Rose Parade to kick off after COVID attendance slump

Anthony De Leon

The 135th Rose Parade is set to kick off Monday as the world ushers in the start of 2024.

With its petal-packed floats, marching bands and high-stepping horses, the New Year’s Day event is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. and will travel 5½ miles along the streets of Pasadena.

The theme this year is “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language,” a message of hope and harmony in a time of war, labor strikes and partisan political strife as a contentious American election year begins.

“In a world of different cultures, beliefs, hopes, and dreams, one language unites us all — music,” Alex Aghajanian, president of the Tournament of Roses, said in a statement. “The sound, texture, rhythm, form, harmony, and expression meld together to move, soothe, excite and delight the world.”

The grand marshal will be actress and singer Audra McDonald, a six-time Tony Award winner.

Early Monday, about three hours before the start of the parade, the air along Colorado Boulevard smelled of bacon-wrapped hot dogs — a street vendor staple along the route.

Spectators were bundled up against the early-morning chill. Children watched YouTube videos on cellphones, and adults sipped champagne and coffee.

Security during the parade will be tight. Law enforcement agencies say they are prepared for potential protests, from people calling for a cease-fire in Gaza — who have been disrupting traffic in recent weeks near Los Angeles International Airport — to Pasadena hotel workers who went on strike Sunday, during the city’s biggest tourist weekend of the year.

The city of Pasadena has been working with numerous law enforcement and emergency organizations, said Lisa Derderian, a spokeswoman for the city.

The Rose Parade is considered a high-level event, which triggers support from federal agencies in security planning, she said.

“We have plans in place and resources that will be on site and additional ones we can call into the city if need be,” Derderian said. “We planned for a worst-case scenario but hope for a beautiful, peaceful parade and game.”

The Pasadena Police Department said it will implement enhanced security along the parade route. Officers will expel parade-goers who violate the law or disturb the parade, and K-9 units will be patrolling Colorado Boulevard.

Parade organizers are hoping for a return to the gigantic crowds it once boasted — with upwards of 700,000 spectators — after a COVID slump that saw the parade canceled in 2021 and ticket sales plunge in 2022.

The weather is looking good, said David Eads, Tournament of Roses chief executive; Michigan and Alabama’s football teams have fan bases that travel well, and the parade’s “Celebrating a World of Music” theme and expanded performances have broad appeal.

Sindee Riboli, president and general manager of Sharp Seating Co., which sells the parade’s grandstand seating and the tournament’s special event tickets such as Floatfest and Bandfest, was optimistic as well.

While she’s not convinced 2024 will rival pre-pandemic attendance, she’s confident peak crowds will return.

“We will eventually hit those numbers again. It’s just going to take a few years,” she said. “I am hopeful.”

Anthony De Leon

2024-01-01 14:23:30 , Orange County

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