Rose Parade expects bigger crowds after post-pandemic slump

When the Rose Parade returned in 2022 after a historic hiatus amid the pandemic, things felt different.

Even though marching bands, high-stepping horses, and enormous flower displays once again roamed the streets of Pasadena, ticket sales fell dramatically and spectators were noticeably fewer. Last year, with the threat of COVID-19 even lower, the crowds along the 5½-mile parade route still weren’t what Tournament of Roses organizers had hoped to see.

This third year could be crucial: Will the 135-year-old event once again boast the crowds it once did, more than 700,000?

Officials hope the answer is yes and are counting on a promising forecast, a competitive soccer game and exciting music programming to draw people in.

“We’re hoping to have a good crowd for the parade and the game itself,” David Eads, executive director of the Tournament of Roses, said this week. “The 2020 parade was really the last normal parade before the pandemic. …We hope that our crowds [this year] They are as big as 2020.”

Now that the nation is finally free of the pandemic public health emergency, much of the events world has returned to normal operations. Organizers hope the 2024 parade will generate the same kind of enthusiasm as other in-person venues, such as theme parks, which have reported a strong return after the shutdown, and concerts and festivals, which have seen record sales in the last year.

“I think people really want to get together again and celebrate the new year in this special way,” Eads said. “We feel good that the crowd will be strong again this year.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the Tournament of Roses in 2021, in-person parade attendance has continued to decline, with officials citing countless reasons.

Last year, the parade took place on Jan. 2 due to the tournament’s “never on Sunday” rule, which Eads said often reduces attendance. Observers noted that it was a quieter event than in previous years, although still busier than in 2022.

“Attendance is not what it was before COVID, but every year since then it has increased,” said Sindee Riboli, president and general manager of Sharp Seating Co., which sells parade grandstand seats and event tickets. tournament specials. like Floatfest and Bandfest.

Floats, marching bands and riders head down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena during the 2023 Rose Parade

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Eads says this year has a lot to offer: The weather looks good, the Michigan and Alabama football teams have well-traveled fan bases, and the parade’s “Celebrating a World of Music” theme and expanded performances have great appeal. attractive. The College Football Playoff semifinal game is sold out and resale tickets are topping price charts.

Riboli typically sells parade grandstand tickets to about 10% of attendees. That number usually exceeds 100,000, Eads said, adding that there isn’t room for much more than 1 million people along the route.

In a normal year, Riboli said, grandstand seats are built and sold to about 75,000 people. While crowds have returned since the pandemic pause, only about 55,000 seats are being prepared this year, he said Thursday.

Tickets will remain on sale until the morning of Jan. 1 and the company will accept last-minute purchases, Riboli said.

“Every year we go north,” he said of the number of people. “We still have tickets if people want them, and we’re doing well. We are very busy. All the phones ring; “All the people come to our counter.”

A Marine Corps marching band passes under a Rose Parade banner.

A scene from the 2023 Rose Parade in Pasadena.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Riboli said he has already seen an increase in ticket sales due to the excitement around the Michigan-Alabama game, and expects crowds to increase compared to last year.

While she’s not convinced 2024 can rival pre-pandemic attendance, she’s confident peak crowds will return.

“Eventually we will reach those numbers again. It will just take a few years,” he said. “I have hope.”

He did not have specific data on ticket sales, but said totals for 2022, the first after the pandemic shutdown, plummeted about 40% compared to previous years.

The Tournament of Roses does not have consistent data on crowds or attendance. Parade officials said in 1997 that they abandoned crowd counts after previous numbers were criticized as inflated.

In 1991, former Pasadena police Lt. Gregg Henderson told the Times that there was no set formula for estimating crowd size. “You go up in the air and you look down, and it’s like, ‘Yeah, there’s a ton of people down there, probably about a million.’”

Officials say one of the biggest factors for last-minute parade-goers (those who don’t purchase tickets) is the weather.

Recent storms throughout southern california They’ve brought heavy rain and dangerous waves, but it looks like a getaway could coincide nicely with the Tournament of Roses.

Tom Fisher, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Oxnard, said that after Saturday’s precipitation, the chance of rain decreases dramatically over the next two days, when Los Angeles County is sandwiched between rotating storm systems.

“[On] Monday — 1 — all day and the night before [the parade] It has a 30% chance of rain,” Fisher said. But he noted that Pasadena is unlikely to see that rain, which is expected to be less intense than previous storms.

Temperatures this weekend They are expected to be around 60 degrees during the day and drop to the mid 40s at night. Those camping for the Rose Parade should plan on layering clothing and blankets, city officials warned. On New Year’s Day, highs should be around 60 degrees, according to forecasts.

“We don’t control the weather, but we have a pretty good track record of having sunshine on parade day,” Eads said. In the last 69 years, it has only rained twice during the parade.

If there is rain on Monday, it will pale in comparison to the amount that fell the last time it rained during the parade in 2006. the first occurrence in 51 years. A severe storm drenched participants and spectators, leading officials to consider canceling the event for safety reasons.

Eads said he feels confident about Monday and said the expected mild temperatures are particularly good for float flowers, which can wilt when conditions are too hot.

Another lingering concern for parade organizers: the threat of possible protests, particularly from groups advocating a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip such as The war between Israel and Hamas continues. In recent weeks, groups have disrupted traffic at Los Angeles International Airport and on the 110 Freeway, prompting police to intervene.

But that’s nothing new to Tournament of Roses officials, who have witnessed numerous protests over the years.

In 1990, AIDS activists paralyzed the parade for 10 minutes. organizing a sit-in protest, and in 2011, parade officials allowed Occupy protesters march through the streets after all the floats had passed.

The city of Pasadena has worked for months with numerous law enforcement and emergency agencies to prepare for any situation on parade day, including a protest, city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.

The Rose Parade is considered a high-profile event, drawing support from federal agencies in security planning, he said.

“We have plans in place and resources that will be in place and additional resources that we can call on the city if necessary,” Derderian said. “We’re anticipating a worst-case scenario, but we’re hoping for a beautiful, peaceful parade and game.”

Eads hopes the focus will remain on the planned events, which this year include three mid-parade performances (compared to one event earlier), as well as the opening and closing shows. Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald is the grand marshal.

CBS National News Correspondent Jericka Duncan, actress Gabrielle Elyse and TikTok star Pressley Hosbach will host the inaugural two-hour livestream that will air on Fubo TV, Christmas Plus, Pluto TV and LocalNow. Eads hopes the new livestream will reach a younger audience and allow people to watch it days later.

“Every year is special,” Eads said. “This year, with the theme related to music, we have really tried to tie ourselves closely to that theme. …Music can take you to a time and place that is very special, and we are excited to share all of our musical performances.”

For Riboli, who has spent the last few decades preparing for and attending the Rose Parade, there is no better way to spend New Year’s Day.

“It always feels like a renewal,” he said. “As if we were going to get better. It’s hopeful and happy, why not? [celebrate] At the Rose Parade?

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