The biggest celebrities of them all: the 2020 Tournament of Roses Royal Court. L-R, Rose Queen Camille Kennedy, Rose Princesses Emilie Risha, Reese Rosental Saporito, Mia Thorsen, Michael Wilkins, Rukan Saif, Cole Fox.
by Laura Berthold Monteros
At the Tournament of Roses Parade, the real celebrities are the gorgeous floral creations that float along the parade route on New Year’s Day. The 131st Rose Parade, held on Jan. 1, 2020, was no exception. But that doesn’t mean there are no human celebrities! Riding along Colorado Blvd. in flower-bedecked antique vehicles is a tradition for the people that the current president chooses to represent the theme she has chosen, this year, Pres. Laura Farber chose “The Power of Hope.”
You can read more about them by exploring the 2020 Tournament of Roses page on this website. You can see them, nestled in the seats of beautiful vehicles and waving to the crowds, in the gallery below. Information about the cars is in the captions.
Barnstormer and daredevil C.P. Rodgers piloted the first plane to fly over the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 1912. The plane in the photo is not his usual aircraft, the Wright Model EX Vin Fiz, but a spare Model B.
by Laura Berthold Monteros
Quick question: When did the flyovers of the Rose Parade begin? If you said in 1997 at the 108th Tournament of Roses Parade, with the B-2 Spirit “stealth bomber” in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the US Air Force, you would be…wrong!
The first flyover was 85 years earlier, in 1912 at the 23rd Rose Parade. Broadcaster and barnstormer C.P. Rodgers, after a historic cross-country flight from the Atlantic to the Pacific, flew over the parade in his plane Vin Fiz, a Wright Model EX. He dropped flowers along the entire route; some say they were rose petals; others say it was 10,000 carnations.
Born Calbraith Perry Rodgers, the aviator had undertaken the transcontinental flight to garner a $50,000 prize offered by William Randolph Hearst, but he missed the deadline by 19 days. On April 3, his plane was hit by birds during an exhibition over Long Beach, Calif. and he died in the crash at age 33. This was the first recorded instance of a fatality resulting from a bird strike.
Such an impromptu flight would not be allowed today, of course, what with security and other aircraft taking up airspace over the route.
Nonetheless, he is remembered for his daring flights, his huge personality, and for being the first aviator to fly over the Rose Parade. He was so popular with parade-goers that they gave him the title of King of the Rose Parade, the first in a short line of three. There was no Rose Queen that year, so folks created their own royalty.
Parade-goers still enjoy looking up to see the B-2 and other Air Force wonders fly overhead, as well as the Goodyear blimp and the occasional small planes dragging banners or puffing out ads. Here are some examples.
B-2 Spirit at the 2020 Rose Parade
It’s a marvel of engineering, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The shape makes it difficult for radar detection, but most impressive to parade-goers—besides the sheer beauty of this war machine—is that it can’t be heard until it is almost overhead. It has a wingspan of 172 feet and weighs 160,000 pounds, but for its massive size, it is frighteningly quiet. For the first time in Rose Parade history, the crew of two pilots included a woman: Lt. Col. Nicola “Rogue” Polidor with Major Justin “Rocky” Spencer
Goodyear blimp videos the 2020 Rose Parade
To residents of the Pasadena area, the Goodyear blimp is a frequent sight when games are held in the Rose Bowl Stadium. On New Year’s Day, it does double duty in taking overhead video the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game. A ride in the blimp is one of the exciting events that the Tournament of Roses Royal Court gets to do.
Annual visitors—the parrots of Pasadena
People local to Pasadena love to come to the Rose Parade, but they aren’t the only ones who enjoy the festivities. Every year, the flocks that make their homes in or near Pasadena make an early morning trek to circle the over the grandstands. This photo is from 2018.
The 2018 flyover added two F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters in a tribute to organ donation. The F-35 to the left of the bomber represented giving life (organ donors) and to the right, receiving life (organ recipients). Organ donor USAF Maj. Benjamin “Chex” Meier piloted the plane on the left before he lost his life; it was flown by a close friend for the Rose Parade.
And yet another feathered flyover
What appears to be a hawk flies below the Air Force formation. After all, the airspace is free to birds!
“Stories Change Our World” sponsored by The UPS Store won Sweepstakes in the 131st Rose Parade with its display of golden lion tamarin monkeys.
by Laura Berthold Monteros
“The Power of Hope,” theme of the 131st Tournament of Roses, inspired floats with different stories to tell, but all with optimism and aspiration. From the humor of dodo birds flying a zeppelin to men and women in a cargo ship crossing the ocean in 1620 seeking freedom, the floats were a panoply of artistry, imagination, beauty, and hope.
Below are three photo galleries with images of the award winners in four categories: Sweepstakes, Entertainment Value, Float Design, Floral Design. There are six self-built winners and floats from professional builders AES, Fiesta Parade Floats, and Phoenix Decorating Company. The captions name the award and give a little information about each entry.
For The Rose Examiner, the week between Boxing Day and the Showcase of Floats is packed with preparations for the Tournament of Roses Parade and visits to the barns to see the floats in the final stages. We especially like being able to talk to some of the people who are working on the floats.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a couple weeks since we spoke with folks during Deco Week. We had conversations with Linda Cozakos and Erik C. Andersen at Burbank Tournament of Roses Association, and Harry Gill and Maninder Minu Singh, creative director of the Sikh American Float Foundation, in the Phoenix Decorating Company barn.
Be sure to check out the photos in the gallery below for the two floats in progress
Burbank “Rise Up”
Burbank’s 88th Rose Parade entry won the Leishman Public Spirit Award for most outstanding floral design and display from a non-commercial participant. In keeping with the parade theme “The Power of Hope,” the float depicted a giant phoenix being reborn from the ashes of the 8,527 wildfires that destroyed 1,893,913 acres of homes, businesses, farmland, and wildland in California 2018. A waterfall in front, surrounded by lush vegetation, offered hope that the land will be renewed.
Named “Paradise” in honor of the town that was nearly wiped out in the Camp Fire—two of designer Lisa Long’s nephews battled the fire there—the bird’s body rose and fell and head turned side to side. In a first for Burbank, three fireballs shot out of the tail feathers.
We talked to Cozakos and Andersen about the florals used for the colors and textures on the phoenix. Floral decorators always keep an eye out for new materials or ways to use old ones, and the beak of the bird had a rather unusual choice.
Cozakos said the frilly acorn caps lining the top of the beak can only be found in Griffith Park on one particular tree. One of the members of BTORA discovered them and has returned to collect them as needed. Mustard seed, fava beans, dried mango, and two purple potatoes for nostrils completed the beak, with vermilion Chinese lanterns around the eyes.
The feathers on the face and body were whole magnolia leaves and palm leaves that had been torn into thin strips. The leaves were covered with ground yellow and orange marigolds, sumac, and paprika to simulate the fiery colors of the phoenix.
Remembering a different kind of tragedy, roses with the names of the Saugus High School shooting victims attached were on the float, as well as dried agapanthus from the school. The roses will be returned to the parents after the parade.
Sikh American “Planting Seeds of Hope”
The theme of the Sikh American float was realized with a fanciful garden and rotating carousel filled with children of various ethnicities. Through selfless service to humanity with love, respect, compassion, and humility, Sikhs hope to nurture an environment in which children can grow and thrive.
A sculpture of Bhai Ghaneya Singh sat at the front, pouring water out of a leather bag. Bhai Ghaneya was a compassionate man who carried water to the troops in the 1704 war of Anandpur Sahib. Harry Gill told us the story behind the image.
Bhai Ghaneya gave water to both the Sikhs and their Mughal enemies, thus planting seeds of love. For this, he was brought before Guru Gobind Singh. Bhai Ghaneya’s defense was “I see God in every one of them.” The Guru replied, “Give everyone water and also apply medicine on their wounds,” Gill said. “He’s the forerunner of the Red Cross, more than 300 years ago.”
Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, said “there is only one God of the whole world; the same light shines in every person,” Gill said, regardless of color, creed, or gender. “Even emperors are born of women.”
Your Rose Examiner spent three consecutive days walking the float barns, and came back with tons of photos. For these galleries, I’ve chosen one of each float, shots I particularly like, just to give a flavor of the process and introduce readers to the floats that will glide along the Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1, 2020.
The barns and decorating sites were pretty packed and the decorators were working furiously to get the dry dec on. I managed to fit in two conversations, one with Erik C. Andersen and Linda Cozakos at Burbank Tournament of Roses Association., and one with Harry Gill and Minu Singh at the Sikh American float in the Phoenix Decorating Company barn, which can be read here.
Photos in Gallery A were taken on Dec. 28 and 29, and include AES and five self-built floats (we didn’t go down to the Downey float barn). Gallery B was taken on Dec. 30 at Phoenix Decorating Company. Gallery C was also taken on Dec. 30, at Fiesta Parade Floats.
Deco Week Gallery A
Sierra Madre Rose Float Assn., La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn., AES, Cal Poly Universities, South Pasadena Rose Float Assn., Burbank Rose Float Assn.
“Spend Your Life Living” in the S.S. Elephie by Northwestern Mutual won the Bob Hope Humor Award
by Laura Berthold Monteros
In anticipation of the upcoming 131st Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1, 2020, The Rose Examiner has put together a collection of photos of the award-winning floats that glided along the Rose Parade route in 2019. Take a look at the stunning and gorgeous creations that won in 24 contests.
Tournament of Roses President Laura Farber surrounded by the Royal Court: Princesses Rukan Saif, Mia Thorsen, Emilie Risha, Queen Camille Kennedy, Princesses Reese Rosental Saporito, Michael Wilkins, Cole Fox
by Laura Berthold Monteros
With a snip of oversized goldens scissors, Rose Queen Camille Kennedy and the Tournament of Roses Royal Court opened the 36th Annual Visitors Hotline phone bank on Dec.11, two weeks earlier than usual. The Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts the hotline to provide fast and accurate information about the 131st Rose Parade, 106th Rose Bowl Game, and the City of Pasadena.
Christine Susa, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Pasadena Convention and Visitors Center, told The Rose Examiner that the earlier calls are “less hectic” and more about hotels and the Rose Bowl Game teams than those that come after Christmas. “It’s more, ‘We just got our tickets, now what,” she said.
Lined up behind the wide red ribbon, the girls on the court grinned widely when Queen Camille cut the ribbon to officially open the hotline. Each station has a phone and bound book with all—or at least most—of the information volunteers need to help visitors to the 131st Tournament of Roses. The phones started ringing immediately, but we had a little time between calls to speak with the young women. One thing that is evident in watching and talking with this court is the way they enjoy each other. There was a lot of laughter this morning. Be sure to check out the gallery below!
College dreams and special birthdays
We started with Princess Reese Rosental Saporito, the youngest and tallest member of the Royal Court.
“She just turned 17 yesterday,” Queen Camille piped up. Reese said that she “doesn’t feel super different;” after all, she isn’t heads above the others (nor very much younger, though Dec. 31 is the deadline for Royal Court members to be at least 17.). She did acknowledge that sometimes she has to squat a bit for photos.
Camille has a birthday of her own coming up. She will turn 18 on Dec. 22. While she had traditional birthday celebrations growing up, despite being so close to Christmas, her last two birthdays were in Tokyo with her host family. They went out for sushi, then came home to traditional Japanese cakes. They’re very small, she said, each slice is a quarter of the cake.
We asked Princess Rukan Saif about her application to Yale College. (A disclaimer here, one of the offspring of The Rose Examiner attended Yale.) She said she will hear on Monday. She plans on studying history with an eye to law school and a professorship.
“All of us are finding out very soon,” she said, sounding pretty excited about it.
Princess Mia Thorsen is also waiting to hear from the many colleges to which she has applied. Her first choice is Brown University in Providence. Princess Emilie Risha said she had applied to schools in California, and has already been accepted to Saint Mary’s College of California in the Bay Area, and has received the highly competitive Presidential Scholarship.
Covering all her bases for the Rose Bowl Game, Princess Cole Fox has been accepted to the University of Oregon and is waiting to hear from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Ducks and Badgers will face off in the 2020 Rose Bowl Game. Cole applied to colleges all over the country that have outstanding biology programs, in preparation for going to med school.
“I’m open to whichever school has the best opportunities,” she said.
We asked Princess Michael Wilkins if she was a celebrity at her school. “I get a few ‘Hey, Princesses,’” she said, and sometimes applause when she enters a classroom. She says she and her parents talk about her role on the court all the time.
Both Reese and Mia attend Marshall Fundamental High School in Pasadena, and shared that they get have fun together after school. Reese reminded us that the last princess from Marshall was Queen Madison Triplett in 2015. In honor of the two, the school is putting up a display in the hall. The official Tournament of Roses photos have just been sent over for the display.
“It’s exciting,” Reese said. “It’s a special experience for the school and for us.”
An innovative president
Laura Farber has expanded the boundaries of the Rose Parade. Her tenure has seen the inclusion of more women and Latinos than in the past, matching the diversity of the Pasadena area and the Tournament of Roses Association, and she has added a brand-new half-time show to the parade.
“It’s the largest international stage that exists,” she said in her introductory remarks. “This year is really spectacular,” It’s the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in federal elections, and a woman will pilot the B-2 in its flyover.
We asked her about the half-time show, “Frozen 2,” which will occur at the mid-point in the parade. Some followers of our Facebook page, All Things Rose Parade, have expressed concerns that the show will only perform for the video cameras on Orange Grove and Colorado.
“It’s been off-the-charts positive,” she replied. The performance will continue all along the parade route, not just for the cameras. “We want to give everyone a treat.”
“We’re trying to appeal to a broader audience,” she added, to balance the traditional and the innovative. “We have something for everybody, to appeal to everybody.”
In addition to Farber, officials attending were Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek and Vice-Mayor Tyron Hampton; Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Michael Ross, Executive Director Jeanne Goldsmith, and Director of Marketing and Communications Christine Susa; and Tournament of Roses Executive Director/CEO David Eads.
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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
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.
Hundreds of thousands of people stream into Pasadena every year to see the Tournament of Roses Parade in person. An estimated 70 million people around the world watch it on video. What is so enticing about this parade, that began in 1890 as a way to promote local real estate? The pageantry, the flowers, and the excitement of an event that might be once-in-a-lifetime for some, and an annual outing for others. Equestrians, bands from all over the world, a Royal Court with seven exceptional young women, and of course, flower-covered floats combine tradition and cutting-edge technology. It is a truly unique adventure.