Posted by: cassymuronaka | January 1, 2011

Rose Parade vs. the Mardi Gras: No contest

I spent my teenage years growing up just a few miles from the Rose Parade, which I have never been tempted to attend. For one thing, I am by nature not an early riser, especially on New Year’s Day.

The Mardi Gras also ruined me for the Tournament of Roses.

The first years of my life primarily were spent in the South. I lived twice in New Orleans. And once you have attended a Mardi Gras parade, there’s no going back.

This is what happens when you go to the Mardi Gras: There is not just one parade: there are lots, and they aren’t just on one day. They usually start in the afternoon or evening. If you go, you are probably dressed as a pirate, and you are surrounded by thousands of other jolly, costumed humans. Merry people riding by on floats throw you jewelry and “trinkets,” especially when you scream loudly to them.

This is what happens when you go to the Rose Parade: It is incredibly early in the morning. No one is dressed up, except for people riding the floats. As flower-covered floats drive by, people with frozen smiles wave at you. If you are particularly unlucky, the largest float in the parade will break down while trying to turn the dreaded corner at Colorado and Orange Grove Boulevards. No one throws you anything.

You tell me which parade you’d rather attend if you are a kid.

It is possible that I am the only person who grew up in South Pasadena (next door to Pasadena) who has never gone to the Rose Parade, although I did glue flowers on a float one year. It was cold and raining and I got thick adhesive all over my clothes.

The idea of camping out on hard, chilled cement for 24 hours, just to nail down a choice parade-viewing location, also has never been seemed like Big Fun. Tickets for the viewing stands cost a fortune, and just about everyone I know who has bought one always ends up on the wrong side of the street, looking directly into the sun.

My idea of how to attend the Rose Parade is the way my-sister-the-lawyer went one year. She and her family were invited to a viewing party by someone very posh who owned a building or rented an office directly above the Rose Parade route in a prime location near Old Town Pasadena, not facing into the sun. There was valet parking. The office was warm, and there was champagne and a gourmet buffet breakfast of things like mini-bagels, expensive smoked salmon and freshly-cooked crepes. For all that I would get up at 5 am and drive to Pasadena on New Year’s just once to see the Rose Parade.

If you are reading this anywhere east of Pasadena, I am probably still asleep..



  1. I, too, a somewhat local girl, went to the parade once. My husband and I lived in the Valley and my brother borrowed his girlfriends fathers’ VW bus, stripped down inside as a delivery truck. Very uncomfy. We got up at o’dark thirty and jounced our way to Pasadena where we froze our butts for what seemed like days. I remember nothing of the parade.

  2. This year’s parade was serious fun to attend but it was also seriously cold. Also, I have never been Mardi Gras.

    • Yeah, my mother got me to take her to visit the floats near Victory Park today, which someone can con me into doing about once every two decades. Indeed, the floats do look spectacular up close. We went early because The Ancient are allowed in two hours earlier than the rest of the populous. This, however involved me having to show up on my mother’s South Pasadena doorstep at 7 am. And, as you wrote, it was seriously cold. Everyone visiting the floats looked like they lived in Montreal, not Pasadena. Who knew that anyone in Southern California possessed full-length down jackets?

      We left just as it was starting to rain.

  3. Dear Cassy

    I too grew up in the Pasadena area but did go to a few when I was young and I don’t remember being particularly impressed.

    I was also in New Orleans once in the 60s at Mardi Gras time and I was overwhelmed. Not being much of a party person, I fould it exciting and colorful but didn’t enjoy the crowds particularly.

    I solved my problem by getting involved in the TofR. Having the TofR identity provides the opportunity to have people ask questions and it is always fun to answer. All members serve on many committees over their membership tenure – almost always for two years so a person learns one year, coaches the next, then moves on to something different.

    I’m old now and they retire us at 65 to the Auxiliary Committee. This allows us to volunteer for the many extra assignments that need to be filled each year at parade time. For the last three years I have chosen to work at the front desk in the office for two days. During the parade, however, I’m on the street with radio and headset right in the middle of the activity. Bev usually gets a spot at the corner of Del Mar and Orange Grove which is where the bands enter the lineup. At that point one sees the entire parade from about ten feet away.

    Here’s the deal. Come to Pasadana for the next parade. I can’t get you “a viewing party by someone very posh who owned a building or rented an office directly above the Rose Parade route in a prime location near Old Town Pasadena” but I can guarantee you a good view in the middle of the activity with me or Bev.

    By the time the parade starts there is enough sunshine to warm you up.

    I have fourteen Japanese home stay “daughters” so I am familiar with the desire to “sleep in.” However, they all got up in time for something really fun or interesting.

    Keep us in mind – This is a serious offer!

    Oh, I almost forgot. Would you allow us sto publish your blog post in Tiger Tales next fall? We’re serious about that too.

    Bill Peters
    Director, Publications,

    • Oh Bill, I’m probably going to take you up on this generous offer. I never miss a chance for an adventure, and being in the middle of the action at the Rose Parade definitely qualifies. Your years on the TofR sound like they have been extremely rewarding.

      As you can see, I did manage to drag myself out of bed early today to visit the floats, and I had a very good time. A giant hats-off to the city and/or the TofR for the shuttle system, which works like a clock.

      And, of course, publish the post. I’m flattered to be asked.

  4. Oooops! My bad! I see that you are not Japanese but your husband is.

    That doesn’t change anything other to say that I could always get my own daughters up very early if necessary.

    I’ll bet you could too – just once for the parade!


    • Hah, how would you know? Occasionally, I run into a Japanese woman with a last name like Coogan or Smith. We have interesting talks about what people expect to see when they read our names but have not met us in person.

  5. As a native of Southern California, I grew up watching the parade on TV, getting up early to watch Bill Welch on KTTV interview the people who had come from all over the world to see the parade. But I had never gone in person until I was in my 20s. Since then, I’ve seen the Rose Parade about six times, and in varying degrees of comfort. I tried the solo overnight campout, sleeping like a homeless person in a big green trash bag at the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado in the pre-security years. I’ve attended in the early morning, riding on a bus from Silver Lake carrying my 5-gallon bucket to use as lunch pail, chair and step-ladder. Twice I’ve won free grandstand tickets in the primo grandstands on Orange Grove, just yards off the start. Grandstand tickets are best, especially this year. The seat included free cinnamon rolls, orange juice and coffee. Plus I got to sit in front of several gentlemen from a float building company and listen to their commentary on the various floats. I also got to meet a one of the PCC trustees.

    • I want to be Sharon. How the heck did you win grandstand tickets?

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