Hundreds of girls try out for the 2017 Rose Parade Royal Court. Here are a few.

2016 Rose Princesses Natalie Hernandez-Barber and Donaly Marquez in their Royal Court summer frocks, in between orientation sessions.
2016 Rose Princesses Natalie Hernandez-Barber and Donaly Marquez in their Royal Court summer frocks, in between orientation sessions.

by Laura Berthold Monteros

It’s always a treat to talk to young women who try out for the Tournament of Roses Royal Court. It’s even sweeter to catch up with those who made it and have returned to Tournament House to explain the process to the hopefuls lined up on a warm Saturday morning in September. At the tryouts on Sept. 10, Rose Princesses Natalie Hernandez-Barber and Donaly Marquez from the 2016 Court found a few minutes between the groups of girls they were orienting to speak with us.

We spoke with a dozen young ladies after they had passed through the first round of judging and taken a tour of Tournament House. The photos and a little bit about each one are in the gallery below.

In the year since they sat on the porch listening to Princesses Emily Stoker and Gabrielle Current fill them in, Natalie and Donaly have made more than 100 appearances for the Tournament of Roses, finished high school and entered college, and gained lessons  Continue reading “Hundreds of girls try out for the 2017 Rose Parade Royal Court. Here are a few.”

Tournament of Roses inspires a middle-school mystery filled with suspense and danger

"Tiara on the Terrace" launch party. Photo by Joe Alvarez for Russell Gearhart Photography Author Kristen Kittscher's book launch for her middle-grade novel The Tiara on the Terrace, at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA on Jan. 3, 2016.

Launch party for Tiara on the Terrace at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena in January. Photo by Joe Alvarez for Russell Gearhart Photography.


by Laura Berthold Monteros

Last year, just about Rose Parade time, author Kristen Kittscher came out with the second book in a series about two middle-school girls, Sophie Young and Grace Yang, who with their friend Trista Bottoms solve mysteries in their town of Luna Vista. In this case, the Rose Parade and all the hoopla that surrounds it was the inspiration for The Tiara on the Terrace. The book captures the spirit and the quirks of the Tournament of Roses in Luna Vista’s Winter Sun Festival as the heroines investigate a series of murders.

Kittscher is a Pasadenan who taught middle-school English at Westridge School for Girls for several years, so she not only loves the Rose Parade, some of her students tried out for the Court. Earlier this year, we corresponded by email and Kittscher responded to questions about her book and her experiences. Being an English teacher and a writer, her responses were so well crafted that I am presenting them as a simple Q&A.

Q. The Tiara on the Terrace is very close to the Tournament of Roses, captures its fun and intensity, but you had to reimagine some things and create others.  What was your process in doing this?

A. My process was fairly simple: I knew that the elements of the Tournament I included had to serve the story. Credibility is always a hurdle when 12-year old sleuths are investigating a potential crime: I constantly have to find believable ways to put intrepid Young & Yang at the center of the action and the adults in the background. As a result, I decided to make the “Winter Sun Festival” a smaller town parade that was a shadow of its former self: With national media crawling all over town, it’d be hard to believe they wouldn’t be investigating along with my sleuths! I also decided it would be much more fun to have the mystery play out not only in the float barns, but also the “Ridley” mansion. It also helped me separate the kids from their families—and from pesky technology/cell phones, which are mystery-killers! I also needed to centralize the action to help keep the story tighter, so the float barns are part of the “Ridley Mansion” grounds.

Q. In researching this book, did you go to Tournament of Roses events, such as the tryouts, announcement of the Royal Court, tour of the Tournament House, or talk to folks in the Association?

Continue reading “Tournament of Roses inspires a middle-school mystery filled with suspense and danger”

Playhouse District light installation at Pasadena Presbyterian Church


by Laura Berthold Monteros 


Located at the heart of the city, Pasadena Presbyterian Church is a perfect site for an art installation. As part of the Pasadena Playhouse District public art initiative, sculptors Megan Mueller and Samuel Scharf unveiled “Between Violet and Green” on Friday, Aug. 26. The temporary installation is a display of 360 lights on the front lawn of the church at 585 E. Colorado St. at Madison Avenue. It will remain in place through October.

The idea, Scharf told me, is to reflect the California sunlight by caching the power during the day with solar cells and playing it back at night when the lights come on. The rectangular 5LBMboxes with the lights atop were hand painted in shades of blue, and the color perspective changes as one walks past. The design uses the natural contours of the lawn to draw the eye from the massive bell tower through the rows of lights to the door of the church.

“People were coming up during the work and were very excited,” Scharf said. When the display is dismantled, he said, “The lights will be donated or used for another installation.” The photos show the installation just before and after dusk.

The Playhouse District, centered around the famous Pasadena Playhouse that gave many Hollywood stars their start, is filled with public art displays. Photos and locations can be found on their website,


Brad Ratliff, Tournament of Roses 2017 president, shares the echoes of his success

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Braad Ratliff in his brown Spalding saddleshoes at Tournament House. Photo by LB Monteros.
Brad Ratliff in his brown Spalding saddleshoes at Tournament House. Photo by LB Monteros.

“Local boy makes good” is an old adage that implies a person has made a success of himself.  To Brad Ratliff, Tournament of Roses Association president for the 2016-2017 term, success for an individual includes the people and organizations—echoes—who have aided or inspired him.  His choice of a theme for the 2017 Rose Parade, “Echoes of Success,” celebrates those people who help to form each person.  The Rose Examiner talked with him about those echoes in his life in an interview at Tournament House.

He said that as he rose up the ranks of the Tournament to oversee the 128th Rose Parade and 103 Rose Bowl Game, he knew that his choice of theme would always include success, but “The echoes part came quite circumstantially.”  A UCLA graduate, he “lived and breathed John Wooden,”  the legendary basketball coach.  He quoted Wooden: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

“Wooden’s definition of success makes it unique to everyone,” he said.  “Teachers, nurses, parents, PTA…those are the echoes.”  It was his own mother who inspired the complete phrase.  He and his wife Susan purchased a paving brick to honor his mother as part of the Rose Bowl Legacy campaign. The bricks form a rose on the plaza in front of the stadium.  Her brick is inscribed “Shari Ratliff, Her Life Echoes Success. 1999, 2017.”  As his family discussed and rejected various themes, “Echoes of Success” emerged.  “It pays tribute to Mom,” he said.

The influence of his father, Dick E. Ratliff, who served as Tournament president for the 1999 events, reverberates, too.  The theme the elder Ratliff chose was “Echoes of the Century,” reflecting the closing of the 20th century.  Ratliff shared, “He’s been a great mentor and a good, good friend to me.  I admired him my entire life…. I really want this to be Continue reading “Brad Ratliff, Tournament of Roses 2017 president, shares the echoes of his success”

There is no such thing as the Rose BOWL Parade!

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Western Asset combined the Rose Bowl and the Rose Parade in this 2010 float. It had elements of the stadium and posters from ostrich races to football games in floragraphs around a silver bowl.
Western Asset combined the Rose Bowl and the Rose Parade in this 2010 float with elements of the stadium and posters from ostrich races to football games around a silver bowl.


Sportswriters seem to be the worst offenders. The Tournament of Roses Parade is routinely renamed as “the Rose Bowl Parade.” Maybe that’s because for them, the Rose Bowl Game held in Pasadena is the center of the New Year’s celebration. There’s history to that; The Granddaddy of Them All, as it’s called, was the first post-season football bowl game. But the parade predates the game by 12 years and the sporting event was created to promote the parade, not the other way around.

In other words, there’s a parade and there’s a bowl, but there is no such thing as the Rose Bowl Parade.

The Tournament of Roses Parade was first held on Jan. 1, 1890. The game, then called the East-West Game, was first played on Jan. 1, 1902 between the University of Michigan and Stanford University. When the Rose Bowl Stadium was ready for football in 1923, the game took on the name of the venue.

While it’s also correct, and more common, to refer to the nearly six-mile-long pageant of flowers as the Rose Parade, it is never correct to call it the Rose Bowl Parade.  There simply is no such animal in Pasadena.

The mistake is somewhat understandable.  After all, the Floridian counterpart, the Orange Bowl Game, began in 1935 and the Orange Bowl Parade did not start until 1940.  It was tied to the game, and Continue reading “There is no such thing as the Rose BOWL Parade!”

Never on Sunday for the Tournament of Roses

by Laura Berthold Monteros

The 128th Rose Parade and January-2-2017103rd Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, Calif. will not be held on New Year’s Day in 2017.  Why?  Because it’s a Sunday, and the Tournament of Roses Association just doesn’t do parades on Sundays. Instead, the Tournament of Roses will be held on Monday, Jan. 2 for the 19th time. The “Never on Sunday Rule” may seem like a blue law—an ordinance designed to enforce the religious practice of Sunday as a day of rest—but it actually makes a lot of sense in Pasadena.  Here’s a little history, and some geography to boot.

The tradition began in 1893 for the fourth Rose Parade. This was the first time the parade fell on a Sunday, and the Valley Hunt Club, which ran the parade, realized it might cause some havoc to run a parade along the main drag when a whole lot of people were in church. Colorado Blvd., the longest stretch of the Rose Parade, is lined with churches large and small and has been for well more than a century.

The problem wasn’t the worshipers, though one might suspect that the organizers would have preferred they stand outside and watch the parade and the clergy might have preferred that the parade-goers be in church. Continue reading “Never on Sunday for the Tournament of Roses”

Rose Parade tickets and parking for 2017 Tournament of Roses

Rose phone tixby Laura Berthold Monteros

The theme of the 128th Tournament of Roses Parade is “Echoes of Success,” which could be a reminder that to be successful in getting there, parade-goers should mark their calendars for Monday, Jan. 2, 2017.  Everyone knows that “America’s New Year Celebration” is held on Jan. 1, right?  Usually, but not when the date falls on a Sunday. Nothing to worry about, though, because Sharp Seating Company has the same great seats for sale.

The official grandstand seating provider for the Rose Parade, Sharp sells tickets in person, over the phone at (626) 795-4171, or online for the parade, parking, and other events. The sales office is located at 737 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; enter from the rear parking lot off Meridith Ave.  Grandstand seats and parking are also available beginning in the fall at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, on the northwest corner of Colorado Blvd. and Madison Ave., (626) 793-2191, ext. 353.

Prices at Sharp Seating range from $48 to $95, depending on the location on the route. Seats on the north and west, or “off-camera,” sides of the route are generally less expensive.  Sharp now divides the Rose Parade route into five sections:

  • Area One (between the start on S. Orange Grove and Colorado Blvd. at Fair Oaks), $85-$95. This is the prime location where media are stationed and within walking distance of the Rose Bowl.  Please note that the $85 seats are along the formation area on Orange Grove.  Some of the groups may not be performing in that section, but people seated in the grandstands will see all the entries.
  • Area Two (on Colorado Blvd. between Fair Oaks and Lake Avenues), $68.  Guests may also preorder a pancake breakfast for $8 from First United Methodist Church on the Sharp website.
  • Area Three (on Colorado Blvd. between Lake and Hill Avenues), $58-$68
  • Area Four (on Colorado Blvd. between Hill and Allen Avenues), $50-$68
  • Area Five (on Colorado Blvd. between Allen Ave. and Sierra Madre Blvd.), $50-$68

Portable restrooms for Sharp patrons are located behind the grandstands.  Pasadena Presbyterian offers indoor restrooms and a continental breakfast is included in the price.  Rose Parade programs can be ordered in advance from Sharp Seating, the Pasadena Museum of History gift shop and the Tournament of Roses, or picked up onsite from Pasadena Presbyterian Church and various supermarkets and drugstores in the Pasadena and Altadena area a few weeks before the parade.


Both Sharp Seating and Pasadena Presbyterian Church sell reserved parking, as well as Easy Parking Service (626) 286-7576 and the City of Pasadena (626) 744-6470.  Easy Parking Service provides free shuttles to the Rose Bowl from the parking lot.  Overnight RV parking is also available.  Closer to parade time, some merchants list parking on Craigslist.

Rose Parade event tickets for Bandfest, Equestfest, Decorating Places, Showcase of Floats

Bandfest 2013; copyright Laura B Monteros
Bandfest 2013; copyright Laura B Monteros

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Visitors and Pasadena locals can celebrate the 128th Rose Parade “Echoes of Success” for an entire week. Pre-parade float viewing, field shows featuring the marching bands, an arena show with equestrians, and post-parade float viewing offer something for everyone.  Just remember that the dates are a bit different for the 2017 parade, because the “never on Sunday rule” applies and the Rose Parade will step off on Monday, Jan. 2, 2017.

Sharp Seating Company is the official ticket vendor for these events.  Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone at (626) 795-4171 and in person at 737 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena (enter in the rear parking lot off Meridith Ave.).  Children ages five and under are free at all events except Equestfest VIP seating.  Tickets are also available at the venues, but some events sell out ahead of time.

Decorating Places (pre-parade float viewing) sponsored by Giti Tires, Dec. 28, 2016-Jan. 1, 2017, $5 to $15
Deco Week is second only the Rose Parade in the excitement it generates in Pasadena.  Floats in the final stages of decoration are on view in three locations for visitors to see how thousands of volunteers hustle to get every last seed or flower on the floats in preparation for final judging.  The ticket price depends on the day of attendance, and provides entry to all three locations.  Times vary by day and location; check the website for details. Continue reading “Rose Parade event tickets for Bandfest, Equestfest, Decorating Places, Showcase of Floats”

Marching bands participating the 2017 Rose Parade

LAUSD Honor Band in the 2016 Rose Parde; photo copyright Ramona Monteros
LAUSD Honor Band in the 2016 Rose Parde; photo copyright 2016 Ramona Monteros

by Laura Berthold Monteros

Nineteen marching bands will appear in the 128th Rose Parade on Jan. 2, 2017. The bands are chosen more than a year before the parade, but this year will feature a special last-minute entry. The US Air Force Band, celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2017, has been included at the request of Pres. Brad Ratliff. Two additional units, representing the universities chosen to send teams to the 103rd Rose Bowl Game, will be announced in December.

Volunteers from the Tournament of Roses audition the bands two years in advance of the parade, so the groups have time to raise funds for travel, accommodations, and visits to local attractions, and for foreign units, to secure passports and visas. Pres. Ratliff, who plays trumpet, French horn and ukulele himself, visited each band to issue a formal invitation and sit in with his trumpet.

Selected units must demonstrate outstanding musicianship, marching ability, and entertainment or special interest value. They must also train for the rigorous 5 ½-mile parade and one of the three Bandfest shows in the days preceding the Rose Parade, which can take place in temperatures from 32 degrees to 85 degrees. The process begins with an application and a packet of photos, videos and letters of recommendation. Applications for the 2018 Rose Parade are now available on the Tournament of Roses website.

Continue reading “Marching bands participating the 2017 Rose Parade”

2017 Rose Parade Royal Court tryouts

2016 Royal Court: Sarah Shaklan, Rachelle Liu, Bryce Bakewell, Erika Winter, Regina Pullens, Natalie Hernandez-Barber, Donaly Marquez. c2016LBMonteros
2016 Royal Court: Sarah Shaklan, Rachelle Liu, Bryce Bakewell, Erika Winter, Regina Pullens, Natalie Hernandez-Barber, Donaly Marquez. c2016LBMonteros

by Laura Berthold Monteros

What does it take to be a Rose Princess in the 128th Rose Parade? Former princesses and queens say pretty much the same thing: be confident, be genuine, be yourself. We might add that being involved in community and school service is important, as is a positive attitude.  The Tournament of Roses is looking for seven young women to serve on the 2017 Royal Court and ride down Colorado Blvd. in on Jan. 2.  One of these girls will become the 99th Rose Queen.  Applications are available beginning Aug. 1 on the Royal Court webpage.


The first round of tryouts is held over two days, Saturday, Sept. 10 from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Monday, Sept. 12 from 3 p.m. to 5 Tournament House, 391 S. Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena. Schools are assigned specific time slots, but if an applicant cannot be there at that time, she can come during any of the tryout hours.

Continue reading “2017 Rose Parade Royal Court tryouts”