In the winter of 1890 - just 125 years ago - the Valley Hunt Club of Pasadena was brainstorming ways to promote their city as the "Mediterranean of the West." They invited their East Coast neighbors to a mid-winter holiday festival, where they could watch games such as chariot races, footraces, polo, and tug-of-war, under the warm California sun.
The abundance of fresh flowers, even in the midst of winter, prompted the club to add another showcase for Pasadena's charm: A parade would precede the competition, where entrants would decorate their carriages with hundreds of blooms. The Tournament of Roses was born. In the first year, there were 2,000 people there to witness it.
During the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands and motorized floats. In 1895, the Tournament of Roses Association was formed because the event had outgrown the Valley Hunt Club. In 1900, the games included ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations, and a race between a camel and an elephant (the elephant won). Spectator stands were built along the parade route and eastern U.S. newspapers began to take notice of the event. Remember, this was all before the advent of television, college football, or bowl games.
Today's parade is seen at the parade site by 700,000 people and on television by millions worldwide. It has become a New Year's tradition unlike any other. This year's parade will feature 41 floats that are quite elaborate compared to floats from the early years, with high-tech animation and exotic materials - much more than just roses. Although a few floats are built by volunteers from their sponsoring communities, most are built by professional float-building companies and take up to a year to construct. That too has become a big business.
So what does this have to do with Paragon and me? This year, Paragon Steel is a sponsor of the Donate Life float, which will be one of the 41 floats riding along Colorado Boulevard. There will be a floragraph of the young man who saved my life through his decision to be an organ donor. The Tournament of Roses has honored me and asked if I would ride on the float this year, which I'm happy to do. So if you have the chance to see the parade this year (set your DVR!), look for the Donate Life float and look for me. Paragon is proud to be a part of the festivities!
Follow Jim Stavis Speaks on Facebook, where you'll be able to see the progress of the float and Jim's journey to the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 2016.