Every New Year’s morning, I watch the Rose Parade on television. I love seeing the colorful floats and imagining what they might be like – every inch covered in flowers or some other plant in its natural state. I look at the crowds of people and think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be there in person?” This year, I was there, sitting curbside on a folding chair next to Carrieanna (in her wheelchair) and her Aunt Vicki, with an unobstructed view of the marching bands, the horses, and all of the beautiful floats!
In the spring of 2014 Carrieanna’s Aunt Vicki received a diagnosis of lymphoma. This health scare caused her to say, “We’ve talked about going to the Rose Parade ‘someday.’ Let’s make it a reality.” And I responded by saying, “Is 2015 too soon?” She said it was not, so I began researching and planning the trip.
(And we are very grateful that her treatments were successful and she’s doing very well!)
I first contacted Sharp Seating Company, the “official grandstand seating company” for the Rose Parade, to inquire about wheelchair-accessible seating. I spoke with a very helpful woman named Lisa who suggested that we purchase “Area One” seating to accommodate Carrieanna’s wheelchair and provide us with a wonderful view. (Area One is just east of the television broadcast booths, and they always have a great view of the parade.)
Lisa also recommended that we purchase a Handicap Parking pass to make the trek to our seats easier. This was also excellent advice – even though we had to be parked by 6:00 a.m. (ugh!) due to parade-day road closures.
Knowing that we would want to see the floats as closely as possible, we also bought tickets to the pre-parade Decorating Places and the post-parade Showcase of Floats, as well as the [city-bus-with-a-lift] shuttle that would take us to the Showcase of Floats. The tickets were mailed to me in mid-November.
Every bit of advice that Lisa gave me was excellent. I cannot say enough good things about the service I received from Sharp Seating. I highly recommend this company.
Roses and oat straw and lentils, et cetera!
We arrived in Southern California on December 29th – Vicki flying in from Washington State, Carrieanna and I coming from Sacramento – giving us a day to shake off the travel dust and get acclimated to Los Angeles-area traffic which, thankfully, wasn’t too bad!
The next day we drove to the Rose Palace in Pasadena where we were able to go to the head of the line for a personal tour of the detail work being done on the floats. While most of the general public watched from the second-floor catwalk, we entered the building at ground level which gave us an eye-level view of the floats.
Our guide, Zabrina, escorted us through the work areas, answering questions and sharing some information about the decorating process. Although we knew the floats would be covered with natural plant materials, we witnessed the large variety of materials used, and learned that each float generally costs between $200,000 and $450,000. As usual I spent more time taking photos than listening, and Vicki and Carrieanna both admit they were so filled with awe and wonder that they really don’t remember much of what Zabrina said. However, we all agreed that it was a great tour! After a bit of lunch we drove to the Brookside Pavilion (near the Rose Bowl Stadium) to see more decorating in progress. Again, we were escorted to the accessible area where we could easily get close enough to watch volunteers of all ages work on the tiniest details of the floats. While there we enjoyed the unexpected sound of bagpipes and drums as presented by the Pasadena Scottish Pipes and Drums. With cold and damp feet, and big smiles on our faces, we returned to our hotel to recap our day and prepare for the Big Event on New Year’s Day.
Happy New Year!
Knowing that we had to wake up VERY early on January 1st in order to get to our parking spot before the roads closed, we chose to celebrate New Year’s Eve with sparkling cider, crackers and cheese, chocolate, and an East Coast midnight. We had wisely taken a practice drive to our parking spot the day before in order to make sure we could easily find it in the early, dark hours on January 1st. Arriving before 6:00 a.m., and not wanting to sit outside in the 38-degree weather any longer than necessary, we stayed in the warm car and looked through the Official Program (which we had also purchased in advance) in anticipation of what we would see.
Finally it was time to bundle up and go find our seats. Although there was a large crowd waiting in line for security bag check, a “white suiter” (one of the 935 volunteers) escorted us to the head of the line. Soon we were showing our tickets to another helpful volunteer, who took us to our reserved curbside space. Vicki and I were provided with folding chairs, Carrieanna had her wheelchair, and we had a clear and unobstructed view of the Parade!
The 126th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade
Watching the Rose Parade in person is such a different experience from watching it on TV. (Duh, right?!)
I loved seeing the completed floats, especially those we had seen up close as they were being decorated.
And I laughed when I heard the crowd cheer as teams of volunteers swooped out to clean up what the horses periodically “left behind” on the parade route! It was such a fun experience, and so well-organized, that we didn’t even mind the hour spent sitting in the parking lot post-parade, waiting for the crowd to diminish enough so we could drive home.
We spent much of the rest of the day relaxing and watching the rebroadcast of the parade on television. It was a great way to relive the experience, learn more about the parade participants, and be very surprised to see that the bare-chested men on the Dole float did not look cold – even though the temperature was barely above freezing AND they were standing in front of a waterfall!
Showcase of Floats
At the end of the Rose Parade, the floats are taken to a viewing area where visitors can get a closer look and ask questions of the volunteers standing ready at each float. This Showcase of Floats is held on January 1st from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and on January 2nd and 3rd from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with special viewing available for seniors and disabled guests from 7-9 a.m.
We were unable to get to the early morning viewing and, instead, chose to go at noontime.
The shuttle dropped us off at one end of the viewing area, and we spent three hours walking, taking photos, and enjoying the close-up view of the floats. Carrieanna had her own great perspective of the floats!
We found the Rose Parade to be a completely accessible experience, especially with the assistance of Sharp Seating during the planning process, and the cheerful help from many white suiters during the activities we attended.
Would we go again? Absolutely! And I hope we have inspired others – with or without wheelchairs – to go as well!