Pasadena welcomes the new year with millions of flowers

The Rose Parade is a flower-lover's delight.

It snowed all day in Boston, and now it's windy and cold. Wind chills are supposed to dip to -11 F. (-24 C) tonight. So I'm indulging in some positive thinking -- about tomorrow's Tournament of Roses Parade.

Usually I can take or leave televised parades. But I have to say that I never want to miss a minute of the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. There's something about all those flowers that reels me in every time.

I wonder over and over: How do they do that with real flowers? And, how many flowers do you think it took to do that?

The LA Times has a wonderful website that includes an interactive map of the parade's route, a page about the larger-than-life robot that will lead the parade, and photos or illustrations of all 88 parade entries (plus separate sections for the 18 equestrian entries, the 21 marching bands, and the 46 floats -- and don't ask me why that doesn't add up to 88!).

But for people like me who are fascinated by what happens behind the scenes, the best parts of the website are the Flash transformation of one of last year's floats from pickup truck to rocket ship and the details of the creation of a fire-breathing dragon of a float.

Most of the floats are built by professional companies. One of them, Phoenix Decorating Co., has Web cams that allow you to watch the building as it's taking place. They'll have 19 floats in the parade this year, which were worked on by a staggering 16,000 volunteers. They used 20 million flowers total, including 400,000 roses and 550,000 carnations. They're attached to the floats with 8,000 gallons of glue.

I can't wait to see the floats built by Fiesta Parade Floats. They're all appealing, but I love the bulldog, the Roadrunner, and a number of the others.

Interestingly, students on two campuses of Cal Poly get to build a float each year. Their entry in this year's parade is called Seaside Amusements.

It's hard to believe that 2009's Rose Parade will be the 120th. You can guess that things were much simpler in 1889. And imagine if the people who watched those first parades could have seen today's technology.

New this year in Pasadena, to go with the parade and the football game, is Roses on Parade, sorta like Chicago's Cows on Parade. Included are 24  rose sculpture that are six feet tall and painted by local artists.

So on the first day of 2009, after a leisurely breakfast, I know what I'll be doing. Our TV will be tuned to ABC and the over-the-top floral parade of the year. Who cares what the temperature in Boston is? In Pasadena, it will be warm enough for millions of flowers.

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