American Honda and the Tournament of Roses: Still Blooming After 56 Years

In 1959, American Honda was established in a storefront on Pico Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles.  Two years later, looking for ways to become part of American society and the local community, the fledgling company agreed to partner with the Tournament of Roses for the 1962 Rose Parade, supplying two-wheel vehicles for Parade operations.  It was from these humble beginnings that a long and successful partnership was born.

“The relationship between Honda and the Tournament of Roses has grown organically over the years,” said Steve Morikawa, vice president, Corporate Relations & Social Responsibility for American Honda.  “But at its heart, our participation has always been about wishing families a happy new year.”

1971 Tournament of Roses volunteer members on official Honda scooters.

1971 Tournament of Roses volunteer members on official Honda scooters.

What started as two-wheeled vehicles has grown many times over.  Though the years, many Honda products have been called into service on New Year’s Day, including generators, automobiles and scooters.   Honda became the official vehicle in 1994, providing automobiles and vans for official Tournament transportation needs, as well as all the now-ubiquitous motor scooters used by white-suited Tournament volunteers.  Honda’s multipurpose utility vehicle, Big Red, made its Rose Parade debut in 2010.

As the Parade has grown and evolved, so has the relationship with Honda.  The company became the first-ever presenting sponsor of the Rose Parade in 2011 (the only company to ever hold this distinction), and the sponsor of the opening show extravaganza in 2015.

2015 Honda Opening Show

2015 Honda Opening Show

Honda has also been a float participant for 40 years, bringing its “Challenging Spirit” to the Parade by entering floats that are innovative and unique, a philosophy that has led to some spectacular sights on New Year’s Day, including a 207-foot- long train laden with fireworks; a working roller-coaster; and a 50 foot-tall humanoid robot, to name just a few.

As the presenting sponsor, Honda’s float introduces the Parade theme and is no longer part of the judging process, but prior to 2011, Honda’s entries were award-winners, earning 15 trophies between 1995 and 2010.

Honda and the Tournament of Roses also employ Honda’s innovative environmental technologies to help the Parade function more efficiently and reduce its carbon footprint.  For the past seven years, Honda’s float has been propelled by a specially configured hybrid, low-emission engine to help the float function more efficiently and reduce its carbon footprint. And, the parade theme banner is also powered by a low emission Honda hybrid engine.

Honda and the Tournament of Roses have worked side-by-side for more than 50 years to bring entertainment and tradition to people around the world and to enhance the Southern California communities in which we all work and live.  The Tournament of Roses is proud to have Honda as a partner in America’s New Year Celebration.

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2016 American Honda “Nature’s Hope”

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2016 Rose Queen Visits Macon Cherry Blossom Festival

In April, 2016 Rose Queen Erika Winter and Executive Committee Vice President Ed Morales traveled to Macon, Georgia for the Macon Cherry Blossom Festival.

“The Macon Cherry Blossom Festival was my first trip out of state as Rose Queen, and I couldn’t imagine a better place to start,” said Erika Winter. “I had such a wonderful time visiting historical landmarks like the Hay House, and learning about the city of Macon. My favorite part of my visit was meeting the Cherry Blossom court. The girls were so sweet, welcoming, and a perfect representation of Macon.”

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The Executive Committee Officers and Vice Presidents of the Tournament of Roses Association travel to visit other festivals around the country each year with the sole purpose of improving on our own parade and ancillary events.

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In July, Queen Erika will travel with Executive Committee Vice President Laura Farber to the Minneapolis Aquatennial festival in Minnesota to celebrate the cities famous lakes, rivers, and streams.

Other Festivals visits include:

  • Fiesta San Antonio Festival (San Antonio, Texas in April)
  • 500 Festival (Indianapolis, Indiana in May)
  • Kentucky Derby Festival (Louisville, Kentucky in May)
  • Calgary Stampede (Calgary, Alberta, Canada in July)
  • Aquatennial (Minneapolis, Minnesota in July)
  • International Festival and Events Association’s Convention and Expo (Tucson, Arizona in September)
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (New York, New York in November)

In turn, the Tournament invites other festival organizers to visit our America’s New Year Celebration thus allowing them to learn as well from the events and operations put on by the Tournament of Roses.

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Flowers, Floats and Adventure Found at Decorating Places presented by Giti Tire

In the days leading up to America’s New Year Celebration®, Rose Parade® participants log countless hours in last-minute preparations. While marching bands review sheet music and equestrian units polish their tack, thousands of volunteers from the greater Pasadena-area work around the clock decorating floats.


From the concept sketch to the final product, hundreds of people collaborate to produce the floral masterpieces that make the 5 ½ mile journey down Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Day.

In the early years of the Rose Parade, horse drawn buggies and wagons were adorned with flowers from neighbors’ yards. Over the years, as the landscape of the Rose Parade shifted from wagons to floats, so did the decorating techniques and overall creativity. Today, Rose Parade floats feature state-of-the-art sound, animatronics and flowers from around the world.

1891 "Float" Entry

1891 “Float” Entry

Despite advances in technology, all floats must be completely covered in natural materials. In order to do so, float builders welcome hundreds of volunteers throughout the month of December to affix seeds, shrubs and of course, flowers.


Curious about the float decorating process and materials used? Stop by Decorating Places for a behind-the-scenes look!

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An Adventure – and Internship – of a Lifetime

In addition to the 935 Tournament of Roses® volunteer members who contribute upwards of 80,000 hours of manpower, one dedicated group of students from Pasadena City College annually works alongside white suiters to produce America’s New Year Celebration®.

Each year, select members of PCC’s Alpha Gamma Sigma Honor Society join the Tournament of Roses family as PCC Interns. Assigned to one of the Tournament’s 31 operating committees, PCC Interns work closely with the Tournament’s volunteer members and gain valuable experiences and unforgettable memories.

2015 PCC Intern Orientation photo

Members of the 2014-2015 PCC Intern Class attend a welcome reception at Tournament House before beginning work with their committees.

Lydia Wang, a PCC Intern since fall 2013, spent the 2015 Rose Parade® season working with the Alumni/ Social Media Committee taking photos used for the Tournament of Roses social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“I always feel so accomplished to see the photos I took at events actually get posted and shared on the Tournament’s official pages,” she said. “It is also so much fun to work with the committee members and the other interns!”

With more than 700,000 spectators lining the streets of Pasadena for the Rose Parade and approximately 90,000 that fill the Rose Bowl Stadium for the Rose Bowl Game®, PCC interns interact with a lot of people.

“When I volunteered for the 100th Rose Bowl Game Tailgate, a couple interns and I met Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple!


After getting permission to take a photo with him on her phone, Tim Cook smiled at Lydia and then said “nice phone” when he saw her hold out her iPhone 5.

“While it’s nice to meet a celebrity at one of the events, it is not the only the purpose of volunteering for the Tournament of Roses. We (interns) can have a lot of fun but certain assignments can be challenging. I have a lot of good memories from volunteering and had so much fun on New Year’s Day!  It’s truly a wonderful and one-of-a-kind experience.”

For more information on the PCC Intern Program, visit our website!

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A Taste of Japan

Toho High School Dragon Band Welcomes Tournament of Roses® President and First Lady with Sights, Sounds and Delicious Cuisine

Last month, Tournament of Roses 2016 President Mike Matthiessen and First Lady Ann traveled to Japan to welcome the Toho High School Dragon Band to the 2016 Rose Parade®. Check out Ann’s recollection of their Japanese adventure below:

“Our trip to Japan was a whirlwind of activities and unforgettable moments! In between sightseeing and spending time with the Toho High School Wind Ensemble, we enjoyed a variety of delicious Japanese cuisine (including eel) under the guidance of our host Mr. Kumagai, the Executive Director of the Green Band (and well-known food blogger). But as always, our favorite part of any band trip, is visiting the band and meeting the students.


We visited many Japanese temples, shrines, and castles in the cities of Nara, Kyoto, and Nagoya. My personal favorite was the beautiful Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) in Kyoto.

The members of the Toho High School Wind Ensemble delighted us with a performance at their high school in Nagoya.  Following their performance, Mike presented the Tournament of Roses flag while their proud parents looked on. Just when we thought the performances were over, we discovered that they had a big surprise in store for us – an original song written just for their trip to Pasadena!


Mike and I were very moved by the beautiful lyrics of the song called “In the Name of Love.”  Following the performance, we greeted students and parents in the cafeteria while signing 2016 Rose Parade posters.  Throughout the trip many pictures were taken, memories made and new friendships formed.  Arigato (thank you), Toho High School, for an amazing adventure.


While serious and focused throughout their performance, members of the Toho High School Dragon Band were all smiles while getting their posters signed by President Matthiessen.

While serious and focused throughout their performance, members of the Toho High School Dragon Band were all smiles while getting their posters signed by President Matthiessen.

With only six months until America’s New Year Celebration®, Mike and Ann will spend the summer visiting participating marching bands in the 2016 Rose Parade. Which Adventure is next for the president and first lady? Stay tuned to find out!

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Horse Power – High-stepping Down Colorado Boulevard

Since the first Rose Parade® in 1890, horses have played a special role in America’s New Year Celebration®. From pulling flower-covered carriages to providing “horse power” for the first floats, the role of equestrian units has evolved over time. Despite the advent of motorized vehicles and technology, today’s highly trained equestrian units remain an integral component of the Rose Parade line-up.

Carefully selected each year, equestrian units highlight a variety of horse breeds, skilled riders (sporting eye-catching costumes) and hand-crafted tack to add to the entertainment value of the Rose Parade and the annual Equestfest. While traditional equestrian units in the Tournament of Roses® history were comprised primarily of horses, the 2015 Rose Parade equestrian roster included a unique entry made up entirely of mules!

The United States Forest Service celebrates wilderness management mules as an equestrian unit in the 2015 Rose Parade presented by Honda on January 1, 2015.

The United States Forest Service celebrates wilderness management mules as an equestrian unit in the 2015 Rose Parade presented by Honda on January 1, 2015.

The United States Forest Service equestrian unit featured 23 Sorrel mules with three pack strings. These pack strings represented the Forest Service history, the important role that pack stock play in supporting wildland firefighters and the 50th anniversary of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

From 1905-1950, the Forest Service used mules for wilderness management and trail construction before being replaced by technology. On January 1st this year, the United States Forest Service equestrian unit celebrated the return of its mules to wilderness management. The mules that appeared in the 2015 Rose Parade were all working mules who returned to work in the wilderness following their trek down Colorado Boulevard.

What equestrian units will you see in the 2016 Rose Parade? The deadline for equestrian units to apply is May 31, 2015. For more information, please visit our website.

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A Guatemalan Adventure: Tournament of Roses® welcomes Latin Band Pedro Molina to 2016 Rose Parade®

One of the many responsibilities and privileges of the Tournament of Roses President is to personally invite and welcome each participating band to the upcoming Rose Parade. While some bands trips only require a short drive from Tournament House in Pasadena, others require international flights and translators.

Last week, following their band visit to Saratoga High School in California, Tournament of Roses 2016 President Mike Matthiessen and First Lady, Ann set off on an adventure to Guatemala to do just that. Check out Ann’s recollection of their Guatemalan adventure below–

“Our band trip to Guatemala to meet the Latin Band Pedro Molina was absolutely amazing!  We were thrilled to have fellow Tournament member Ernie Cardenas and his wife Isabel along with us to help translate as the highlight of all of our band trips has been meeting the bands and getting to know the students and band directors.

Mike presented the Tournament of Roses’ flag to the band in the plaza in front of the National Palace, where many Guatemalan bands had gathered and performed throughout the day.  Following the presentation, we toured the National Palace and then headed off to the band’s hometown of Coatepeque.

Mirroring the Rose Parade and its popular ancillary event, Bandfest, the city of Coatepeque hosted a festival which included a parade (that we all got to ride in!) and their own Bandfest, where Mike received the key to the city.  (My favorite part of the parade was seeing all the students of Coatepeque lined up along the parade route in the school uniforms.)

Latin Band Pedro Molina’s performances were lively, exciting and colorful, and the band members loved meeting "Mr. Mike" and taking selfies with him!

Latin Band Pedro Molina’s performances were lively, exciting and colorful, and the band members loved meeting “Mr. Mike” and taking selfies with him!

We were kept very busy during our stay.  Mike had many media interviews, including appearing on the morning talk show, Nuestro Mundo and meeting government officials, including the governor of Guatemala City.

On our final day, we had the privilege of touring the Mayan Ruins at Takalik Abaj Archaeological Park.  The ruins are actually considered a “national park” and we had a fabulous tour with their “ranger.” We ended our visit with a lively game of miniature golf with the band directors, Edwin and Jimmy.  As we drove back to Guatemala City, we were treated to the beautiful scenery of Guatemala which varies from tropical jungles, forests, and volcanoes.  Our Guatemalan adventure was one that we will never forget!”

Mike and Ann’s band adventures will continue throughout the year as they travel around the world to meet each marching band participating in the 2016 Rose Parade. Who will they visit next? Stay tuned to find out!

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