Tournament of Roses Parade
January · 1 · 2001
On New Years Day 2001, CLAFMA participated with the California State Firefighters Association in Pasadena's annual Tournament of Roses Parade and festivities leading up to it.
he following was adapted from Jim Page's "Burning Issues" column in the March 2001 of FireRescue Magazine:
The Tournament of Roses parade and the Rose Bowl game are always held on New Years Day and, for some reason or other, the weather in Southern California is almost always perfect on the first day of the year. On January 1, 2001, I was one of seven guys in period costumes pushing and pulling an antique hand pumper (circa 1853) along the 4.6 mile parade route. As usual, the air was clear and dry, and the temperature was in the mid-seventies.
If you saw this year's parade on NBC, you missed us. The director cut to Al Roker for a weather report and commercial break just as we pushed our rig past the cameras. That's okay. There were several hundred thousand people cheering us on.
I was participating with the County of Los Angeles Fire Museum Association. We'd been invited to join the California State Firefighters Association (CSFA) "Steamer Team" as part of a five-unit display of fire service history. In addition to our hand pumper, there was a hand-drawn hose cart and three horse-drawn rigs – the CSFA steamer, a San Bernardino hose wagon, and a Fresno ladder truck. The matched black Percherons and the white Shire draft horses were a show all by themselves, but they sure left a mess in the street.
In show business they say you should never appear with dogs or kids because they'll always upstage you. Dave Hubert, owner and operator of the CSFA steamer, walked the parade with his well-trained Dalmatian, "Blaze." She charmed the crowds and the TV cameras, and mooched a few snacks along the way.
Every entry in the Rose Parade must be decorated with flowers. The night before the parade we received buckets of flowers left over from the float builders. A bunch of hairy-chested firefighters got busy and demonstrated previously unknown talents as they fashioned wreaths and garlands for our old rig. Finally, they hung four buckets of red and white long-stemmed carnations and roses from the handrails. Along the parade route, we took turns jogging to the edge of the crowd to hand long-stem flowers to pretty little girls or little old ladies in wheelchairs. The crowds roared with approval.
The last half-mile after the end of the parade was tough. It was uphill and there were no crowds to cheer us on. But, amazingly, on January 2nd, when I awoke and took stock of the bodily damage, the only thing that hurt was my jaws. From the start of the parade to the finish, I had been grinning from ear to ear.
rom 1973 to 1983 I lived and worked on the east coast. I went to a lot of small town parades and saw a lot of firefighters showing off their finest uniforms and equipment. I always felt a surge of pride when the bystanders clapped and cheered for their firefighters, but I never really understood the attraction until January 1, 2001.
On New Year's Day we were preceded and followed by magnificent floats that each cost a hundred thousand dollars or more. We could see and hear the public's reaction, which was polite and appreciative. But that was no match for the cheers we received. The crowd was comprised of locals, college football fans from Washington and Indiana, and "snowbirds" who flock to Pasadena each year for the parade and the weather. Viewed from the center of Colorado Boulevard, they were a sea of faces, twenty deep on the sidewalks and sloping upward as high as thirty feet in temporary grandstands.
Reflecting the changing population of the region, the faces in the crowd were diverse. Many of those faces were born elsewhere and immigrated to America. Their native cultures had nothing to match the American love affair with the fire service. Still, they smiled broadly and clapped and cheered as our display of firefighting antiquity rolled by.
I'll never again look at a parade without recalling the 2001 Rose Parade. My colleagues and I got to interact face-to-face with nearly a million people. It was great fun and I felt honored to have the opportunity to represent the fire service in the granddaddy of all parades.
CLAFMA delegation ready to enter parade route on New Years morning. Left to right: Jim Page, Paul Oyler, Jerry Kramer (Orange County Fire Authority), Jordan Pearl, Ron Ripley, Joe Woyjeck, and Gil Garcia.