January 17, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

COVID-19: No Rose Parade for first time in 75 years

Normally on this day, scores of floral-laden floats and marching bands would travel through Pasadena, cheered on by hundreds of thousands of spectators, some of whom braved the cold overnight to secure a prime viewing spot.

But in July, the New Year’s Day procession down Colorado Boulevard was canceled — for the first time in 75 years. It was a decision aimed at protecting public health, one sure to have a far-reaching financial toll on the regional and local economy as the coronavirus rages across Southern California.

The region stands to lose up to $200 million as a result of a sidelined Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game, according to a 2018 study conducted by the Enigma Research Corporation, which estimated event-related spending.

Tournament of Roses officials made the decision to cancel the parade in light of health protocols imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Curtis McKendrick, left, and his father, Robert McKendrick, make their own 2021 Rose Parade along Colorado Boulevard on Friday.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek called the decision extremely disappointing.

“However, we also know that we must act responsibly to protect our community in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tornek said in July. “We look forward to working with the Pasadena Tournament of Roses on their re-imagined New Year celebration, as well as the return of the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2022.”

Los Angeles County is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 14,000 new cases a day and hospitals forced to convert hallways and even gift shops into makeshift COVID wards.

It’s the fourth time since 1891 that the parade has been scrubbed, with the three previous cancellations during the wartime years of 1942, 1943 and 1945.

With the parade suspended, the Tournament of Roses instead offered a two-hour televised special, “The Rose Parade’s New Year Celebration,” which featured musical performances, celebrity appearances, a look back at past parade entries and a peek behind the scenes of how the floats are created.

But local leaders worried about the financial shortfall especially for restaurants and hotels forced to shut down due to the coronavirus. For example, spending related to the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game supported more than 2,000 full-year jobs, the Enigma Research study estimated. Much of that employment was in the lodging, food, retail and entertainment sectors.

The hit to federal, state and local coffers will likely take a hit, too. Parade and game-related spending supported about $38 million in tax revenue, the study found.

Some tried to make the best of the situation.

Shortly after the cancellation was announced, Richard Ur of Bradbury called car clubs across Southern California to organize a cruise along the parade route.

Sultans Car Club of Long Beach decorated their classic cars with roses before parading down Colorado Boulevard.

Sultans Car Club of Long Beach decorated their classic cars with roses before parading down Colorado Boulevard.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The Sultans Car Club in Long Beach, which was part of the New Year’s Day cruise, encouraged participants on its website to socially distance, wear a mask and “bring a rose or two or more.”

“It’s a Rose Parade Cruise,” the web page announced. “A fellow named Dick Ur told us that he had a dream, which consisted of classic cars cruising all along the rose parade route, with at least one rose in— or on every car. Although he does not have a classic car any longer, he has love and passion for classic cars. We would love to make his dream come true!”

A separate group called the People’s Rose Parade also organized a car caravan on the same day to honor the victims of COVID-19 and advocate for healthcare changes.

The night prior, a group of lowriders cruised the route, as they have done for decades.