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.]
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.”
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!
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.
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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
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
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.
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.
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)
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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
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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.
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.”
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.
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 thislink 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.
2019 Rose Parade Royal Court: L-R, Helen Rossi, Flintridge Prep; Rucha Kadam, La Cañada Flintridge HS; Lauren Baydaline, Westridge; Micaela McElrath, Westridge; Gerald Freeny, president Tournament of Roses; Sherry Ma, San Marino HS; Louise Siskel, Sequoyah HS; Ashley Hackett, John Muir HS.
There were a few unusual occurrences at the announcement of the Tournament of Roses Royal Court on Oct. 1. More about those in a minute, as well as bios on each Rose Princess. To folks in the Pasadena area, the annual announcement of the Royal Court is more exciting than the announcement of the Rose Queen on Oct. 23. Once the court is revealed, the Queen will be one of those elite seven girls, but almost everyone in the area is only one or two degrees removed from one or more of the finalists. It’s an edge-of-your-seat moment.
The selection of the Court begins with some 900 young women from a couple dozen area schools, who try out on a hot weekend in early September. Through a series of interviews, the number is whittled down to around 35 finalists, from which seven are chosen to attend some 100 events as ambassadors for the Tournament, and to ride in the 130th Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2019.
Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the end of this article!
Surprise #1: This year, there were 44 finalists. Queen & Court Committee chair Craig Washington noted that the first Rose Queen, Hallie Woods, was crowned in 1905, which was also the year a certain theory was revealed. He said selecting finalists is “almost as difficult as understanding Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.” It was such formidable task this fall, he said, that the committee ended up with 44 “exceptional finalists.”
Surprise #2: Not a huge one, but the last time The Rose Examiner recalls Washington on stage was when his daughter Drew was chosen as the 2012 Rose Queen. He knows both sides of the equation.
Surprise #3: The male members on Q&C escort each of the finalists from Tournament House to the steps at the south entrance, as they are introduced by the chair. This time around, the female members of Q&C also escorted the girls. It took a while, but TOR is getting there.
Surprise #4: How long it took the TOR to get here: Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny is the first African-American to assume the presidency.
Surprise #5: The finalists lined up in numerical order, rather than being placed according to height as previously. This made it difficult to get a good group photo.
Surprise #6: There were eight finalists from Mayfield Senior School, the most from one school since The Rose Examiner has been covering the Tournament of Roses. We were pretty sure at least one would make the Court, but Mayfield is not represented on the Court.
Surprise #7: The seven girls on the Court represent six different schools, one of which has never had a Rose Princess before and one which has not been represented for longer than we have been writing about the Rose Parade.
Meet the 2019 Rose Princesses
Freeny gave a short talk about the theme he and his wife Trina chose, “The Melody of Life.” Then one by one, Freeny called out the school and the name of the young woman, until all seven were lined up. In addition to a summary of her involvement in the community, each provided her own take on the theme of the 2019 festivities.
Ashley Symone Hackett, a senior at John Muir High School, was the first to be called, and is the first Muir girl on the Royal Court since 2003. She told us, “I am extremely blessed to get this opportunity.” She said that John Muir is an “amazing” school, and she wants to make the administration and her friends proud. She wants to “set a good example for incoming freshmen” in their dreams and aspirations.
Ashley is a member of the Black Student Union, Pasadena Panthers Youth Cheer and Dance, John Muir Pep Squad, and is secretary of the Associated Student Body, a dance trainer with Los Angeles Country Tiny Tots, activities leader with the VA of Greater Los Angeles, and youth leader at Metropolitan Baptist Church. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking with her dad, watching football and basketball, hiking, and swimming. She plans to study human biology and would like to attend University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern California, or University of Washington. Ashley lives in Pasadena and is the daughter of Alvin and Ramona Hackett; she has two siblings, Jordan and Kennedy.
“For me, ‘The Melody of Life’ means that everyone has highs and lows in life, but just like in music both high notes and low notes add value to the piece, just as it would in life,” she said. “Low times in life are often dreaded but to me these times help add value and character to an individual. Without the low times that I have experienced, I would not be able to appreciate the high moments of life that I have been blessed with.”
Louise Deser Siskel is a senior at Sequoyah High School and lives in San Marino. She represents two firsts for Sequoyah: She is the first young woman from the school to serve on the Royal Court, and is also a member of the first graduating class of Sequoyah High School. (The lower school started in 1958.) She told us that Sequoyah is a “wonderful” school, and that she loves the school and its community.
Louise is a member of the Debate Team and Judicial Committee at Sequoyah High School, and YMCA Youth and Government. She is researching breast cancer under Dr. Shehla Pervin at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.
Louise enjoys reading, playing board games with her family, traveling, and laughing with friends. She plans to study cellular and molecular biology and would like to attend Johns Hopkins University, The University of Chicago, or Yale University. Louise is the daughter of Charlie Siskel and Abigail Deser; she has one brother, Simon.
“For me, ‘The Melody of Life’ is standing at the lab bench at 7 a.m., singing along to show tunes,” she said. “It is classical music when I’m writing and 2000s hits when I’m nervous. I belt out Cole Porter verses with my grandfather and ABBA anthems with my friends. Music has an astounding capacity to bring people together and has always been an integral part of my favorite traditions and most treasured memories. Music makes the world a more forgiving and more joyful place.”
Sherry Xiaorui Ma is a senior at San Marino High School and lives in Temple City. She is editor-in-chief of the San Marino High School Titanian yearbook, president and founder of the Make-A-Wish Club, and a varsity basketball manager. Sherry enjoys playing the flute and piano, reading, dancing, and spending time with friends. She plans to study communication and media studies and would like to attend Emerson College, Fordham University, New York University, or University of Southern California. Sherry is the daughter of Alex Luk and Kristy Ma; she has one sister, Sally Yang.
“Music is a language that is spoken through emotions. Not everyone can understand words, but everyone understands the power of love and kindness,” she said. “We are all connected, just like the music notes that are intermittently connected. Music gives you the power to reach people you know, and even the people you don’t know. The ‘Melody of Life’ is about the musical conversation all around us that expresses what cannot be said. This melody can help humans forget their differences and come together to transform negativity into hope, freedom, and color. This year’s theme has a very deep emotional connection to me because of how passionate I am about artistic expression.”
Micaela Sue McElrath is a senior at Westridge School and lives in Pasadena. She is an afterschool volunteer tutor with Stars, vice president of the 12th grade class at Westridge School, 3rd year Peer to Peer Counselor, and a teacher assistant in a 4th grade classroom. Micaela enjoys being involved in community service, all things fashion, hair, and makeup, and is avid watcher of football and baseball. She plans to study psychology, education, and English and would like to attend Bard College, Connecticut College, Fordham University, Trinity College, or University of Southern California. Micaela is the daughter of Matthew McElrath and Inez Enguidanos-McElrath; she has four siblings, Stuart, Belen, Mariah, and Evan.
“Throughout the years, I have listened to many different types of music styles and genres; ranging from country music to radio hits,” she said. “The diversity in my music choices reflect the diversity in my life. My dad introduced me to classic rock while my mom raised me on Mexican love songs. The constant throughout all of this has been my love for Selena Quintanilla. I grew up listening to her music with my family. Selena has served as a role model to me of a strong woman with an influential voice, using her gifts to help others.”
Lauren Michele Baydaline is a senior at Westridge School and lives in South Pasadena. She is secretary of the Associated Student Body, founder and head of Every Body Affinity, head of book club, 3rd year Peer to Peer, volunteer in Reading Rocks program at Hillsides, and a camp counselor at YMCA Glendale. Lauren enjoys reading, writing poetry, and spending time with friends and family. She plans to study biology, linguistics, and Latin and would like to attend Boston College, Duke University, Emory University, Tulane University, University of Richmond, or Villanova University. Lauren is the daughter of Nick and Selena Baydaline; she has one brother, Christian.
“Personally, melody of life means the pace at which life flows. Life is an unpredictable symphony,” s
he said. “Every moment, experience, and memory all flow together to create a melody. There are good parts and bad parts, where the beats may speed up and intensify, but each part of the piece is what makes it unique. Life is a melody, and we are all the composers to our own pieces.”
Rucha S. Kadam is a senior at La Cañada High School and lives in La Cañada Flintridge. She is a member of the LCHS varsity soccer team, Assistance League of Flintridge, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Space Academy, 2018 Miss La Cañada Flintridge Royal Court, Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) board, Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), California Scholarship Federation (CSF), treasurer of LCHS Associated Student Body (ASB), Hackademia director, and LCUSD Technology and Computer Science intern. She plans to study computer science or medical science and would like to attend Amherst College, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Los Angeles, Swarthmore College, or Wellesley College. Rucha enjoys baking, reading, listening to music, playing board games, and the piano. Rucha is the daughter of Shailesh Kadam and Vaishali Bhosale; she has one brother, Ahan.
“Music is universal—it transcends the barriers of language, religion, race, culture, or ideological beliefs and culture,” she said. “Music can bring together people by connecting them through the feelings that all humans share with each other. Music has the ability to evoke our most raw and powerful emotions. Music can draw out experiences and memories that unify us, despite our differences. Music can have an immense impact on our lives.”
Helen Susan Rossi is a senior at Flintridge Preparatory School and lives in La Cañada Flintridge. She is a member or the Cooking Club, Diversity Club, Flint Leadership Club, and a Flintridge Prep Senior Leader. Helen’s community activities include National Charity League of Glendale, Senior Girl Scout, Troop 7331, Hathaway Sycamores tutor, Arthritis Foundation intern and Arthritis Foundation 2018 Youth Honoree. Helen enjoys cooking, photography, creative writing, and drawing. She plans to study business and psychology and would like to attend New York University, University of California, Los Angeles, or University of Southern California. Helen is the daughter of Philip and Susan Rossi.
“The theme ‘The Melody of Life’ reminds me of my days as a summer counselor when I taught young campers to play the recorder,” she said. “Some caught on quickly, and others had to work harder to master the notes, but we all helped each other out. We laughed uproariously at the terrible sounds that first emerged, but eventually they all played a respectable version of ‘Yankee Doodle.’ That truly represents ‘The Melody of Life’ because with perseverance and support we created a melody together.”
John Muir High School Pep Squad hopped on a bus to Tournament House to support the three Muir girls who were among the finalists. Most schools that have finalists send a delegation to the Royal Court announcement, but in this case, it was a very special day. Fellow member Ashley Hackett was chosen for the Court. It’s no surprise that a girl from Muir has what it takes to serve on the Court, but it is a surprise that the last Muir Princess, Heather Bell, was chosen in for the 2003 Royal Court
“It feels pretty good,” Ashley said when asked about that. The Muir applicants were coached by Jeané Ward of Alpha Kappa Alpha. JMHS has been a high school under various names since 1926, the second oldest in the Pasadena Unified School District. Kennedy Hackett, Princess Ashley’s sister and fellow pep squad member, is second from left in the photo. Asked if she would keep her sister humble, Kennedy said, “I’ll let her have (her pride) for the day.”
The horse was integral to the American West, whether by the Spanish colonists, the indigenous people of the plains, or in the expansion of the United States. Equestrian units in the 129th Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1, 2018, reflected this history with authentic garb and tack. The gallery below has photos of the historical equestrian groups that rode along Colorado Blvd. Also be sure to take a look at “Healing, helping, and glamour in 2018 Rose Parade equestrian units.” Marine Corps photos are here and Los Angeles Police Department are here.
Riders decked out in glitzy costumes on horses with silver-studded tack are a standing order in the Tournament of Roses Parade. The 129th Rose Parade, held on Jan. 1, 2018, added therapy horses and law enforcement units in uniform to the mix. The gallery below has photos of khaki-and-olive drab mounted officers, angelic miniature horses, and shiny rhinestone cowboys and cowgirls. For authenic costuming, check out “The American West on horseback in the 2018 Rose Parade.” Marine Corps photos are here and Los Angeles Police Department are here.
Equestrian units pictured in the gallery
So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary, Inc. (Hemet, Calif.)
Mini Therapy Horses (Calabasas, Calif.)
The Norco Cowgirls & The Little Miss Norco Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Teams (Norco, Calif.)
Scripps Miramar Ranch (San Diego, Calif.)
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Mounted Enforcement Detail (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Mane Attraction Equestrian Drill Team (Riverside, Calif.)
California Highway Patrol Mounted Patrol Unit (Sacramento, Calif.)
Broken Horn Ropers (Baldwin Park, Calif.)
The Valley Center Vaqueros (Valley Center, Calif.)