By Galen Patterson
The 2019 Rose Parade began on a chilly, winter morning on the first day of the new year. The performers staged themselves and equipment along Orange Grove Avenue in Pasadena, anticipating the moment when the show would begin.
Bare-shouldered dancers moved rapidly in an effort to increase their body heat, and attendees shivered under blankets in the stands alongside the road. One woman danced fearlessly in front of her seat and with a quick announcement the parade began.
Grand Marshall and 10-time Grammy Award-winner Chaka Khan performed a song for the audience, and while her float carried on along the parade route, Khan retreated to her Grand Marshall’s vehicle to be displayed later in the show.
The order of march from that moment on held to true Rose Parade fashion: eclectic, with a wide array of ideas and displays. One minute, a massive, flower-covered and cleverly designed machine would roll by with several people waving from it. The next minute, a unit of therapeutic, dwarfed mini-horses trot by followed by marching bands from around the world.
One float of interest was a float created by Stella Rosa, featuring original members of Kool & The Gang, with a giant flying character above them, complete with pyrotechnics and a customized version of a Kool & The Gang classic, advising Pasadena to “Stellabrate good times.” The float won the Grand Marshall’s award.
The Rose Parade classic appearance of the Budweiser stagecoach, pulled by a team of horses, featured an extra special treat this year: wild-land firefighters, veterans of their trade and recently returned from fighting wild fires in California. The crowd cheered noticeably louder as they rode by.
Toward the end of the procession, the partnered float between the Chinese American Association and Union Pacific Railroad began its slow roll through the route, but the float was ill-fated from the moment it set off.
The partnership commemorated the completion of the transcontinental railroad 150 years ago. Many Chinese workers contributed to the building of the railroad that linked the coasts of the U.S., along with immigrants from many other parts of the world.
The highly-ornate float was shaped like a train, and featured many people in late 1800s Western fashion with Chinese dragon dancing teams along the sides.
At the first use of its pyrotechnics, the float appeared to have caught fire as the normal amount of smoke dissipated and smoke began billowing from the interior of the machine. After a long stall, the float was backed up several feet, leaving behind a fresh puddle of liquid on the street.
Pasadena had prepared for this, and a flower-decaled tow truck promptly responded to the scene.
The train float was towed around the corner onto Colorado Boulevard when the tow bar broke, causing the float to remain motionless once again. In the wake of the disruption, the last few floats were not able to be showcased and the grand finale of the show rapidly closed down the annual ceremony.
The mechanical failure of the train float could be seen as a disaster of sorts, but in reality the train was a spectacle all its own and received cheering relatively equal to the amount given to the firefighters. The message of the float, “Harmony Through Union,” carried on and caused humans to work together and react to the breakdown. Pasadena bound together to move it after the initial failure, and the U.S. bound together to support them.
For the people in the stands, at the front of the parade, the 2019 Rose Parade was among the most memorable.