From the Hare Krishnas beating their drums to the fleet of horns-a-blaring, lights-a-flashing tow trucks, the 2022 Rose Parade was everything I could have imagined.
To be clear, the Hare Krishnas, followed by the Jesus Saves group, were not official entries. And there was little chance my soul would be saved that day with what I muttered when the alarm sounded at 4:30. However, they did provide some pre-parade distraction along the route while we waited.
The tow-trucks however, were the final unit in the parade. Every float needs a truck in case of a mechanical breakdown along the route.
I’ve been to the Roses Parade twice. Lucky, I know.
The parade in 2014 had a bit more luster for me, but I speculate that was because it was my first. I was with a large university contingent who had been whisked off on a charter flight, with lots of hoopla around our team’s game. We’d been fed well and gotten hyped up at the pep rally the day. Everything was coming up roses.
The parade in 2022 was with 23 other seniors from Sun City West, and when a good friend from here wanted to go, I jumped at the chance. We packed our own snacks and rode the bus that featured a magic (possessed?) back door that slid open without provocation a couple of times as we drove down the freeway. My anxiety was tested as I sat closest, but was never in any danger. The hotel manager’s special reception the night we arrived was a drink and package of Cajun peanuts. Not much hoopla on this trip. But of course, the star of the trip was the parade.
Based on my two experiences, here are my hints, tips and observations:
Go with a tour that is going to take care of the bleacher tickets and the transportation. If you want to go on your own, tickets go on sale Feb 1. Of course, you can also go the night before, set up your chairs and sleep there. To each his own.
You will have to get up early to avoid the traffic gridlock. We left the hotel at 5:30, but our parking lot at the parade was close, so we napped on the bus until a few minutes after 7:00. It was fine.
Metal bleachers are cold, hard, and damp from the morning dew regardless of where you are along the route. Be prepared to sit five hours. You can take in what you can manage in your space (18 3/4″ we were reminded.) Take a seat cushion. We also had blankets – it was about 41 when we got there.
Take a snack. There were not food vendors around us and port-a-johns were back near the bus. Plan accordingly.
Patience is the key. The parade started at 8:00, but we knew we were 35-40 minutes away.
The floats will take your breath away, you will be awed by the colorful equestrian units, but this year, I was really wowed by the bands. High schools and colleges from all over the country and I wondered how hard it was for them to raise money during COVID.
At times, there are 2-3 block gaps, maybe for TV commercials since it is broadcast live? These became stretch breaks for us.
After the parade, we sat on our bus again for around 45 minutes waiting for traffic to thin out, but our excitement from the parade made the time go faster.
To round out the experience, we went to Floatfest the next day. This is a chance to see the floats up close, and in some cases, talk to people who helped assemble them. Unlike the squares of tissue paper and paper napkins we’d twist around chicken wire for our homecoming floats, these are designed and constructed by three professional companies, using volunteers to help.
Materials used must be natural products in their natural color. Cayenne seeds for dark red, lentils, lots of black beans and kidney beans on one float, seaweed, corn husks, large tea leaves, cotton, grasses, tree bark- well beyond the flowers we think of.
A couple of days before the parade is an event called Battle of the Bands when you can hear all of the bands in the parade. I heard that is amazing.
I know many people have said this parade is on their bucket list. Do it sooner than later. Sitting on the bleachers for that length of time takes a toll on knees, hips, and backs, and once you’re in your seat, it’s hard to get out.
I hope this helps those who have always dreamed about going. If the parade sounds like too much, still make the trip. Go to the Battle of the Bands, watch the parade on TV from the comfort of your room, then go to Floatfest, pick up a program and enjoy the sights. You will miss the horses and the animation on the floats but the rest will be there.