins toward the end of March, and building of the parade float was planned to begin “full speed” in May, right after Fiesta Days, another tradition over Memorial Day weekend that was canceled due to COVID-19.
This year, however, all in-person work on the float was delayed due to the continuing pandemic, although the committee met virtually and over Zoom to finish designs, said LCFTRA board member Charles Thuss. Before the “Safer at Home” order took effect, a small team deconstructed last year’s float, cleaned up the building site, made improvements and prototypes on key pieces for the float, he added.
“We looked at different options of what to build in our design so that we can represent La Cañada the best way within the TOR’s guidelines,” said Thuss, adding that the LCFTRA is known for its floats with innovative and whimsical animation.
The Tournament has not yet announced whether this year’s theme celebrating the power of education — “Dream, Believe, Achieve” — will carry over to 2022, according to Davitt.
Enjoyed by millions around the world, the Rose Parade is held each Jan. 1 in celebration of the New Year. Since its inception in 1891, the event has been canceled only three times — the wartime years of 1942, 1943 and 1945.
While the parade itself was scheduled for more than five months from now, the preparation for such a large event typically begins in February: “In addition to the advance planning required by our band and equestrian units, the construction of our floats takes many months and typically requires thousands of volunteers to gather in ways that aren’t in compliance with safety recommendations and won’t be safe in the coming months,” said TOR Executive Director/CEO David Eads. “While we are extremely disappointed that we are unable to host the parade, we believe that not doing so will prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as protect the legacy of the Rose Parade for generations to come.”
The TOR Association also hosts the annual Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1. The planning for this coming year’s Rose Bowl Game, which will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal, is still ongoing.
“We continue to work with the College Football Playoff and our collegiate partners to explore what this year’s college football season will look like amidst COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines. While the safety of the student athletes, university personnel and fans is our top priority, we remain hopeful that the Granddaddy of Them All will take place on New Year’s Day,” continued Eads.
Miller emphasized that the TOR is working hard to create a different kind of New Year’s celebration: “I know that I speak on behalf of our 935 volunteer members, and the hundreds of thousands in our community for which the Rose Parade is an annual tradition, when I say we will miss the joy of coming together and the making of memories,” he said. “But know that we will not miss this opportunity to celebrate a New Year and healthy new beginnings on Jan. 1, 2021.”
In considering the options for the 2021 Rose Parade, the TOR commissioned a feasibility and safety report for hosting the Rose Parade during the COVID-19 pandemic, conducted by public health experts from the Keck School of Medicine of USC. That report showed that even with intensive efforts to ensure compliance with public health measures such as 6-foot distancing and face masks, it is likely that Rose Parade activities before, during and after the event would inevitably lead to large numbers of individuals (many of whom represent high risk groups for COVID-19 complications, such as retirees over age 60) in close proximity to each other, potentially, in some cases, without masks.
“This creates a high-risk environment for viral spread, including super-spreader events,” the TOR said, adding that with thousands of participants and spectators traveling by plane and other methods to the Los Angeles region from across the nation and even the world, that travel could also expound infection risk.
Although the TOR Association will not be hosting its 132nd Rose Parade, it said it still plans to celebrate the New Year on Jan. 1, 2021. Working in conjunction with its broadcast partners and sponsors, the TOR has plans underway for a new kind of New Year celebration for those across the country and around the world.
“Each year, the country turns its eyes to Pasadena for America’s New Year celebration and we plan to deliver on that important promise,” said Eads. “We may not be able to host our traditional five-mile march down Colorado Boulevard, but we are exploring new and safe ways we can collectively share in the celebration, and we look forward to announcing further details about our exciting new plans in the coming weeks.”