Normally around this time of year, the bleachers have already been erected through Pasadena, and hundreds of thousands of people are preparing to camp out on city streets to catch a glimpse of the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day.
It’s a tradition that dates back to 1891, and has only been canceled three times, during World War II. But now the Rose Parade has been put on hold for a fourth time, and plans for this year’s event — including the theme (“Dream. Believe. Achieve.”), royal court and selected floats and bands — have been rolled over to 2022.
In its place, the Tournament of Roses Association has produced a two-hour pre-taped special, “The Rose Parade’s New Year Celebration,” which will air at 8 a.m. New Year’s morning on KTLA in Los Angeles, as well as nationally on the networks that normally air the live parade: ABC, NBC, Univision, Hallmark Channel and RFD-TV.
The association delivered the special in segments, so that each outlet could insert their own hosts as wraparounds. That’s why KTLA’s show will feature its anchors, while NBC’s edition will be hosted by “Today’s” Hoda Kotb and Al Roker, and so on.
“As we worked with our broadcast partners to put the show together we filmed it in a variety of segments that will be pieced together and the broadcasters have the ability to use their discretion in how they want that show to look,” said David Eads, Executive Director/CEO of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses. “Because it was important that each broadcaster have a show original to their network. And then we also had left time for our broadcast partners to insert their talent and gave them time to insert segments that they might want to do. The show was produced in a very flexible manner, what you see on ABC will not probably be exactly what you see on NBC or Univision or KTLA.”
KTLA, which normally airs commercial-free live coverage of the parade, and then repeats it throughout the day, will instead air the special at 8 a.m. with commercials. Then, it will air encores of previous parades throughout the rest of the day, including the 2020 parade at 10 a.m., the 1999 parade at noon and the 2014 parade at 2 p.m. (Those last two feature now-retired hosts Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards.)
Over at NBC, the network has built a set for Roker and Kotb featuring a cascade of flowers designed by Lewis Miller, who’s known for “Flower Flash” installations throughout New York City. The network will also insert its own segments featuring messages supporting the Red Nose Day charity.
Holmes Communications is producing “The Rose Parade’s New Year Celebration” for the Tournament of Roses, while Amy Kule is the executive in charge of production. The special’s segments were taped in a variety of locations around the country, including at the Rose Bowl, and appears to have a focus on country music, featuring performances by Sheryl Crow, Mickey Guyton, Tori Kelly, Lady A, Rascal Flatts and The War and Treaty.
“We did film some segments here in Pasadena, and live performances for the show were shot in Nashville,” Eads said. “You’re going to see musical entertainment that is not typically carried to that degree in the parade. In the parade, we usually have musical entertainment in the opening and closing. Last year we did do a mid-parade number where we had the Broadway cast of ‘Frozen’ perform. But obviously with a television special, it allowed us to include musical acts that would not be available on New Year’s Day at 8 a.m. That’s always one of our challenges that it’s a really early morning and it comes on the end of the holidays and some talent is just not available.”
There will be some flashbacks to floats from past parades, and the show has also worked with the Cal Poly universities in Pomona and San Luis Obispo to give a behind-the-scenes look at how a Rose Parade float is built.
Additionally, past parade grand marshals, including Gary Sinise, Vin Scully, Rita Moreno and Emeril Lagasse, will be featured.
The decision to pivot to the special came after the Tournament of Roses parade was officially canceled in July. But even as early as the spring, organizers started figuring out their contingency plans.
“We started discussing in April and May, about the possibility of having to cancel the parade,” Eads said. “We had marching bands that need to make flight arrangements and hotel arrangements and spend money deposits. Schools typically use the spring to raise money to travel to Pasadena and now kids were at home and so there were no opportunities for schools to raise funds.”
Eads noted that much of the flowers and plants for the floats come out of South America, and need to be ordered at least six months in advance.
“We realized that as we started moving into the summer months we were going have to make a decision,” he said.
The org reached out to the USC Keck School of Medicine and other experts to give them a determination on whether California be in Stage 4 reopening on January 1. It soon became apparent that even with optimistic forecasts, it wouldn’t work.
“That report that we got back in late June said the pandemic will still be active at that time and they did project that there would be a spike in transmissions as we move toward the holidays,” said Eads. “And that’s what really then led to our decision in early July to announce that we were canceling the parade.”
The replacement special is unlike anything the Tournament of Roses has done before. And Eads said the org decided early on that they didn’t want it to just be a retrospective of past events.
“It’s not just gonna be a rehash of old parades with bands and equestrian units and floats, but it really needed to be current and it needed to be fresh,” he said. “And so what viewers will see on New Year’s Day this year will be a focused entertainment special in the spirit of Rose Parade.”
Eads said planning has already started for the 2022 event. “Now with the arrival of a vaccine, our hope is that we will definitely be able to move forward with a live parade,” he said. “It will still probably look a little bit different. But we believe, in talking with health officials at the state level, the county level and here in Pasadena, that we will be able to do a live parade on January 1, 2022.”