New Year's Rose Parade Is Canceled. That Means No Pre-Parade Campouts, Floats Or Bands

A float at the Tournament of Roses Parade (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

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In a move only made before during wartime, the Rose Parade will not happen on January 1, 2021. Organizers said the coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible to go forward with the annual Pasadena tradition.

The parade had previously only been canceled three of the years the U.S. was fighting World War II.

No decision has been made yet whether to host the equally tradition-bound Rose Bowl football game, said David Eads, Executive Director and CEO of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association.

And, for the tens of thousands of families planning their special overnight campouts on Colorado Boulevard to say goodbye to a truly eventful, tragic and disruptive year — they will have to be canceled to.

There will be no parade to wake up to.

The Sesame Street float on the parade route during the 2008 Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

WHAT WAS THE TIPPING POINT FOR THE DECISION TO CANCEL?

The governor's recent orders rolling back reopening of bars and restaurants and other restrictions on gatherings could be seen as the final nail in the coffin. For months before that, the tournament association and its 953 volunteers had been calculating the costs of canceling versus going forward with uncertain plans.

The key issue for this 132nd edition was health, Eads said.

The Tournament brought in a group from USC Keck School of Medicine that included a public health official, a public health expert, along with data scientists and epidemiologists, to give it a recommendation on whether they thought that Pasadena would be in what the Governor is calling "phase four".

Phase four requires the state to have low numbers of new cases of coronavirus, no recent deaths, no community spread, and contact tracing of those who get infected.

The answer was no.

"The overwhelming sense is that we will not be in stage four come January, which would mean we would not be allowed to host the Rose Parade," Eads said.

"So that led to our making a decision that we would need to cancel the parade."


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WHY IS THE ROSE BOWL GAME ALSO NOT CANCELED?

The Rose Bowl traditionally features the champions of the Big 10 and Pac-12 conferences, except in years when it functions as a semi-final for the College Football Playoff National Championship. And that's what the 2021 New Year's Day game is scheduled to be.

Both the Big 10 and Pac-12 plan to have games. They announced last week that their football teams will play conference-only games. There are five other conferences involved in the whole playoff structure, and it's not clear yet what their plans are.

Eads said he expects to know more in about five to six weeks.

WAS THE CANCELLATION ALSO A MONEY DECISION?

The parade floats cost upwards of $50,000 for the smallest self-built community floats, and a few hundred thousand dollars for the richest sponsors, and generally construction can start as early as March. Float builders had been holding off for months, and it was finally time to let them know not to invest in this year's parade creations.

"We could not delay a decision, because delaying the decision would just be more financial risk for our float builders, more financial risk for our bands that are needing to book travel andd do contracts, too, with hotels and arrangements to come to Pasadena," Eads said.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT ON THE LOCAL ECONOMY?

The Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game along with the many associated activities in the weeks running up to New Year's Day are touted as injecting some $200 million into the local economy, according to the Tournament's estimates.

The ripple effects are also pretty broad. For example, imagine the marching band in Japan that was invited to march in the parade. They'd be spending money on travel and hotel rooms for a couple hundred band members and families, as well as meals at local restaurants, plus their spending back in Japan.

Same with the bands coming from all over the U.S. In each of the towns where some lucky high school or college gets an invitation, money is raised through car washes, pizza sales, bake sales, and so on - all to come to Pasadena and march five miles in the parade.

HOW MUCH HAD THE PANDEMIC ALREADY AFFECTED THE QUALITY OF THE PARADE?

The five international bands — from Sweden, Italy, Japan, Panama and Taipei — had already pulled out due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

The 17 remaining domestic bands were not going to be able to rehearse together, or raise money for their travel and hotel expenses. Some parents would also have been uncomfortable sending their kids to a potential super-spreader event.

Much of the enjoyment of the parade comes from those who crowd the sidewalk, and camp out the night before. With social distancing in effect, such a scene would have been unlikely, significantly dampening the experience.

WHEN HAS THE PARADE BEEN CANCELED BEFORE?

The Rose Parade has been held every New Year's Day (or Jan. 2 if New Year's Day falls on a Sunday) since 1891. It was canceled only in 1942 (three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) and the wartime years of 1943 and 1945.

There was a "token parade" of three flower-decorated cars rolling on Colorado Blvd. on New Year's Day 1944, but that's not something Eads says will be duplicated this coming New Year's Day.