History of the Tournament of Roses Association

What began as a small effort by Pasadena’s distinguished Valley Hunt Club to promote the city’s charm and beautiful weather, the Tournament of Roses has since become America’s New Year Celebration. The Rose Parade, celebrating its 126th year in 2015, greets the world on the first day of the year and salutes the community spirit and love of pageantry that have thrived in Pasadena for more than a century.

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 to precede the competition, where entrants would decorate their carriages with hundreds of blooms.

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 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.

More than 80,000 hours of combined manpower is supplied by 935 volunteer members of the Tournament of Roses Association. Each volunteer is assigned to one of 31 committees, with responsibilities ranging from selecting parade participants to directing visitors on New Year’s Day, to serving food to band members at the end of the parade route, to giving presentations about the Tournament to community groups. Nicknamed “White Suiters” because of the distinctive white uniform every volunteer wears, these community-spirited men and women give up their evenings, weekends and holidays to ensure the success of the Parade and Game. A small full-time staff provides support and continuity to the volunteer organization.