Vagabond in America 2016 travel blog

Happy Hour at the Rose Parade Rally

Preliminary Design (24 Hour Fitness)

Preparing for the Parade (24 Hour Fitness)

In The Parade (24 Hour Fitness)

Band showcased at BandFest (Honor Bands of America)

Band marching in the parade (Honor Bands of America)

Preparing for the Parade (China Airlines)

Birds to be added to the float ( China Airlines)

At the parade (China Airlines)

BandFest (Martin Luther King - Kings of Half-time)

At the parade (Martin Luther King - Kings of Half-time)

Preparing for the Parade (Penn State Float)

Driver's compartment (Penn State Float)

At the parade (Penn State Float)

At BandFest (Pride of Broken Arrow Band)

At the Parade (Pride of Broken Arrow Band)

I ended the year with an RV Rally, called “Rose Parade HOP”. Unlike other RV Rallies that I’ve attended, this one had no seminars about RVs. Instead, this was an “event” rally. For this rally, we came together to experience the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California.

This is an annual rally run by the Escapees RV Club. It was limited to 46 attendees so that we could all fit on one bus. They stopped accepting reservations months ago. About half of the attendees were full-timers. It was great to get the chance to spend some time with so many other full-timers.

We did a lot more than just attend the parade. A few days prior to the parade, we went to one of the float builder locations and participated in their volunteer float decorating. The Tournament of Roses Parade takes a full year to prepare. In February, the organizing committee selects a “theme”. This year’s theme was “Echoes of Success”. Next, the float builders prepare artist sketches of a float proposal. Once the design is accepted, a team builds the mechanical sections of the float over the course of the year. A week before the parade, hundreds of volunteers arrive to attach the flowers and other organic materials to the floats. That’s where we came in. Our entire rally group went to the facilities of one of the ten float builders. All of us got a complete tour of this facility and had the opportunity to see each of the floats that they had built. But, the floats were “naked”! There were no flowers on them. Most had seeds already attached. Some had leaves attached. On this day, they were starting to attach some of the flowers. Some of the attendees of our rally worked on the actual floats; some worked on items that would later be placed on the floats. The thousands of roses would not be attached until several days later to ensure that they were fresh for the actual parade.

The next day, we were scheduled to attend “EquiFest”, a showcase for the horses that would be part of the parade. Unfortunately, there has been a recent outbreak of the Equine Herpes virus. To protect the health of the horses, this event was cancelled this year. Instead, our rally group visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in nearby Simi Valley. It made for an interesting diversion.

The next day, we attended one of the three “BandFest” performances. Six bands each performed several songs for us. Each band was huge, filling an entire football field. Way back in my day (grin), we had some students who could play an instrument, some could perform modern dance, and a few could march in precision formation. These bands had everything! Their talent was unbelievable. Unless you saw them perform, you wouldn’t even imagine that it was possible for an ensemble that large to perform flawlessly and perfectly in sync with the music.

On the big day, we boarded our bus at 4:45 AM, long before sunrise. When we arrived in Pasadena, there were busloads of passengers unloading all around us. We quickly found our seats. I was in Section 316, Aisle 1, Row G, Seat 8, which was not too far from the beginning of the parade. Just as the parade started, a B2 stealth bomber made a low pass right over our heads. I doubt that I'll ever be that close to a B2 again!

The actual parade was more exciting than I had expected, particularly when we saw the floats that we had worked on. I could hear excited rally participants around me yelling, "I worked on that float!" Although the bands we excellent, they just marched past us. The expertise, which we had just witnessed, was not obvious.

We finished our rally with the “post parade”. All of the floats were parked for us to examine up close. This gave us one last chance to see them.

This rally was far more than just being witness to the parade. We saw the preparation, the actual parade and the displays that followed. We were all totally astounded at the amount of behind the scenes work that went into this annual event. I hope to be able to attend future event rallies like this one!

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