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Tournament of Roses History


Rose Parade


This event began as a promotional effort by Pasadena's distinguished Valley Hunt Club. In the winter of 1890, the club members brainstormed ways to promote the "Mediterranean of the West." They invited their former East Coast neighbors to a mid-winter holiday, where they could watch games such as chariot races, jousting, foot races, 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 New York, people are buried in snow," announced Professor Charles F. Holder at a Club meeting. "Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise."

During the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands and motorized floats. The games on the town lot (which was re-named Tournament Park in 1900) included ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations and a race between a camel and an elephant (the elephant won). Reviewing stands were built along the Parade route, and Eastern newspapers began to take notice of the event. In 1895, the Tournament of Roses Association was formed to take charge of the festival, which had grown too large for the Valley Hunt Club to handle.

The Tournament of Roses has come a long way since its early days. The Rose Parade’s elaborate floats now feature high-tech computerized animation and exotic natural materials from around the world. Although a few floats are still built exclusively by volunteers from their sponsoring communities, most are built by professional float building companies and take nearly a year to construct. The year-long effort pays off on New Year’s morning, when millions of viewers around the world enjoy the Rose Parade.

In 1983, the Association created the Tournament of Roses Foundation, a non-profit corporation, to receive contributions from members, friends, supporters and the general public. The Foundation makes annual grants to non-profit organizations in Pasadena area communities by funding sports and recreation, visual and performing arts, and volunteer motivation and leadership development projects and programs. These broad categories allow the Foundation to contribute to the civic, cultural and educational advancement of Pasadena area communities. To date, the Tournament of Roses Foundation has given a total of over $2.5 million to more than 170 organizations.


Rose Bowl Game


The first Tournament of Roses football game, which was the first post-season football game in the nation, was staged at Tournament Park on January 1, 1902. The game matched the West Coast’s Stanford against Midwestern Michigan. (The teams would later become members of today’s Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences, respectively.) Michigan routed Stanford, 49-0, prompting the football contest to be replaced with Roman-style chariot races inspired by the literary classic Ben-Hur. Football was permanently reinstated as part of the Tournament’s traditions in 1916.

The exclusive agreement among the Tournament of Roses Association, the Big Ten Conference and the Pac-12 Conference was born in 1946, and the first game played under the agreement took place on January 1, 1947. The pact is the oldest intercollegiate postseason bowl agreement between two major conferences in the United States.

This collegiate classic has been the occasion of many firsts. The Rose Bowl Game was the occasion of first local radio broadcast of an East-West bowl game in 1926, the first transcontinental radio broadcast of a sporting event in 1927, the first local telecast of a college football game in 1948, the first national telecast of a college football game in 1952 and the first coast-to-coast color telecast of a collegiate football game in 1962.


Tournament House


Tournament House is the official headquarters of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, its staff and the 935 volunteers who work year-round to organize the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game.

The house was designed and built in 1906 by architect G. Lawrence Stimson and his father, prominent builder George W. Stimson, as the family’s residence. Constructed of concrete and steel, the home took eight years to complete and by then, most of the Stimson children had grown and moved away. Mr. and Mrs. Stimson found the house too large for their needs and in 1914 sold the home to chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. for $170,000. A year later, Wrigley paid $25,000 for the adjoining property, clearing the way for an arbor and breathtaking gardens.

In its time, the Wrigley’s residence was considered among the more modest homes on “Millionaire’s Row.” But of their six homes across the country, the Pasadena getaway was Mrs. Wrigley’s favorite. She delighted in watching the parade from her own front yard.

The elegant Italian Renaissance-style mansion and surrounding grounds were presented to the city of Pasadena in 1958 by the Wrigley family for the exclusive use of the Tournament of Roses Association. New offices attached to the rear of the main house were added in 1960 and the home was restored to its full grandeur in a renovation project completed in 2002.

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