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The Magic Returns: The 133rd Tournament of Roses

The Cal Poly Universities float: the cow figures out how to jump over the moon

After a hiatus that was precedented only four times before due to World War II in the over 130 years of the Tournament of Roses, in a hopeful sign of normalcy, the Rose Parade has returned to Pasadena, California. This week leading up to the annual celebration brought much cold and rain, but this New Years Day brought a brilliant Southern California blue sky and mild weather- a perfect setting for the five-and-a-half mile parade along Colorado Boulevard- and hopefully a sunny omen of the new year ahead.

Grand Marshal LeVar Burton and his family aboard a 1923 Rolls Royce

Ringing in 2022, this year’s theme was “Dream. Believe. Achieve.,” a message that was especially apropos given our academic and emotional recovery following a year when it seemed as though this was far from reach. LeVar Burton, known for his role in “Star Trek: the Next Generation” (the only Star Trek worth watching in my biased opinion) and “Reading Rainbow,” one of my favorite childhood shows, was this year’s grand marshal. Many of the floats featured an educational or adventure theme, two aspects of life that have an important place in inspiring them minds of folks both young and more experienced in years. I took many, many photos to show my STEM students when we return to learn next week as many of the floats whimsically and beautifully depicted some aspect of science or technology.

There were a few floats outside of the theme, although one could argue that The Bachelor’s float with upcoming bachelor Clayton Echard and new host Jesse Palmer riding aboard could fit the ‘dream’ idea. The Louisiana travel float was just pretty and the phrase ‘Feed your soul’ made me want beignets, while Wetzels Pretzels paid homage to California’s scenic drives with their colorful entry.

But for me, the best parts of this year’s parade were the bands. The Saluting America’s Band Directors Project had a combined entry with a colorful floral float and the band, paying tribute to the work and inspiration that band teachers give to their students every day. For the first time in tournament history, a band consisting of 270 band directors from across the nation marched together in the parade. I was extremely proud of our Gabrielino High School band director, who marched in the parade. Tough as nails and with a big heart as many directors are, she was instrumental in Jacob’s success as a musician and an Eagle Scout, and I am sure she will continue to have an impact throughout his life. And serving in a district that prioritizes visual and performing arts as a means toward sustained student achievement, it was wonderful to see SGUSD represented in such a way.

And thanks to Ms. Romero for laying that musical foundation and the discipline to accompany it, I had the absolute joy of watching Jacob march in his first Tournament of Roses. He played the sousaphone in the Pasadena City College Honor Band, something that had been a dream of his since he was a kid. I was so proud of him for pursuing that goal and committing his time and effort to his musical studies and making his dream a reality. As the sun glistened on the brass tuba that was almost as big as he is, I couldn’t help but shed a few happy tears. My dad, gone almost a year now would have been so proud of Jake. I know I am.

The Pasadena City College Honor Band

I wasn’t alone in experiencing the joy of watching a loved one in the parade. As I worked the stands greeting folks coming in, I met many families who had flown out from all over the country to support their kids marching in the Bands of America Honor Band, as well as families from O’Fallon, Illinois just outside of St. Louis. They braved winter air travel in the midst of a pandemic that insists on keeping a hold on life even as we enter a new year. Yet even behind masks, their pride and excitement at being able to watch their kids marching in this legendary parade under a clear blue sky was obvious, as I’m sure mine was also. And I felt in those interactions that come what may, we can always ‘Dream, Believe, and Achieve.’

From Pasadena, California, I wish all of you a happy and healthy new year. May 2022 bring a renewed hope and new adventures.

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