Twenty Mule Team brings back Death Valley Days with remarkable craftsmanship

Living history: Twenty Mule Team pulls replicas of the iconic Death Valley boron ore wagons down the 2017 Rose Parade route. In the wagons are the family of Pres. Brad Ratliff and people involved in bringing this piece of history to life. Copyright 2017 R. Monteros


by Laura Berthold Monteros

The last time the Twenty Mule Team pulled freight wagons along Colorado Blvd. in the Rose Parade was 1999, when Pres. Dick Ratliff chose the 110-year-old wagons as his personal conveyance. They were back on Jan. 2, 2017 for the 128th Tournament of Roses Parade at the request of Pres. Brad Ratliff, Dick’s son, in an illustration of his theme “Echoes of Success.” He and his family filled two wagons, this time brand-new replicas of the original 1882 lorries that hauled 10 tons of borax each. The Ratliff family was a light load by comparison, so the wagons had to be weighted with huge water tanks.

“Mules need the weight to pull,” Preston Chiaro, president of the Death Valley Conservancy (DVC),  said adding that the weight also helps with braking. Plywood platforms and hay bales were included so the riders could stand and wave to the crowd.

The third appearance of the team was also an echo of its first Rose Parade appearance a century ago, when it also appeared in the inauguration parade of Pres. Woodrow Wilson. The wagons were decorated for the parade by FTD floral designers J. Keith White, AIFD CFD and Peter Samek, AIFD. White told The Rose Examiner during Deco Week that he wasn’t sure how he would flower what seem like gigantic wooden bins, but the photos show that they did an excellent job of nesting white and red roses in green garlands, with white tulips, carnations, baby breath, and other flowers as accents.

Be sure to check out the gallery below for photos and more information in the captions.

The commission to build the wagons came in January, 2016, and was given to Dave Engel, owner of Engel’s Coach Shop in Joliet, Mont. The shop builds and restores equine-drawn conveyances from sleds to broughams to Yellowstone coaches. He started on this project Continue reading “Twenty Mule Team brings back Death Valley Days with remarkable craftsmanship”

128th Tournament of Roses Parade Order of March

by Laura Berthold Monteros

The 128th Rose Parade takes place on Monday, Jan. 2, 2017 in Pasadena, Calif. and features spectacular marching bands, costumed equestrians, and of course, flower-covered floats. There are nearly 100 entries for the 2017 parade.

The Order of March is a bit unusual. The Tournament of Roses President, Brad Ratliff, appears rather late in the parade at No. 65, just ahead of his hometown float, La Cañada Flintridge. Like 2014 Pres. Scott Jenkins, he’ll be in a wagon pulled by equines. Speaking of equines, it is rare for two equestrian units to be placed back-to-back in the Rose Parade, but the Union Rescue Mission and Philippine Scouts are this year at Nos. 77 and 78. The LAUSD All District High School Honor Band is paired with the National Hockey League float, probably hoping for another Stanley Cup win by the LA Kings.

Tournament block:

Entries No. 33 through 48 all have a strong Tournament of Roses connection and lots of star power. It’s the largest block of Tournament-related entries we’ve seen. The City of Los Angeles float, which is the longest-standing Rose Parade float entry, drums up interest in hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics. It’s followed by the three Grand Marshals, all award-winning Olympians, and includes the 2018 Queen and Court, 2017 Rose Bowl Game Hall of Fame inductees, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, Rose Parade founders Valley Hunt Club, and retiring Tournament of Roses Executive Director/CEO William B. Flinn. Flinn, the conductor of The Salvation Army’s Pasadena Tabernacle Band, is followed by The Salvation Army Tournament of Roses Band, one of three bands guaranteed a Rose Parade slot. Floats are presenting sponsors Miracle-Gro (post-parade Showcase of Floats) and Northwestern Mutual (Rose Bowl Game), and the two Rose Bowl Game teams. The PCC Herald Trumpets and Tournament of Roses Honor Band, and the two Rose Bowl university bands provide music.

Order of March

Continue reading “128th Tournament of Roses Parade Order of March”

Tournament of Roses Pres. Brad Ratliff will ride with the Borax 20 Mule Team in the 2017 Rose Parade

by Laura Berthold Monteros

And we thought we were up on things….

Google Alerts sent a notice of an article from 23ABC News in Bakersfield, Calif. about the Twenty Mule Team outfit from US Borax being in the Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 2, 2017. What? It’s not listed with the equestrian units. We searched the media guide, and Foxit Reader did not find the team (not the first time it’s missed something). We emailed Tournament of Roses public relations, and to our chagrin, were informed that the 20 mules will be pulling Pres. Brad Ratliff and his family. And there it was, in the “Tournament Entries” section.

For those who remember the Borax TV commercials or the television series Death Valley Days, the team and wagons hold special significance. For those who don’t, here’s a little trivia. The TV series ran from 1952 to 1970 and was based on an earlier radio program. Scripts for the anthology series were adaptations of true stories of Death Valley in California, the lowest elevation in the United States. It was sponsored by Pacific Coast Borax Company with its brands 20 Mule Team Borax and Boraxo, and hosted at various stages by The Old Ranger Stanley Andrews, Ronald Continue reading “Tournament of Roses Pres. Brad Ratliff will ride with the Borax 20 Mule Team in the 2017 Rose Parade”

A joyful coronation of the 99th Tournament of Roses Queen Victoria Castellanos

The 2017 Tournament of Roses Royal Court: Princesses Shannon, Natalie, and Maya; Queen Victoria; Princesses Audrey, Autumn, and Emi. c.2016 LB Monteros
The 2017 Tournament of Roses Royal Court: Princesses Shannon, Natalie, and Maya; Queen Victoria; Princesses Audrey, Autumn, and Emi. c.2016 LB Monteros

by Laura Berthold Monteros

There could hardly be a Rose Queen with a more expressive face than Tori Castellanos. The shock and tears when her name was read as 99th Tournament of Roses Queen on Thursday evening, the huge smile when the she received the crown and roses, the seriousness displayed as she repeated the Queen’s Oath were spontaneous and heartfelt. That ability to quickly switch between joy and seriousness, to show her emotions on her face, is quite charming. With family, friends, schoolmates and teachers on hand to cheer, the celebration was truly a joyous event. Here’s how it happened.

Back to the beginning

An air of excitement and anticipation rippled over the patio on Oct. 20 as people waited for the doors of the historic Pasadena Playhouse to open for the announcement and coronation of the young woman who will reign over the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 2, 2017. The seven members of the Royal Court were escorted down the red carpet into the auditorium by white-suited members of the Queen & Court Committee. And then, the doors swung open. Let’s enter that door as if we didn’t know yet that Victoria “Tori” Cecilia Castellanos received the Mikimoto pearl crown.

Be sure to check out the photo gallery at the end of this article. It tells a lot of the story, and at the end, just for fun, there are a few shots of Tori in performances with Temple City High School.

Continue reading “A joyful coronation of the 99th Tournament of Roses Queen Victoria Castellanos”

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”