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.
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.
The 2020 Tournament of Roses in photos and stories
Each year, “America’s New Year Celebration” opens the door to joy, inspiration, and hope for the coming year. The theme of the 131st Rose Parade and 106th Rose Bowl Game is “The Power of Hope,” a big idea that can change the world. Or at least, our outlook on life. Hope is not just wishful thinking; it brings strength and power to our lives, even when things don’t seem to be going right. Participants from all over the globe find this hope as they ride, walk, and march along the parade route every year.
The big events, of course, are the parade and game, held on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. The Rose parade is a two-hour extravaganza of flower-covered floats, cars carrying Tournament of Roses celebrities, marching bands, and equestrian units. The Rose Bowl Game pits top football teams in “The Granddaddy of Them All,” the oldest post-season collegiate bowl game. They aren’t the only events, though. The days before and after are filled with things to do for people of all ages and abilities. Locals and visitors can attend Bandfest, Equestfest, Decorating Places, Showcase of Floats, and Live on Green.
Pasadena and environs offer great eateries, from In-N-Out Burgers to local breweries to high-end restaurants. Dozens attractions—museums, theme parks, children’s activities, concerts, theater, educational institutions, and landmarks—beckon Pasadenans and visitors alike. Enjoy the Tournament of Roses activities, and catch a little California culture, too.
Whether you watch online, on television, or live in Pasadena, The Rose Examiner will keep you informed. This page will be updated as new articles are added. Subscribe for free by filling out the box at the top of the left column, and be sure to bookmark this page and return to it frequently! You can also follow “All Things Rose Parade” on Facebook.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 2020 Tournament of Roses will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26, 1920 with two floats in the 131st Rose Parade. It’s fitting that Laura Farber is the president this year, only the third woman and the first Latina to hold that position. The Rose Parade will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020 at 8 a.m.
South Pasadena, whose entries date back to 1893, was the first to honor the centennial, with a float designed by Mike Mera. The entry features the hat popular with suffragettes, a boater in purple and decorated with feathers and flowers and a campaign button. It leans against a ballot box, while the scroll of the 19th Amendment sits in front. A large jewel in the purple and green of the movement represents a secret sign women had for others who supported their rights.
Chris Dueñas-Metcalf, social media chair of SPTOR, explained, “Women wore jewelry in certain colors to signal other women that they supported the movement without verbally saying so.” Men controlled the households, communication as well as money, and women’s clothes usually didn’t have pockets, he said. “Jewelry, hats, and clothing were the ‘social media’ of the day…. We specifically chose this theme because Laura (Farber) challenged us three years ago to take on this topic.” Farber lives in South Pasadena.
Pasadena Celebrates 2020 is the brainchild of a recent Pasadena transplant, Nan Johnson. This past January, she sat down with a group of women and men to create a plan to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to enter a float. The organization was formed under the umbrella of the non-profit National Women’s History Alliance. Johnson is a retired Political Science Adjunct Professor from the University of Rochester, New York, founding director of the Susan B. Anthony Center, and President of the American Association of University Women (Rochester).
The entry, which is not affiliated with the City of Pasadena, features a 30-foot Statue of Liberty holding the tablet of the 19th Amendment and wearing a suffrage sash of purple, white, and gold, with banners planted along the float deck. It is designed by John Ramirez and built by AES. Riders will include a “Bouquet of Suffrage Descendants,” those in direct line to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, and Frederick Douglass.
Women who would like to be among the 100 outwalkers, which requires a $1,000 contribution, can apply on the website. In addition to corporate and individual sponsors, people can donate $20.20 for a rose vial with the donor’s or honoree’s name on it. Sponsors and donors include prominent women’s organizations and individuals; they are listed on the website.
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution simply states “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” It gave women across the country full rights to vote, but since 27 of the 48 states—almost all in the West—already had enfranchised women, at least for presidential elections, its major impact was on 21 states that spread down the East Coast and across the South.
The first to grant full rights was Wyoming territory in 1869, though there had been short-lived attempts prior to that. (This map shows the distribution and the dates of enfranchisement.) Now, 25 percent of the Senate is female, with six states being represented by women only. Only five women are from states in which women couldn’t vote for president prior to 1920. The House has 102 women representatives, plus four delegates from US territories and the District of Columbia.
Every new president of the Tournament of Roses is enthusiastic when talking about his or her parade, but it would be hard to beat the outright energy and joy of Laura Farber. Even when presented with concerns about the future““““` from long-time parade fans, she maintained her exuberance.
Farber took the helm of the 2020 Tournament of Roses on Jan. 17. She brings her personal vision to the 131st Rose Parade, 106th Rose Bowl Game, and all the attendant events that draw hundreds of thousands of people to the Pasadena area to share in America’s New Year Celebration. She is enthusiastic about new developments in the celebration, but loves the traditions, as well.
“I think that we have to respect tradition, but balance it with innovation,” she said. “We strive in everything we do” to strike that balance.
To that end, in addition to the longstanding committees, the Tournament now has a social media committee, an innovation team, and the brand new Festival Committee to plan and implement events.
“We want to enhance our demographic,” she said, with events that will “attract my kids.” She noted that television is being replaced by streaming for the younger demos. The Funny or Die live stream of the Rose Parade with Will Farrell and Molly Shannon was very successful, she said. It incorporated live chat to engage watchers.
It won’t be Macy’s
A concern that has often been expressed to The Rose Examiner is that increased emphasis on entertainment may lead to a parade that emulates the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“Have no fear. We will not be Macy’s,” Farber insisted. “Macy’s and the Rose Parade are the most diametrically opposed [parades] I have ever seen.” The Macy’s entertainment is for the cameras, and then the floats come, she said. There is a single broadcaster, who can control every element., whereas the Rose Parade has several broadcasters.
“It’s apples and oranges…. We have no desire to turn into Macy’s.”
“We don’t want the parade of 20 years ago,” she said, but “for traditionalists—we have something for you. It’s your Rose Parade.”
Entertainment or floats?
Something longtime fans will appreciate is how often Farber mentioned florals for floats. “Increase those florals,” she stated several times. Dry materials have distinct uses, but she said, “I’d like to see more floral and less seeds.” She would be “thrilled” to have more floral elements, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be entertainment.
“I do believe in having interactive floats and entertainment. It’s just how it comes together.” She mentioned Earth, Wind and Fire atop the 2018 Forum float, who brought parade-goers to their feet. “They made people happy. People were jumping up and down.” Pauses in the parade for performances are few and are carefully considered, she noted. They are factored into the time frame for the parade, which is two hours on the dot for broadcast.
Speaking of floats…
One event locals and visitors have looked forward to for decades is visiting the float barns during Deco Week, the last few days before the Rose Parade. The floats are in the final stages of flowering at that point, and the volunteers are scurrying around to get finished in time for judging. With no float barns left in Pasadena since Phoenix Decorating company joined the other two commercial builders, Fiesta Parade Floats and AES 15 miles to the east, Deco Week has been scaled down.
For the 2019 parade, AES moved its floats to Rosemont Pavilion, the float barn in the Rose Bowl area, along with Cal Poly Universities and FTD decorated cars. Some viewers expressed disappointment in the limited offerings for the $15 admission price. We asked if having shuttles to the other float barns might help.
Farber said that the Tournament is going to look at shuttles, but can’t make promises. They are also trying to make Rosemont more of an event. This year, AES put on Sip & Savor, a tasting event, next to the barn.
“It’s a good deal, pay for the floats and get admission to Sip & Savor. It was packed, the vendors were happy,” she said. The feedback was good, she said, and there were activities for children, as well. (Sampling tickets were about $2.50 each.)
The Power of Hope
Farber was surprised to learn that the word “hope” had never been used in a Tournament of Roses theme before she chose “The Power of Hope” for the 2020 celebration. It is a word that has deep meaning for her, and runs throughout her life.
Farber’s parents came to the States with her when she was a young girl. They were students in Argentina during the time of the “Dirty War.” There was a lack of stability, she said, and students were the most vocal critics of the military government. Civil rights were abrogated.
“It was not a place where you felt comfortable that you could stay,” she said. One of her parents’ professors knew someone at University of California Santa Barbara, and her family was able to immigrate. Her parents, both biochemists, found a place at UCSB.
“It takes a lot to leave everything and everyone you know,” she said.
Her husband, Tomás Lopez, had similar experiences. His family came to New York from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The US offered hope, opportunity, the ability to make a new life.
“That kind of motivated this theme. It’s a unifying theme at a time when we need to be unified,” she said. The New Year is a “time to turn over a new leaf.” Hope is life, she shared. It’s respect, joy, happiness. It’s inspirational, motivational, and aspirational.
“Nobody can ever take it away. There’s something powerful about it,” she said. “The Power of Hope.”
Telling other stories
Farber was animated when the subject of marching bands came up. There are more bands from Latin America than ever before, an all-female band from Copenhagen that she is excited about, and many first-year bands.
She rattled of some of the names: West Harrison High School, Miss., which was founded after Hurricane Katrina; Southern University, Baton Rouge, La.; the rare band from upstate New York; from Houston, Texas, Pearland High School, which served as a shelter during Hurricane Harvey; units from Greendale, Wis. and Alhambra, Calif.; and a Moreno Valley, Calif. Title I high school.
The Music Committee hosts a music night to show the videos of applicant bands 18 months prior to the parade. The videos present the music and the story that each unit has to tell.
“The quality is off the charts,” Farber said, referencing both the performances and the stories.
Part of the community
Farber is proud that the Tournament of Roses Association is part of the Pasadena community year-round, not just for a few days before and after Jan. 1. Farber reads books to elementary school students and will participate in the Black History and Latino Heritage parades. The Association and Tournament of Roses Foundation support local public schools with money, volunteers, and events.
“The Power of Hope” applies to the game as well, Farber said. The Rose Bowl Game Keith Jackson Postgraduate Scholarship awards $10,000 each to one student from the Big Ten Conference and one student from the Pac-12 Conference. The students do not have to be on the football players. They will shadow the Rose Bowl Game staff and will be presented with their award at Lawry’s Beef Bowl.
The weather report
It’s always sunny for the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game, except when it isn’t. But for the previous 130 parades, it has only rained on 10 parades. There are certain superstitions that go along with that—never have a parade on Sunday, don’t ask a Supreme Court Justice to be the Grand Marshal, and don’t choose a theme with any reference to water—but there seems to be only one person responsible.
“The Executive VP is in charge of weather,” Farber informed us. The Executive Vice President becomes the President for the following year. She told 2019 Pres. Gerald Freeny that she gave him a good parade, and it seems she expects 2021 Pres. Robert Miller to provide lovely weather for hers.
Ultimately, Laura Farber hopes that the 131st Tournament of Roses, with the parade, game, and many events, will bring the “joy and happiness of the New Year. We are ‘America’s New Year Celebration.’”
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.
The person—or persons—who will serve as Grand Marshal for the 130th Rose Parade and toss the coin for the 105th Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2019 will be announced at Tournament House on Wednesday, October 17 at 9 a.m. Pres. Gerald Freeny will do the honors Who will it be?
The theme is “The Melody of Life,” so that’s a clue. The poster and signs feature a saxophone—could that be a clue? Pres. Freeny likes jazz, but also rock and hymnody. Here’s what we wrote after we interviewed him last January:
With such an expansive theme, it’s difficult to make guesses about who the Grand Marshal might be. Freeny said they are working on several. He, his wife Trina, and adult daughter Erica are “praying to get who we really, really want.” They aren’t short on suggestions, though. One was Condoleeza Rice, who is a highly talented pianist as well as having served as both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State for George W. Bush. Even her name is melodious: It’s derived from con dolcezza, a musical term meaning “with sweetness.” LA Phil music director Gustavo Dudamel has been mentioned, but Freeny’s frat brothers in Kappa Alpha Psi are pushing for someone from Motown. He even opined that it could be more than one, as Brad Ratliff had in the 2017 parade.
Our guesses include classical music artists such as Condi Rice or local hero Gustavo Dudamel, Broadway star Audra McDonald, or an entire group from rock, Motown, or other popular music genre. Somehow, however, we just don’t have a handle on where this might go. There are too many genres of music and too many great musicians to make an educated guess.
Let us know yours in the comments! You have to sign in (this is to avoid spam comments), but we never use your information. And don’t forget to watch the announcement, streaming live on Facebook!