Rose Parade returns to Pasadena amid the Omicron wave, smaller crowd

The rose parade is back.

After the coronavirus was canceled for the first time since World War II last year, the whimsical, flower-filled procession returns to Pasadena on Saturday.

The parade began at 8 a.m. Pacific with actor and television presenter LeVar Burton serving as Grand Marshal. The theme is “Dream. Reach. Believe.”

While the return of the Rose Parade is viewed by many as a joyful recovery from two painful years of pandemic, it is marred by a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious variant of Omicron.

With viewers lining Colorado Boulevard from across the country, nearly one in four people tested in Los Angeles County is positive for the coronavirus, and the daily total of new confirmed infections doubles every two days.

The pre-parade crowd was dramatically smaller than in previous years. Although some people had been camping along the route since lunchtime on New Year’s Eve – a popular tradition for those hoping to get a good look at the wagons – a family arrived at 6 a.m. on Saturday and found a front row seat.

On Thursday, Kaiser Permanente canceled plans to have front line medical workers take part in the rose parade.

“We need to prioritize the health and safety of our frontline medical staff and ensure we can treat patients during this recent surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant,” a statement said in a statement of the health system.

Kaiser had planned to drive and walk 20 medical personnel in front of his car called “A Healthier Future,” which showed the characters of four children, including one wearing a stethoscope and tending to a teddy bear named Booster. The car will still be in the parade.

Numerous health and safety measures are being taken by the organizers, including the cancellation of indoor events in the run-up to the parade.

“All of our plans have positioned us well to host the Rose Parade in a safe and healthy manner,” said David Eads, executive director of the Tournament of Roses.

“The general feeling of renewal and rebirth of the rose parade is in the foreground for everyone. We came up with a couple of terms for this: ‘A parade, two years of construction’ and ‘The bloom is back’. “

The Tournament of Roses requires more than 6,000 parade participants, including people on carts, marching bands and riders, to provide proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of the start of the event.

Parade spectators aged 12 and over in the ticket areas, including grandstands, must also provide evidence of a vaccination or a negative test. All participants aged 2 and over in these areas must wear a mask.

The rest of the 8.5 mile stretch, where people can just go up and watch, do not have any vaccinations and negative test results checked.

Just before sunrise, Leslie Lemus and her family left their camping chairs on Colorado Boulevard in the Pasadena Playhouse District.

For the past few years, at this hour, the sidewalks were crowded with spectators. But Lemus found easy parking nearby and plenty of viewing space.

“You get like VIP views!” Lemus told her 8-year-old daughter, who was sitting wrapped in a thick hooded jacket.

“I’m surprised there aren’t any more people,” said Lemus, who was wearing a black surgical mask.

Lemus assumed the smaller crowd was due to the rise in the coronavirus. She said she felt safe on Saturday because her entire family was vaccinated and created some distance between herself and other participants.

Nearby, Danelle Sullivan, 45, of Highland Park, used a small compact mirror to make up her eyes while her 9-year-old daughter slept next to her on an inflatable mattress with a stuffed horse in a Rose Parade bandana around her neck.

Sullivan watched the parade on TV as a kid but said it was very special to see it in person.

Mother and daughter last came in 2018. They came to this year’s parade on Friday lunchtime and expected the great crowd they saw at the time.

“We could have stayed warmer longer,” said Sullivan. “But [we’re] not really upset. Getting out of here is an adventure. ”

Near Roosevelt Avenue, Deborah Twyford sat by a propane-fueled hearth, surrounded by six chairs reserved for the rest of her family. Crumpled confetti lay at her feet because she had ushered in the new year overnight.

According to the Tournament of Roses, this year’s parade includes 43 floats, 20 marching bands and 18 equestrian units.

Michelle Van Slyke, senior vice president of marketing and sales for the UPS store, said in an interview that preparations are being made for the company’s move – which will be called “Rise, Shine & Read!” and has a bespectacled, bright yellow rooster named Charlie who has been reading to a group of chicks for about a year.

In 2020, the car planning was already in progress when the rose parade pulled the plug because of the pandemic. But the UPS Store, she said, “had its hands full” as an essential store that stayed open amid lockdowns.

As the final decorations were put on the cart this week, she said that “safety is a top priority” and that masking and social distancing were essential.

The company’s swimmer is enormous: 35 feet high and 55 feet long. Van Slyke said it weighs about 24 tons, with 12 moving parts and 130,000 flowers.

“When you do it, do it in a way that is fun and magical,” she said. “We all know that we’re too short on the category of life these days, and we want to bring some brightness after everything we’ve been through in the past two years.”

Van Slyke grew up in San Bernardino and came to the Rose Parade year after year with her grandfather, a construction worker who came every year, even when he was alone. They spent the night along the parade route with chorizo ​​and egg burritos and hot chocolate in thermos flasks.

“My grandfather would only be delighted if he knew that I was involved in putting a car together,” she said.

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