Posted by: Brad Nixon | January 6, 2016

Afloat Among the Roses

There are a lot of spectacles that claim to attract a “worldwide viewing audience.” Many of them are sporting events. Others are just overhyped silliness. Probably the ones that draw the biggest numbers of viewers are both.

Here in southern California we have one of those events every New Year: The Tournament of Roses Parade. It takes place in Pasadena, a large city immediately north of downtown Los Angeles. This year was the 127th edition.

If you’ve never actually watched the parade, you still may be familiar with it. It’s a two-hour procession of bands, fancily-dressed people on even fancier-dressed horses and — especially — elaborate mobile “floats” decorated entirely in flowers and plants. Like this one:

Rose Parade Punjab India Brad Nixon 2769 (640x480)

By my count, the 2016 parade included 42 floats in a variety of lengths from modest to gigantic.

The displays are genuinely attractive, and the designs are sometimes extraordinary.

Rose Parade Brad Nixon 2786 (640x391)

The parade is a huge affair, with hundreds of thousands of people filling tall temporary stadium seating along Colorado Blvd. and lining the streets. The parade starts at 8 a.m., so to see it you typically need a reserved seat (most commonly arranged through tour operators) or someone who’ll sleep on the sidewalk to hold your place.

Television is a simpler, if less immediate way to see the parade, and the broadcast draws millions of viewers, not to mention online views of the replay, which is available HERE.

Another way to see the floats, and to see standing still, close-up, is to attend the “Post Parade” display on the two days following the actual parade. The floats are parked along two boulevards on the east side of Pasadena, and you pay $10 per person (children under 5 free) to see them. Here was only a portion of that scene this year:

Rose Parade view Brad Nixon 2810 (640x436)

Corny? Hokey? Yes. After many years of considering it, though, we went this year, and it was fun.

Here’s a close-hand look at some Rose Parade 2016 floats.

Rose Parade Honda Brad Nixon 2785 (640x433)

Butterflies were a popular image, as on that Honda float. The pattern on this one was primarily created with beans and lentils:
Rose Parade Honda butterfly Brad Nixon 2782 (640x480)

There were innumerable animals, including bears, horses, deer, wolves, squirrels, rabbits, dogs, cats and these:

Rose Parade Brad Nixon 2794 (640x480)

Rose Parade Marcy Vincent 3378 (480x640)

There were birds: eagles, peacocks, flamingoes and more

Rose Parade hummingbird Brad Nixon (640x478)

Rose Parade Brad Nixon 2739 (640x480)

Some flowers and plants appeared as themselves, and imaginary ones were comprised of other plants, seeds, leaves, nuts and fruit.

Rose Parade Brad Nixon 2749 (640x480)

Rose Parade Brad Nixon 2834 (640x415)

And a dragon!

Rose Parade Brad Nixon 2799 (640x480)

Everything you see is covered with flowers or some sort of plant material, from the ubiquitous roses to shredded coconut or even whole oranges in the dragon’s case.

It’s a well-organized, professionally run event, with effective parking and shuttle service and, best of all, a happy crowd. Plan on walking at least a couple of miles. The event is also wheelchair accessible, and there are snack booths and bathroom facilities.

If you’re in town some New Year and can’t get to the parade, it’s worth a few hours to see something unique under western skies.

Rose Parade Marcy Vincent 3304 (480x640)

I’d welcome a word from readers outside the United States: have you ever watched the Rose Parade on television, or are those claims of a “worldwide viewing audience” merely hype?

© Brad Nixon 2016, 2017. 2 photos © Marcy Vincent 2017, used by kind permission.



  1. Always interested in design and artistry, I found the tour a fascinating expression of the creative spirit. So many imaginative details that you can only appreciate close up. It’s a fun and inspiring experience.


  2. I watch the parade every year on TV. Congrats! Your close-up photos of the spectacular details are far better than what I saw from the TV cameras this year. I was at the Rose Parade in person about 40 years ago when I lived in L.A.


  3. I grew up watching this parade, but it’s been a pile of years since I’ve watched. Looks like it’s changed a bit. 🙂


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