It was the Rose Parade in Pasadena in 1984, and my Dad came up with the perfect theme.
Posted in , Dec 27, 2019
I grew up in Pasadena, and we never did much on New Year’s Eve because what really mattered was what happened on New Year’s Day. The Rose Parade. The Rose Bowl. The great annual celebration. I was even in the parade once.
We all still call it Dad’s parade. That year—gosh, it seems like yesterday but it was back in 1984. Dad grew up in Pasadena, too, and like his dad, he was part of the volunteer organization, the Tournament of Roses, that runs the parade and game.
As a kid I remember going with him as he checked out the floats that were being built, seeing where the driver would sit underneath all those flowers, making sure they would be safe.
Sometimes he walked along the parade route, in his obligatory white suit, accompanying a rose-bedecked float or a marching band or an equestrian unit. One year he drove one of the grand marshals, Buzz Aldrin. Everybody was yelling at Buzz. We were yelling at Dad.
Then in 1984, or at least leading up to 1984, he was given the extraordinary honor of heading up the Tournament of Roses, serving as president. That year he and Mom led the parade in a horse-drawn buggy that looked just like the rose-bedecked one his grandfather had traveled in back in, well, 1900.
We kids and our spouses followed behind in a pair of vintage convertibles. For five and a half miles we waved in joy to the crowd. My wife, Carol, when she saw us later on TV said we looked like a centipede turned upside down, our hands like wiggling legs waving.
One of Dad’s biggest challenges that year was to come up with a theme. Every year the parade and game have a theme. He went back and forth, asking for our input, trying to come up with just the right words. Something that would communicate what he believed. Something that everybody along that parade route could get behind.
He did it in one word. Rejoice. “Rejoice” said the banner that led the parade. “Rejoice” said the programs people clutched in their hands. “Rejoice” was what the flowers all said. “Rejoice” was his perfect message. “Rejoice” he called out to the people along the parade and at the Rose Bowl.
We all rejoiced along with Dad. In fact, at the end of the day, I don’t think I had ever smiled more or waved more or shouted more. I rejoiced.
I still do. Every time I see the parade, live or on TV. Dad has passed on but back home in Pasadena, we still take out that old banner that says “Rejoice” and hang it over Mom’s garage. It’s a message for all eternity.