Camille Kennedy announced as the 102nd Rose Queen of the Tournament of Roses

Rose Princesses Rukah Saif, Mia Thorsen, Emilie Risha, Reese Rosental Saporito, Michael Wilkins, Camille Kennedy, and Cole Fox are introduced by KTLA News anchor Lynette Romero

 

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Queen Camille Kennedy, wearing the Mikimoto crown featuring more than 600 cultured pearls and six carats of diamonds and the white gown designed by Tadashi Shoji.

On the patio of the famed Pasadena Playhouse, gathered friends, family, Tournament of Roses members, and media bustle in anticipation of one of the most exciting annual events in the city. Inside, after the chatter dies down, the 102nd Rose Queen will be announced. Chosen from seven young women on the Tournament of Roses 2020 Royal Court, the queen will preside over the 131st Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2020. But who will it be?

The story is really in the pictures in the gallery below, so be sure to take a look and read the captions to learn more about the women of the Tournament of Roses Royal Court.

Amid servers carrying plates of hors d’oeuvres, the music of The Mariachi Divas, and snapping cameras, we were able to identify the parents (the dads wear white rose boutonnieres) and talk with a few. They had lovely memories of their daughters, and were happy to share with The Rose Examiner. For more about the Royal Court, check out the Royal Court page on this website.

ON THE PATIO

Princess Rukah Saif must have set the record for the family member who traveled the farthest. Her grandmother, Shamsun Nahar, flew all the way from Bangladesh and just arrived a few days earlier. Rukah’s mother, Rumana Rashid, said her daughter had been going to the Rose Parade since she was a child perched on her father’s shoulders.

“She enjoyed it through her whole youth,” Rashid said. She described Rukah as quiet and very kindhearted. “She is our only child. She grew up with us.”

Her mother and father, Saif Haroon, were graduate students—she in molecular biology and he in civil engineering—when Rukah was born. She was still a preschooler when they moved to California, and has been to the parade very year since. She even marched with the Arcadia High School Band in one and helped to decorate a float.

Princess Michael  Wilkins—“Mike” to her family and friends—is also an only child. He father, Overton Wilkins, said, “She’s my little sunshine,” and related how he sang “This Little Light of Mine” to her.

“She always made us proud,” he said. “She’s a nice young lady and we enjoy her.” Indeed. Her father said that in addition to being quite an athlete, having won in CIF tennis tournaments, “She’s just as good in speech and debate.” She’s been on the Maranatha High School team for four years, and went to the NAACP oratory finals in Detroit last July.

“I told her if  you practice long enough, good things will happen,” Wilkins said. “She’s been a blessing to us.”

Princess Reese Rosental Saporito’s father, Chris Rosental Saporito, said, “I am so proud of her. She is fantastic.” She has handled her position on the Royal Court with grace, he said. Reese is on the soccer team with fellow Marshall Fundamental School Princess Mia Thorsen.

INSIDE THE PLAYHOUSE

It was pretty much an all-female and heavily Latina cast, with Pres. Laura Farber leading the way as the first Latina (and only third woman) leading the 2020 Tournament of Roses. She was joined by the chair of the Queen & Court Committee, Ruth Martinez-Baenen, emcee Lynette Romero from KTLA News, and of course the Divas. Farber welcomed the audience, thanked the sponsors, and introduced the Pasadena Playhouse director of development Nancy Griffith Baxter and emcee Romero.

Each of the seven princesses was introduced with a short slide show featuring photos from early childhood and teen years. Voiceovers by her parents mentioned accomplishments, character, and personality. When all seven were onstage in their diaphanous champagne gowns, it was time for the announcement. Farber stretched out the announcement with several teasing false starts, then opened the envelope to announce, “Camille Kennedy!” After hugs and photos, the girls left to be fitted with their tiaras and for Queen Camille to change into her white gown.

In the interim, Farber asked the former princesses and queens in attendance to stand up, and she introduced the 1940 Rose Queen, Margaret Huntley Main, attending her 80th coronation. Queen Margaret, who wrote the book A Rose Queen Is Forever, advised, “Enjoy every moment. You are making memories for the rest of your life.”

There was a slideshow of the Royal Court at community events and their retreat in Solvang, a Danish community in Central California. The Mariachi Divas gave a spirited performance of mariachi favorites. When the set was done, they walked off the stage playing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

As each Rose Princess was led back onstage on her father’s arm, she received a bouquet of red roses from two former princesses, Maya Kawaguchi Kahn (2017) and Helen Rossi (2019). The previous Rose Queen usually presents the bouquet to the newly-announced queen, but due to a calculus midterm in Chicago, Queen Louise Deser Siskel could not make it. She sent a video promising to take Queen Camille out for a deep dish pizza to make up for it, and Martinez-Baenen presented the roses.

OVER BUT STILL GOING

After the program, there were rounds of still photos and interviews with the media for the members of the Royal Court. We were able to get a few words with Queen Camille and some of the other members of the court. Quotes from the princesses are in the captions below; they are amazing young women, so be sure to read them! We asked Queen Camille, who is fluent in Japanese and wants to attend college in the country, if she learns languages easily and what she learns about others from knowing their language.

“I do!” she replied. “That’s what I’m proud of.” Math and science are more challenging for her, she said. In addition to Japanese, she is “fascinated with Korean.”

“The best way to learn a culture is to learn the language, and if you’re interested in [learning about] a culture, learn the language.”

OFFICIAL TOURNAMENT OF ROSES BIO

Camille is a senior at La Salle College Preparatory and lives in Pasadena. She is currently a member of her school’s drama/musical theater troupe and has been featured in three productions, including a lead role in the spring 2019 musical, “City of Angels.”  Camille is a member of the afterschool choral group and the Support Our Troops Club.  Camille enjoys listening to music, performing in theater productions with friends, cooking, and hitting the gym with her dad.  She plans to pursue a liberal arts degree in Japanese linguistics, social sciences, or culture and media studies. Camille is interested in going to college in Japan, with Waseda University in Tokyo and Asia Pacific University in Kyushu as her top choices.  Camille is the daughter of Tim and Jennifer Kennedy; she has two younger sisters, Ava and Esmé.

2020 Rose Queen Camille and the Royal Court will attend numerous community and media functions, serving as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community, and the greater Los Angeles area. The grand finale will be their appearance on the Royal Court float in the 131st Rose Parade® presented by Honda and attending the 106th Rose Bowl Game® presented by Northwestern Mutual, both on Wednesday, January 1, 2020.

 

Three Latinas dance their way to the 2020 Rose Parade as Grand Marshals: Rita Moreno, Gina Torres, Laurie Hernandez

Grand Marshals of the 2020 Tournament of Roses Parade Laurie Hernandez, Rita Moreno, Gina Torres in shower of confetti.  ©LB Monteros

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Hints. There are always hints. The hints started a little early with three Instagram posts, which can be seen on Facebook at All Things Rose Parade. At the announcement on Tuesday of the Grand Marshal of the 2020 Rose Parade, the hints were cinnamon apple empanadas (as American as apple pie), Mexican hot chocolate, and a band playing Latin American favorites—rhumbas, flamenco, Brazilian and Caribbean dances—and a red cloth covering the table that hold the bouquets. More than one, then?

More than one. The Grand Marshals of the 131st Tournament of Roses Parade, which will be held on Jan. 1, 2020, are gymnast and author Laurie Hernandez, actress, producer, and vocalist Gina Torres, and a woman who has more credits to her name than the Wrigley Rose Garden has flowers, Rita Moreno. She is one of only 15 EGOT winners (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) and has been honored with two presidential medals. At ages 19, 50, and 87, the women span three generations of talented Latinas. All three had stories of the Rose Parade and “The Power of Hope,” this year’s theme.

Be sure to check out the gallery below for photos of the big event!

Tournament of Roses President Laura Farber opened the event with “It’s a beautiful day in Pasadena!” She shared why she chose “The Power of Hope” as the theme. Born in Argentina to students who left everything to escape oppression, she said that the United States offered hope to her parents. He husband Tomas had a similar situation, with his family leaving the Dominican Republic to escape the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.

Hope makes anything is possible, she said. “El poder de esperanza. Hope means so much.” It brings joy, aspiration, inspiration. “Hope never quits.”

Number 1

With that, Farber launched into her introduction of the Grand Marshal. The GM is a Latina, Farber related, who was born in New Jersey in 2000 and is an Olympic gymnast, author, and contestant on Dancing with the Stars, among other accomplishments. “Laurie Hernandez!” she announced.

Hernandez came through the thick silver curtain, and was presented with a bouquet of red roses. At the lectern she related that she has watched the “Rose Bowl Parade” since she was a kid. Her charm and enthusiasm made up for that slip of the tongue. “Keep spreading that message,” she said. “The Power of Hope.”

“It’s a dream come true!” she told reporters after the announcement. She said that she wanted to be part of the Olympics when she watched it on television, and she felt that same desire when she watched the Rose Parade. She said she was surprised when she found out she would actually have that opportunity. She spoke of the “chemistry” the three strong Latinas developed when they met prior to the announcement.

Number 2

The usual program order is that after the speech by the GM, there are photo and interview ops. But this time, Hernandez went to the side of the stage and Farber again stood at the mic to announce the second Grand Marshal—a mezzo-soprano who sang opera and jazz, acted in The Matrix and television series such as Firefly and Suits, and is the first Afro-Latina to have the lead in her own series. Pearson. Gina Torres stepped through the curtain.

Her mother loved parades, she said, so she saw a lot of them. “Parades are about teamwork…So I’m honored to be a part of this team.”

Afterwards, she told a radio journalist that the invitation had come through her manager. He forwarded the email and wrote, “Scroll all the way down. I think you want to see this,” she said. “It took me 25 seconds to say yes!” Asked what her favorite operatic role is, she said that she hadn’t been a lead, but that she learned so much about Mozart, Handel, and other composers. Opera singers are really athletes, she said.

Number 3

Farber was not done. The third Grand Marshal is from Puerto Rico, a Broadway star, and best-known for singing “America” in West Side Story. “She is a hero of Puerto Rico and an American legend,” Farber said. Who else could it be? Rita Moreno!

Moreno came through the curtain and down the steps dancing. She took center stage, and told her story. Her mother left Puerto Rico to create a better life. She worked in a New York sweatshop until she could go back to Puerto Rico and fetch her 5-year-old daughter. Even at that age, Moreno said her uncle was impressed with her dancing.

“All I ever wanted in life was to be a movie star,” she said. “I am so grateful to the Rose Parade, but especially to Laura…and representing with two astounding women.”

She called for music—the sound techs put on “We Are the Champions.” Moreno called out, “We don’t have any Latino music?” At that, they put on Latin dance music, and the three Grand Marshals joined in a dance. It has to be a first in Tournament of Roses history. Then the confetti cannons blasted, “America” began playing, and the three Latinas radiated joy.

Later, when West Side Story was mentioned, Moreno enthused about the new adaptation Steven Spielberg is making. Moreno will both executive produce the film and star as Valentina, a reimagining of store owner Doc. “It’s full circle,” she said.

Asked about how she feels about being a role model, she responded, “It’s great. It’s not something I started out to do. I became a role model by accident.” And the message? “I’m still working at 87. That’s great!”

Followers of All Things Rose Parade had a good time guessing who the Grand Marshal would be. Only one thought it might be Gina Torres, and he, along with several others, pinned Rita Moreno. Be sure to “like” that page to stay up to date on Tournament of Roses happenings, and subscribe to The Rose Examiner to get email notifications as articles are posted. No spam will be sent to you.

Here are the official Tournament of Roses bios

Rita Moreno has received four of the most prestigious awards in show business; an Academy Award®, a Tony Award®, two Emmy® Awards, and a GRAMMY® award. Her credits span more than six decades, beginning on Broadway at age 13. A recipient of the Kennedy Center Honor for her lifetime contributions to American culture, Moreno was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush and the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. In addition to her film, stage, television and concert accomplishments, Moreno gives her voice to important causes, including racial equality, hunger, early childhood education, as well as health issues like HIV, breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Moreno was among many celebrities to take part in the historic March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963 and has since been involved with many civic, cultural and charitable organizations, including the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Well-known for her roles on Suits, Alias, Firefly and Westworld, Gina Torres was born in Manhattan to a close-knit Cuban family and raised in the Bronx. Gina’s character, Jessica Pearson, on USA Network’s hit original series Suits garnered award-winning success which lead to the spinoff series, Pearson. Currently she is staring in the lead role and executive producing Pearson, which sees her Suits character take on the world of Chicago politics. The role of Jessica has been a life changing one, earning Gina the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s Award for Outstanding Performance in a Television Series and the Visionary Award from the LA Femme Film Festival. Before entering the world of acting, she studied opera and jazz as a vocal major which lead her to appear in plays and musicals on Broadway, being directed by such legends as Tommy Tune and Pete Masterson in Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public and Jerry Zaks in Face Value. In addition to her work on television and Broadway, Gina’s film credits include The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and Sundance Film Festival Critics Choice, Don’t Let me Drown. Gina enjoys giving back through several philanthropic organizations; Heifer International, Dress for Success, Planned Parenthood and Save the Children.

Laurie Hernandez earned Olympic Gold and Silver medals as a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team. Laurie is a second generation American, her grandparents are Puerto Rican, making her the first U.S. born Latina to make the U.S. team since 1984. Following her win at the Summer Olympics, she earned another title, champion on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. In 2017, Laurie became an inductee into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame and was recognized as the 2018 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Biggest Kid. Most recently, Laurie served as a cohost of America Ninja Warrior Junior, and as the voice of Valeria on Nickelodeon’s Middle School Moguls. Laurie is the author of two books; I Got This: To Gold and Beyond, chronicling her journey thus far and a children’s picture book She’s Got This, each appearing on the New York Times Best Sellers list. When not in the gym, Laurie serves as Global Ambassador for Stomp Out bullying and travels the country inspiring young gymnasts and speaks to the next generation about following your dreams. Laurie will go for the gold again at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

 

Royal Court for 2020 Tournament of Roses is announced

Rukan Saif, Arcadia High School; Mia Thorsen, Marshall Fundamental School; Emilie Risha, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy; Reese Rosental Saporito, Marshall Fundamental School; Michael Wilkins, Maranatha High School; Camille Kennedy, La Salle College Preparatory; Cole Fox, South Pasadena High School (L-R)

by Laura Berthold Monteros

The hustle and bustle of parents, schoolmates, reporters, photographers, and Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association members died down when Ruth Martinez-Baenen, chair of the Queen & Court Committee, stepped behind the lectern. After three weeks of interviews with applicants, she averred that it was very difficult to make the choice of which seven girls would become Rose Princesses. The process culminated on Monday morning with the announcement of the young women would serve on the 2020 Royal Court. They will represent the association and the city at some 100 events, including the 131st Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2020.

As the 25 finalists, each on the arm of a committee member, filed out of Tournament House, Martinez-Baenen read out the names and schools. Screams of family and friends filled the air as the girls were introduced. Photographers snapped photos, writers scribbled in notebooks, and some of us did both. Then Pres. Laura Farber stepped up and opened the seven envelopes one at a time.

“From South Pasadena High School, Cole Fox!” she read. “From La Salle College Preparatory, Camille Kennedy.” Following quickly were Michael Wilkins, Maranatha High School; Reese Rosental Saporito, Marshall Fundamental School; Emilie Risha, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy; Mia Thorsen, Marshall Fundamental School; Rukan Saif, Arcadia High School.

Be sure to page through the photo gallery below. Video will be coming to All Things Rose Parade on Facebook soon!

After the announcement, we were allowed four minutes to run though the line and get quotes. Here’s a sampling”

  • We overheard Princess Cole tell a TV reporter that she is “Loud and proud” and looking forward to getting to know the other girls on the court.
  • Princess Camille said that she was not expecting to be selected. “It feels surreal now,” she said.
  •  “I’ve lived in Pasadena my whole life,” Princess Michael said of her motivation to try out for the court. “I wanted to be the person everyone can look up to.” an example for others.
  • “It’s so exciting!” Princess Reese said. “It’s amazing! I am extremely excited.”
  • “Every time you came back for an interview, there was a flutter in your heart,” Princess Emilie told us.
  • Princess Mia expressed a similar emotion when she was notified she would be moving to the next round. “Every time I got the congratulation email, I was nervous all over again,” she said, adding that as the interview sessions progresses, the remaining girls grew closer.
  • Princess Rukan was especially surprised when Pres. Farber read her name. “I was the last one called,” she reminded us, which meant the odds of getting a place on the court were slimmer.

The official Tournament of Roses bios

Cole Fox is a senior at South Pasadena High School and lives in South Pasadena. She is currently Associated Student Body senior class vice president, Copa De Oro (Yearbook) Head of Design, Student Site Council secretary, Girl Scouts of America member, POSSE Foundation Scholarship Semi-Finalist, and lead in school play “Metamorphoses.” Cole enjoys vegan cooking, Sudoku puzzles, creative writing, painting, hairstyling and dancing. She plans to study biology and attend medical school. Ultimately, she aspires to become a dermatologist and is interested in attending New York University, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Santa Barbara or Boston University. Cole is the daughter of Robert and Rachel Fox; she has two siblings, Harper and Sawyer.

Camille Kennedy is a senior at La Salle College Preparatory and lives in Pasadena. She is currently a part of her school’s musical theater troupe and has played the lead role in four productions. Camille is a member of the After-hours chorus class and the Support Our Troops Club. Camille enjoys listening to music, performing in theater productions with friends, working out with her dad, and cooking. She plans to pursue a liberal arts degree in Japanese linguistics, social sciences, or culture and media studies. Camille is interested in attending university in Japan, Waseda University in Tokyo and Asia Pacific University in Kyushu. Camille is the daughter of Jim and Jennifer Kennedy; she has two sisters, Ava and Esme.

Emilie Risha is a senior at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and lives in La Cañada. She is currently treasurer of the Young Writers’ Society, president of gardening in the Cooking and Gardening Club, Saint Francis High School Theatre dance captain and a member of the Library Advisory Board, Comedy Sportz, and Girl Scouts of Greater LA. Emilie enjoys dancing, writing, cooking, and reading. She plans to study comedy writing and copywriting. Emilie is interested in attending University of California, Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University, University of California, Davis, or Chapman University. Emilie is the daughter of Janah and Elizabeth Risha; she has three sisters, Lauren, Allison and Isabelle.

Rukan Saif is a senior at Arcadia High School and lives in Temple City. She is currently president of My Friend and I Club, National Honor Society vice president, captain of the Speech and Debate Team, Senior Men and Women secretary, Bangladeshi-American Charitable Organization ambassador and represented her high school at Girls’ State Conference. Rukan enjoys spending time with loved ones, playing the marimba, writing poetry, reading, and hiking. She plans to study American studies and history in hopes of later working towards a graduate degree. Rukan is interested in attending Brown University, Univeristy of California, Los Angeles, or Georgetown University. Rukan is the daughter of Saif Haroon and Rumana Rashid.

Reese Rosental Saporito is a senior at Marshall Fundamental School and lives in Altadena. She is currently a member of the varsity soccer team, International Thespian Society, National Honor Society, Unidos, Mock Trial, the Drama Council clerk, a Posse Scholar and AYSO Soccer captain. Reese enjoys musical theater, soccer, and participating in Moorpark Teaching Zoo Junior Safari program. She plans to become a lawyer with a science background, while staying involved in community theater. Reese is interested in attending Northwestern University or Georgetown University. Reese is the daughter of Chris and Dori Rosental Saporito; she has one sister, Maya.

Mia Thorsen is a senior at Marshall Fundamental School and lives in Altadena. She is currently president of the Girls Soccer Club, vice president of the Storytellers Club, manager of varsity Girls Soccer, a member of the Asian Club, Black Student Union, National Honors Society, Unidos, PolySummer, Prom Committee and the UCLA Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP). Mia enjoys oil painting, creative writing, sketching, sociology, politics, psychology, reading, soccer, tennis, and human geography. She plans to study international law to become a United Nations ambassador. Mia is interested in attending Brown, Barnard, Tufts, UCSB. Mia is the daughter of Remus and Dina Thorsen; she has one brother, Thor.

Michael Wilkins is senior at Maranatha High School and lives in Pasadena. She is currently captain of varsity tennis, and a member of the Ambassador Club, Helping Hands Club, and Advanced Speech and Debate. Michael enjoys tennis, public speaking, golf, swimming, babysitting, spending time with family, traveling, and getting her nails done with her mom. She plans to study medicine with the goal to become pediatrician. Michael is interested in attending the University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles, Howard University, University of California, San Diego, University of Oregon, or Loyola Marymount University. Michael is the daughter of Overton Wilkins and Jane Reese-Wilkins.

The Announcement and Coronation of the 102nd Rose Queen® and Presentation of the 2020 Royal Court is on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at the Pasadena Playhouse; the event is sponsored by Citizens Business Bank. A limited number of tickets are available for purchase from Sharp Seating Company.

 

Rose Parade floats, food, and friendship at annual self-built potluck

Photo: Sierra Madre float barn displays name signs from award-winning floats

Updated April 30, 2019 to add Sierra Madre Rose Float Association

by Laura Berthold Monteros

When the six self-built float organizations meet for the annual get-together and potluck, the talk isn’t of beating the others out for Rose Parade trophies. It’s a time to reveal designs for floats in the upcoming Rose Parade that have been approved by the Tournament of Roses, as well as a place for camaraderie among a rare breed of peopl who still build their own flower-covered floats to represent their communities. Ideas, techniques, and food—plenty of it and all delicious—are shared.

The Rose Examiner attended last Saturday’s event, hosted by Sierra Madre Rose Float Association in their float barn in Sierra Vista Park. All six associations had representatives there: Burbank Tournament of Roses Association, Cal Poly Universities Rose Float, Downey Rose Float Association, La Cañada Flintridge Rose Float Association, South Pasadena Rose Float Association, and of course Sierra Madre. The Cal Poly team was represented by alumni, because it was the weekend for students from both Pomona and San Luis Obispo to get together and plan for the parade.

The theme for the 131st Tournament of Roses is “The Power of Hope.” Each float entry must reflect that in some way. The designs, chosen from among scores of submissions, are presented to the Tournament of Roses for approval on theme draft day in February.

Self-built floats are usually humorous, though Downey often creates scenes simply for the beauty, such as 2016’s “Exploring the Everglades.” The 2020 float, “Wings of Hope,” features orgami cranes flying over a Japanese garden. The concept was inspired by a project at East Middle School that, like the students in Sadako and the Thousand Cranes, had a goal of folding 1,000 paper cranes to be given to patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Burbank also has a more serious theme this year. “Rise Up” depicts a phoenix rising from the ashes, a reminder of the fires that tore through areas of Northern California last year. President Ginny Barnett said she had friends in the almost completely destroyed city of Paradise. The phoenix represents the hope those caught up in the fires have for the future. She said this design is unusual for a Burbank float, which is usually about fun.

The 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage will be honored by South Pasadena with “Victory at Last.” The victory was the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. A gigantic straw hat decorated with feathers, flowers, and a campaign button dominates the float in a star-spangled celebration of a watershed event in American history.

“We’re trying to be as non-political as possible,” the presenter said. The Rose Examiner hopes that votes for women is no longer a political issue!

La Cañada Flintridge, whose floats are always highly animated, went to the birds with “Dodo Bird Flight School.” Penguins and an emu are also enrolled, but it’s doubtful they will have much success launching off the giant blimp. The emu, strapped to a da Vinci screw on a satellite float, may have the best shot.

Sierra Madre had a model of their float, “Ka La Hiki Ola” (The Dawning of a New Day) on display and will produce the rendering later. There will be a waterfall at the rear, and lots of tikis, and birds rising off the float.

The design draft for Cal Poly Universities was not yet ready, but we look forward to seeing it in the future. Visit All Things Rose Parade on Facebook to get updates on the Tournament of Roses.

Subscribe to The Rose Examiner by filling in your email in the box, above left. We ask that commenters register with this site, to avoid spam. We do not share emails with third parties.

FIRE! Chinese American Heritage Foundation float, the little engines that could

After the fire, the Chinese American Heritage Foundation float was towed the length of the 2019 Rose Parade, still looking beautiful. Photo copyright LB Monteros 2019

  • Fire due to transmission fluid spray
  • All riders were safely evacuated
  • Fiesta Parade Floats president Tim Estes tells what happened

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Like the sturdy immigrants the Chinese American Heritage Foundation (CAHF) float honored, “Harmony Through Union” made it down the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade route on Tuesday, despite initial difficulties. The float celebrated the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Rose Examiner communicated with Fiesta Parade Floats president Tim Estes to get details on what happened when the 90-foot float, designed by Mike Abboud, had a fiery mishap.

When unexpected things happen, minutes twist around in a timey-wimey way. Sometimes it takes photos and time stamps to put things right. Using our photos, here is how I saw it from the scaffolding on the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado.

Descriptions are in the photo captions in the gallery below.

The float, moving north on Orange Grove Blvd. at 9:42, had just crossed Green St., one block before the turn onto Colorado Blvd. The smokestacks on the locomotives were emitting steam. Thirty seconds later, photos show a small puff of smoke on the right side, at the same time that colorful streamers were shot into the air.

I was not in a position to see flames, but Estes confirmed reports that there was a small fire, caused by a spray of transmission fluid from a fitting. There was a lot of smoke. Tournament of Roses quickly ran to the float, the riders and outwalkers evacuated, and no one was injured. Evacuation of the 26 riders took approximately 40 seconds. From first puff to dissipation of the smoke was nearly four minutes. [Note: TRE originally reported 10 riders; updated to 26 per a reader.]

Safety features

All floats have fire extinguishers, which the driver, observer, and other personnel on the float can quickly grab. During technical tests, there are practice fire drills. Riders must be able to climb to the ground from the float in no more than 45 seconds. All floats have tow bars that slide into a compartment under the float.

Response from Tim Estes to The Rose Examiner

I contacted Estes via email on Wednesday with a few questions and requests for clarification. He quickly responded, tempering his comments with the caveat that the investigation is in its early stages and he does not want to speculate on unknowns. He wrote,

“Have done some preliminary investigation along with the Tournament of Roses mechanical inspectors, so do not have a full report to make until we get more time to check things out. This will occur when the Tournament of Roses Inspectors can be attending/participating in our joint investigation. We will focus on two items:
1. To the best of our joint effort, come to a joint conclusion on what occurred to the best of joint abilities.
2. Based on our joint conclusion, determine if any new procedures should occur to avoid a reoccurrence on any float that is in the Rose Parade.”

Addressing speculation

I asked him about some of the scuttlebutt I had heard. My queries (in regular type) and his responses (in bold) are lightly edited for clarity.

  • A white suiter told me the hydraulic line broke, so the float lost brakes and steering. No hydraulic line broke. The float never lost brakes or steering.
  • I also read it was a transmission fluid leak. The transmission itself did not leak and no transmission lines broke. It preliminarily appears that a mist of transmission fluid sprayed from a fitting on the external transmission cooler appeared to land on the exhaust pipe and created the smoke, but we will further check this out over the next few days.
  • There was a small fire, which I didn’t see, due to the smoke. Everyone got off the float safely. Yes that occurred and glad no one got hurt.
  • The tow truck couldn’t tow the float. The tow truck from Jan’s Towing towed the entire, intact float, to the post parade area to be on display along with all of the other floats.
  • The second part of the float was hinged to the first and did not have a separate tow bar. The second part of the float was connected to the first part of the float with a tow hitch, just like a truck towing a big RV trailer. Since the second part of the float was connected to the first part of the float with a tow hitch, it would not have a tow bar required.
  • The float building only began two weeks ago. This had zero impact on what occurred. The float was built on the float chassis that was inspected by the Tournament of Rose Mechanical inspectors on Oct. 13. They inspect numerous items which include the engine, transmission and brakes. There was nothing indicated on the inspection report of anything wrong with the engine, transmission or transmission oil cooler. As parts of the float got built, they were installed on the pre-inspected float chassis.
  • There were some problems getting it built. I had no problems building the float. I find it interesting that no one spoke to me or asked me any questions on the construction of the float. Instead it appears that people not in the know are making up comments or are speculating/guessing.

I also posed some questions of my own.

  • How much did this float weigh? When I was at Fiesta on Friday, it looked to me like it had a lot of heavy steel framing, but Fiesta has built floats for Joey Herrick that had to be much heavier. The float weighed approximately 45,000 pounds which is about the weight of an average float and the float had 12 wheels. The dog surfing float we did and will recall, weighed in at 142,000 pounds and had 26 wheels. Over my many years, I have built dozen of floats that have weighed more than 45,000 pounds.
  • How many tow trucks were needed? One tow truck towed the float to the Post Parade viewing area. It was from Jan’s Towing and I want to go on record that they did a great job and the driver (Steve) was great in his operation of his tow truck!

Getting underway

Usually, when a float breaks down, it is quickly towed to the side to allow other units to pass. The CAHF float was not as easy to move as a smaller, one-part float. The trailing half was jackknifed, perhaps to make more room. Once the area was cleared and it was safe to proceed, the units began coming through, though not in program order.

The first was, ironically, the Gold Rush Fire Brigade, which had been slotted in behind the CAHF entry. Next came the Lincoln-Way Marching Band, but by then, it was 9:48 a.m. The broadcast of the parade must end at precisely 10 a.m., so the Tournament gave the go-ahead to the Wells Fargo closing show. Wells Fargo is a long-time presenting sponsor of the Tournament of Roses.

Coming up behind, in order, were South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association “Three Little Birds,” DigAlert “Making It Safe for All,” and the Royal Swedish Cadet Band. These three entries did not make it into the national broadcast, but readers can see them on KTLA.com. There doesn’t seem to be footage of the CAHF float; if a reader has access to video, please email me at LauraBMonteros@theroseexaminer.com

Several readers asked if there will be a fine for Fiesta Parade Floats. The Tournament does levy fines for breakdowns, from $10,000 to $80,000. Estes addresses it in this article by Tracy Bloom of KTLA.

This article focusing on an unhappy incident cannot do justice to this beautiful float and the rich history it commemorates. The Rose Examiner will follow up with those details in a later article.

Subscribe to The Rose Examiner by filling in your email in the box, above left. We ask that commenters register with this site, to avoid spam.

All photos are copyrighted. Contact the administrator for permissions.

 

 

 

Visiting the float barns during 2019 Rose Parade Deco Week

by Laura Berthold Monteros

The Rose Examiner dropped in on the three float barns last Friday and Saturday to see the progress of the creations at the commercial builders and to talk to some of the folks doing the decorating. The 130th Tournament of Roses Parade happens on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, so the decorators—almost all volunteers—were busy cutting statice, powdering rice, gluing on flowers, and filling vials.

Be sure to check out the gallery below to see the progress all those volunteers were making.

Making the rounds at Phoenix Decorating Company

Ryan Young with the Farmers Insurance float.

Our trip started off with a bang at Phoenix Decorating Company in Irwindale. We had just walked in the door when a sound like an I-beam hitting the floor split the air. Those cavernous float barns echo, so it turned out it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. There had been a small explosion under the Trader Joe’s float. The folks at Phoenix reacted immediately, with crew chiefs hurrying the decorators off the scaffolding and away from the float.

“Go back to your floats, go back to your floats!” the other volunteers were ordered. Everyone complied, because after all, those floats had to be covered with flowers in less than four days.

We asked a man who had been waiting to work on the Kiwanis float if it was scary. “It certainly was,” he said. Another man suggested that the sulphur-scented smoke we noticed might well be just dust and glue, and we returned to our tour of the floats

At the Farmers Insurance float, “A Carousel of Experience,” we met Ryan Young, a Philadelphia transplant. He’s only been in Pasadena for a few months, and already he was fully into the experience of decorating a float.

“I didn’t realize the scale,” he said, comparing the TV version and the real thing. “It’s neat to see it coming together.”

Young works in procurement for Farmers, which is a good match for his role on the float. He said his job is to be a runner, getting whatever anyone working on the float needs.

At the United Sikh Mission float, “A Divine Melody Resonates in All,” we ran into creative director Minu Singh, whom we spoke with last year. The float features a giant rabab, which she said was the first Sikh instrument. It was used by Guru Nanak to spread his message of the oneness of all though his poems and songs.

“Everything in our holy book is music,” Singh said. “Every time we congregate, it’s about singing.” She spoke of an “eternal cosmic symphony.” “Every bit of creation is part of the symphony,” she said.

A few blocks north at Fiesta Parade Floats

Tejinder and Simran cut statice for the United Sikh Mission float at Phoenix Decorating Company.

We got to Fiesta Parade Floats around lunch time, and most of the volunteers were up on the floats or scaffolds so we stuck to taking pictures. We did notice that there were a couple towering humans looking down from the decks, though.

Lono, the Hawaiian god of music and peace and the deity associated with the fertile lands of the Hawaiian Islands stands at the front of “Rhythms of Paradise,” the Dole Packaged Foods float. Stella Rosa lets the genie out of the (wine) bottle with “Taste of Magic.” (Others are on the American Armenian float at Phoenix and AES’ 24 Hour Fitness float.)

“Harmony Through Union,” the first entry from the Chinese American Heritage Foundation, doesn’t have a whole human, but it does have two spectacularly huge arms, one holding a mallet and the other a golden spike to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the historic meeting of the eastern and western portions of the Transcontinental Railroad in Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869, and to celebrate the contributions of immigrants.

Rosemont Pavilion

Denise Godfrey and Emma McGregor at the Cal Poly Universities float.

Previously used by Phoenix Decorating Company, Rosemont Pavilion now holds the AES floats for final decorating, as well as Cal Poly Universities and the FTD vehicle decorating. We were able to strike up a couple conversations at the floats. Check back after the Rose Parade for more about the four vehicles that will carry the celebrities in the parade.

At the Cal Poly float, “Far Out Frequencies,” we were given a California Grown sticker, which indicates that 85 percent of the floral material on the float was grown in California. Denise Godfrey was there with her daughter Emma McGregor. Their family business, Olive Hill Greenhouses, was founded by Godfrey’s parents in 1973. They have been supplying indoor plants to Cal Poly for about four years.

At the Chipotle Mexican Grill float, “Cultivate a Better World,” we found Russ Wimmer and Aida Bueno busily mixing spices to cover the float. And that is mostly what will cover the float. Wimmer told us that Chipotle insisted that only the 51 ingredients used at their restaurants can be used on the floats.

Red is created with a mixture of fresh chili pepper flakes and chili powder. The wood is brown rice instead of the usual paper bark, and juniper berries, oregano, lemon leaf, and corn husks are seen throughout the float. Baskets laid out around the deck like a vegetable stand will be filled with fresh produce. The only roses will be a red edging around the bottom and white spray roses tucked into a garland of red chili peppers. The Tournament of Roses granted a variance to allow a wheelchair lift at the back to remain uncovered.

For a list of all the floats with builders and designers, read “Rose Parade 2019 float entries.”

Subscribe to The Rose Examiner by filling in your email in the box, above left. We ask that commenters register with this site, to avoid spam.

 

All photos copyright LB Monteros. Contact administrator for permissions.

 

Easterseals celebrates 100 years at Fiesta Parade Floats

Actor Nic Novicki led a cheer—actually, several of them—to celebrate Easterseals 100th anniversary and the Rose Parade float at Fiesta Parade Floats.

 

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Easterseals has aided people with disabilities for a full century and is the largest disabilities service provider in the United States. To celebrate and honor this anniversary, the organzation is sending its first-ever entry, a giant flowered birthday cake down the Rose Parade route in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1, 2019,. Last Saturday, Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) threw a party at Fiesta Parade Floats and invited Tournament of Roses Royalty to attend. Photos are below.

Nancy Weintraub, chief development officer for ESSC, said, “If there was ever a time to do one, this is now.” The 100th is a big party, and “it deserves a parade.”

Board member Mary Platt told us “For years [we talked about] how to get our name out among a broader group of people.” The float was a dream of hers and others. “All of a sudden, this became a reality.”

The “all of a sudden” took 18 months to two years to get through the process of committee work, coordinating with the headquarters in Chicago, and going through design and building. The festive float, “Celebrating Easterseals: 100 Years of Disability Services,” was designed by Charles Meier with  a 20-foot high cake, party horns, and presents.

Easterseals serves 1.5 million people with disabilities across the country every year. ESSC is the largest autism service in California, with 8,500 families. One of the goals of Easterseals is to build a more inclusive future for the 61 million Americans with diverse disabilities. There are services for adults, children, veterans, seniors, and caregivers. Services include day services, therapy, peer-to-peer groups which help with social interaction, camp, and assistance in finding housing and employment.

There were a couple celebrities making the rounds at the party: actress Jamie Brewer, who has been a recurring actress in 20 episodes of American Horror Story, and Nic Novicki, who has 45 acting credits on IMDB and a couple dozen credits in writing, producing, and directing. He had a recurring role on Boardwalk Empire, and as Tyrion Lannister in the spoof School of Thrones. Both were irrepresible in their excitement over the Easterseals float and the work the nonprofit does.

Novicki is an ESSC board member and Founder/Director Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. The short videos have people with disabilities on or behind the camera, and can be serious or funny. Some can be viewed at the link above, along with information on how to enter the sixth challenge in 2019.

Brewer has worked in theater since she went to a summer program in 8th grade, for which she got college credit. She learned stagecraft, acting, and valuable skills for her career. In addition to American Horror Story, a new movie, Turnover, is in post production.

“An older man takes a new direction in life,” she explained. “He hires individuals who have different backgrounds, different abilities. Two special communities are represented: the Down Syndrome community and the deaf community.”

We asked if she sees herself as a role model and groundbreaker. She replied enthusiastically, “I am! I do break barriers! I’m the first woman with Down Syndrome to walk in a New York Fashion Week.”

When it was time to cut the real cake sitting in front of the float, President & CEO Mark Whitley underscored the “effort of inclusion” Easterseals promotes. “What better way to celebrate 100 years, than a float in the Rose Parade.”

Mary  Platt stood with her son Michael, who is autistic, as she spoke. “The question is always, ‘What do you do?’” She said that the float will show some 80 million viewers all over the world what Easterseals does.

One of the most affecting speakers was Howard McBroom, Advocate for Easterseals. He worked himself into a job after some time of speaking with legislators and politicians as a volunteer. He was so effective in Sacramento, that Easterseals gave him a full-time job.

“Only one in five people with disabilities have affordable housing. The other four do not,” he stated. He says this is a “national disgrace.” When he meets with legislators who express sympathy, he tells them, “Compassion does not pay the bills.”

The young women on the Royal Court also spoke. Princess Helen Rossi, who has juvenile arthritis, said, “This event is special to me, because (for my Girl Scout Gold Award), I wrote a storybook for kids with disabilities.”

Queen Louise directly addressed the need for diversity. “I learned about Easterseals’ effort to destigmatize disability….Years ago, the Court was all white women,” she said, adding that the Tournament of Roses will continue to diversify.

“Celebrating Easterseals: 100 Years of Disability Services” will have 12 riders, spinning pinwheels, 3,000 hot pink roses, a coconut flake-covered cake, and lots and lots of marigolds. The flower is associated with Easterseals, and will be represented with fresh petals and stylized sculptures. McBroom will ride the float, with Easterseals Program Director Bryan Nguyen, who is a peer-to-peer counselor.

Kim Cohn, Vice President Marketing Communications for ESSC, explained how the riders were chosen. Each one of the 71 Easterseals affiliates were given the opportunity to nominate a rider, and 20 or 30 did.

“The committee looked for great, inspiring Easterseals stories, and those were chosen to ride the float,” she said.

Nine of the riders are Easterseals clients and three are accompanying riders. They are Kaison Shipp-Collier, 12, Easterseals Nevada (autism); Sophia Stafford, 17, Easterseals Southeastern Pennsylvania (Williams Syndrome), accompanied by sister Sabrina Stafford, Easterseals music therapist; Reagan Crabtree, 20, Easterseals Iowa (apraxia, autism); Blake Scribner, 21, Easterseals Central Illinois (brachial plexis injury), accompanied by Katie Pena, therapist; Matthew Jameson, 21, Easterseals Massachusetts (spastic diplegic cerebral palsy); Lora Glassman, 32, Easterseals Southern California (brain condition); Ernesto Gutierrez, 43, Easterseals Southern California (injury from an IED attack); Howard McBroom, 60, Easterseals Southern California (autism), accompanied by Brian Nguyen, Easterseals Program Director; danny Blake, 68, Easterseals Blake Foundation (cerebral palsy)

Subscribe to The Rose Examiner by filling out the box above left. We ask that commenters register with this site, to avoid spam.

 

All photos copyright Laura Berthold Monteros. Contact administrator for permissions.

Queen Louise cuts the ribbon as the 2019 Royal Court opens the Visitor Hotline

Rose Queen Louise Deser Siskel cuts the ribbon as Princesses Micaela Sue McElrath, Sherry Xiaorui Ma (behind Louise), Rucha S. Kadam, Helen Susan Rossi, Ashley Symone Hackett, and Lauren Michele Baydaline look on.

by Laura Berthold Monteros

It’s always fun to watch a gaggle of teenage girls try to figure out the buttons on a phone when the Rose Parade Royal Court sits down to answer calls from folks trying to get information on the Tournament of Roses. Phones can be confusing, but these young ladies are quick learners.

Last Monday, 101st Rose Queen Louise Deser Siskel and the six Rose Princesses opened up the Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) annual hotline. The event took place early this time around, so there will be plenty of time for inquiries about the Rose Parade, Rose Bowl Game, and related events. The big moment, of course, was when Queen Louise cut the red ribbon with oversized shears to officially open the phones.

Be sure to check out the photos in the gallery below. More articles about the Royal Court are here.

The event opened with brief remarks by Michael Ross, CEO of CVB; Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek; and Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny. Christine Susa, CVB Director of Marketing & Communications and Crystal Williams, Communications Manager made sure all ran smoothly.

We managed to speak with a few of the girls in between calls.

Princesses Rucha and Helen said “it’s so much fun” to be on the Court and meet lots of people. They said the Court has really bonded, “like sisters.”

Helen has been living with juvenile arthritis since she was a teenager. Seeing very young children as she was being treated at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles inspired her to write and illustrate a picture book to help them deal with the disease. She called it Joe’s Toes, and it was her Girl Scout Gold Award project.

“I know how hard it is…not to do things” other kids can do, she said.

We asked her how she keeps up with the rigorous schedule of a Rose Princess. “I have a really great team at Children’s Hospital. Every day I wake up so grateful and blessed to have this experience!” It’s all about having people around who understand when she is hurting, she added.

We wanted to catch up with Princess Ashley, who attends the alma mater of The Rose Examiner’s children. She confirmed that she has submitted her applications to four universities with excellent Human Biology departments—UCLA, USC, Ohio State, and University of Washington. Coincidentally, UW is sending a team to the 2019 Rose Bowl Game. Her minor will be African-American Studies.

Asked about her life at John Muir High School, she responded, “I’m barely at Muir!” With 100 events between October and January, none of the girls spends much time on campus.

“The support is awesome,” Ashley reports. “I’m staying on top of my studies as much as possible.”

She was able to participate with the Muir Pep Squad in the Turkey Tussle for the first time. (The Turkey Tussle is the annual homecoming game for both John Muir and crosstown rival Pasadena High School, and is played in the Rose Bowl.) In addition to cheering, Ashley has been doing praise dancing since she was 10 years old, which helped her break out of her shell.

“I’m extremely blessed with this opportunity,” she said, and expressed gratefulness to God and her high school administration.

Queen Louise told us she has also submitted most of her college applications. She’s applied early acceptance to University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Yale, and Tufts. She affirmed that her research projects are not suffering from the Royal Court schedule.

Speaking of schedules, here are the days and hours the Visitor Hotline is open.

Visitor Hotline (877) 793-9911 Hours of Operation (PST)

Monday, December 3rd – Friday, December 7th            8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday, December 10th – Friday, December 14th       8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday, December 17th – Friday, December 21st       8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday, December 24th – Friday, December 28th       8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday, December 31st                                                            8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Hours are subject to change on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day (closed) and New Year’s Eve

Subscribe to The Rose Examiner by filling out the box above left. We ask that commenters register with this site, to avoid spam.

 

 

Lots of firsts for 2019 Rose Queen Louise Deser Siskel

The 2019 Rose Parade Royal Court (L-R): Helen Rossi, Rucha Kadam, Lauren Baydaline, Trina & Gerald Freeny, their daughter Erica, Queen Louise Siskel, Micaela McElrath, Sherry Ma, Ashley Hackett

 

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Rose Queen Louise Deser Siskel made a lot of firsts at the Coronation of the Rose Queen and Presentation of the Royal Court last Tuesday evening. She is in the first graduating class at Sequoyah High School, she is the first Sequoyah girl to be selected for the Tournament of Roses Royal Court, she is the first to become queen, and she is the 101st Rose Queen, taking the title into its second century. She will perch atop the Royal Court float in the 130th Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2019.

The festivities were held at the historic Pasadena Playhouse for the third consecutive year. Like the Tournament of Roses, the venue is an icon of Pasadena. Its spacious patio and Spanish Colonial Style serve the event well. Come along for the fun by paging through the photo gallery below!

Local news anchor Chris Schauble of KTLA-5, Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother of Tournament of Roses Pres, Gerald Freeny, hosted. Schauble is known for his humorous antics as well as serious reporting on set. With two sets of twin girls, he was right at home interviewing the young ladies on the Royal Court. He came out in an LA Dodgers Number 5 jersey, probably for KTLA. (It didn’t help, the Dodgers lost to the Red Sox.) After a brief intro, he said he was going to do a Mister Rogers change, and he traded his jersey for a suit jacket.

Each Rose Princess, dressed in a lacy gown by Tadashi Shoji, was announced by her father, who read a short bio, and escorted to the center of the stage by a member of Blair High School JROTC. A montage of photos played on the screen above the stage and Schauble interviewed each princess. He then handed the microphone to Pres. Freeny for the revelation of the one girl of the seven who would serve as the 101st Rose Queen. He opened the envelope and announced, “From Sequoyah High School, Louise Deser Siskel!”

Be sure to check out the album below for photos of the festivities.

Pearl crown by Mikimoto

The girls left the stage to receive their tiaras, and Queen Louise to change into the white gown that was specially fitted for her. Meanwhile, there was a video of the Royal Court in the usual Royal Court activities—visiting people, going to events, and getting to know each other at a weekend retreat. Solvang, a Danish town in Central California, was the destination instead of the usual Newport Beach. “Ambiance” from Fullspectrumusic supplied entertainment.

Proud dads escorted their princesses back onto the stage. Queen Louise, escorted by her father Charlie Siskel, met Pres. Freeny for her coronation. He placed the Mikimoto pearl crown on her head, albeit a bit askew, and administered the Queen’s Oath, and it was all official.

Queen Louise, we suspect, may also be the first Rose Queen to be involved in two important research projects. As a junior in high school, she investigated the effect of microgravity on drug metabolism by the liver in a space biology study at NASA Ames in Mountain View, Calif. She said the summer program was a “crazy experience,” an opportunity for her and her partner Rujuta Sathe to do research funded by NASA.

Now a senior at Sequoyah, Queen Louise is researching breast cancer under Dr. Shehla Pervin at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. The project examines the health disparity between African-American and Caucasian women. She is currently writing a paper on that research. We asked her if she would be able to keep up with her writing, given the 100-plus events she will attend over the next dozen weeks.

“Yes!” she replied. The public Rose Court appearances will mostly be over before she goes back to work in January.

“I want to thank the [Queen & Court] committee for selecting me,” she added, “and also the six other girls.”

UPDATE

Larry Wilson over at the Pasadena Star-News came up with one more first–glasses!

 

All photos copyright Laura Berthold Monteros. Contact administrator for permissions.

Photos: Chaka Khan and Gerald Freeny at Rose Parade Grand Marshal Announcement

Chaka Khan, 2019 Rose Parade Grand Marshal, was surprised by the colorful confetti raining down when she came through the purple curtains.

by Laura Berthold Monteros

The announcement of the Grand Marshal for the 130th Tournament of Roses Parade had the usual elements. Oct. 17 was a beautiful, warm day, the front porch of Tournament House was gorgeously draped, the band was great, the press stand packed. There was the usual excitement in the audience, waiting to find out who would ride in the Grand Marshal’s car on Jan. 1, 2019. When Chaka Khan was announced, the crowd roared and the confetti cannon went off.

Known as the “Queen of Funk,” Chaka also sings R&B, pop, rock, gospel, and country. We asked what other music she likes; she responded, “I love Indian music.” She just finished a project in the Gujarati language with Indian performer Sonu Nigam, which celebrates the life of Gandhi.

Check out the gallery below for photos, and this link for a video on the TOR Rose Parade Facebook page.

But there was a lot that was unusual in the announcement.

There were fewer hints in the food served, music played, decorations (except for the purple drapes), yet from the murmurs in the crowd, it seemed like more people than normal had an idea of who it would be. That may have been because more details were released ahead of time—10 Grammy awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a place in the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. In his introduction, Pres. Gerald Freeny gave more details that confirmed those hunches, and affirmed that she was indeed a performer who would sing and dance in the opening act of the parade.

Chaka and her retinue were late, reportedly due to LA traffic. The Tournament, which makes sure the Rose Parade starts at 8 a.m. on the dot and the Rose Bowl Game coin toss is never late, announced that the star player would be 15 minutes behind the 9 a.m. start time. It was a quarter after when family members took their seats in the front row, and past 9:30 when Freeny stepped up to the lectern.

Now, a heads-up: Much of this article reflects the opinions of the writer, which is also unusual. If there is one constant in the feelings of folks who love the Rose Parade, it is that they very rarely and almost never publicly criticize the choice of a theme or Grand Marshal. People tend to be pretty polite when it comes to this grand old Pasadena tradition, and the criticism The Rose Examiner heard was couched in the politest terms.

There was disappointment about Chaka’s speech, which seemed thoroughly unprepared. She opened with “Well, I just don’t know where to go with this,” but added, “I’m so honored.” She thrice referred to “the Rose Bowl Parade,” which any GM would have been coached not to do. The theme, “The Melody of Life,” was garbled into “The Rhythm of Life.” References to the parade indicated that she had just not done her homework. (To her credit, she did name the Old Pasadena business district correctly.)

Other than noting that the floats are pretty, she seemed to have no interest in the Rose Parade. She said, “I remember looking at it. But not really looking…. Y’know, it was after the big game.” The game actually comes after the parade. It did seem she was a tad self-conscious—she said, “I hope you like me” and acknowledged that she was “a little bit scared.”

She said little about the Chaka Khan Foundation or what it does. This contrasted with previous Grand Marshals, such as Gary Sinise, whose tireless work for veterans is well known and very personal to him. Jane Goodall had not known about our American tradition when approached, but took the time to find out and agreed to be GM because it is consistent with the values of her charitable work. Actor J.R. Martinez was not a star but has an amazing, compelling story and his courage is indisputable.

There was also some speculation that Stevie Wonder, whom Freeny mentioned three times, was his first choice for Grand Marshal, not Chaka. Indicators were her lack of preparation and not having any idea what she would do for the opening show. Be that as it may, it is not unusual for a president to go with a second or third choice and it doesn’t reflect on how good a GM might be.

A friend of your Rose Examiner was refused by his first choice, who was not available on New Year’s Day, and his second choice backed out at the last minute. His third choice, Gregory Peck, proved to be one of the happiest GMs ever. When he was a child, his family drove up from San Diego to watch the parade every year. One year, they took a stray dog back with them. He was the first, and perhaps only, GM to get the Tournament time on The Tonight Show, due to his friendship with Johnny Carson.

Another late choice was Chesley Sullenberger III for 2010—late, because the TOR president had passed away before choosing a Grand Marshal. Yet what better choice could there have been that year for the theme “A Cut Above the Rest” than the “Hero of the Hudson.”

The Chaka Khan Foundation

Perhaps these comments come out of a suspicion about non-profits, due to years of working for both good ones and bad ones. It is difficult to tell from the foundation website whether the organization is actually out in the community working on programs, or simply partnering with other organizations that do the work. It is fine if a foundation does not actually create or run programs, but supports successful programs financially and with star power. That should be clear in the material, though, whether spoken, written, or posted online. It would have been good to hear more about it from the Tournament media release or Chaka herself.

Chaka established the Chaka Khan Foundation in 1999. The mission statement is “The Chaka Khan Foundation educates, inspires and empowers children in our community to achieve their full potential.” The foundation website says “The Chaka Khan Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.”

However, it does not show up by EIN search on either Charity Navigator or GuideStar, and only on GuideStar by name, with the note “This organization’s exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence are warranted.” The “foundation team” has photos but no names attached, and does not state there is a board of directors as required by law. The only information on  the team page is a long promotional piece for the album “ClassiKhan.”

If Chaka did not do her homework on the Tournament of Roses, it appears that the Tournament of Roses did not do its homework on her foundation, either.