As I am writing this I can hear the Good Year blimp flying overhead and the faint sound of bands in the distance. I live 2 and a half miles from the Rose Bowl and 2 miles from the starting point of the Tournament of Roses® Parade in Pasadena, California. People from all over the country have just witnessed the 2017 parade from the bleachers along Colorado Blvd or on T.V.
This year it was chilly and damp. The cold is great for keeping flowers fresh but a challenge for keeping my fingers warm and flexible for sketching. I had on three layers, scarf and gloves. The temps were in the 40’s. I admit that’s not cold as other parts of the country, but cold for me.
As usual Judy and I had to get permission to be on the floor of the float building site. Even through I’ve sketched the floats since 2001 I don’t want to take for granted the wonderful opportunity I have been given. Once inside the building you'd be surprised how noisy it gets. The P.A. system making announcements, power tools, blenders, scaffolding being move, Crew Chief's shouting directions…and tour groups walking by.
First thing I do is walked around the inside of the float building barn. People look like ants climbing all over the floats. They’re glueing on the flowers, seeds, and spices. Others are cutting apart straw flowers, sticking roses into vial with water, sweeping the floor, moving scaffolding... The energy in the building is magical!
The challenge is finding a view that is exciting to sketch, unobstructed and not in the way. This isn’t easy! There is so much going on. Once I found a good spot I had to constantly move, duck, lean, and dodge. And on top of all this everyone who walks by is interested in what I’m sketching. And I loved every minute.I sketched The Lions Club International float,“Celebrating 100 Years of Service”. The organization does a tremendous amount of work to help people all over the world. I asked the volunteers working on the float to sigh my sketch. As it turned out many of the top district leader were on site and I had a photo opportunity with them, too. What fun!
I also sketched the Armenian Americans, “Field of Dreams”. I liked this float for it’s unique use of natural materials and strong images. I sketched two exotic birds in a pomegranate tree on the very back of the float. I love pomegranates for their symbolism and meaning in my life. I only regret I couldn’t get a better view the figures riding the horse but there was no place to sketch and be out of the way. There’s always next year…
The parade was on January 2nd. I imagine a few are shaking their heads and wondering why the Tournament of Roses® parade didn't happen on New Year’s Day. In 1893 a “Never on Sunday” tradition was established. Any year New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday the parade would be moved to Monday. Why you ask? To avoid frightening horses that would be hitched outside churches and interfering with worship services along Colorado Blvd. So the events were moved to the next day, January 2. The tradition remains to this day.
Happy New Year!