Sort of secret, slow but still spectacular, ‘Rose Parade Jr.’ rolls anew from Irwindale to Pasadena

Floats are rolled out near the float-making barns in Irwindale, before making their trek to Pasadena on Jan. 1, 2022 (Photo by Anissa Rivera)

There was a parade on New Year’s Day after all. And for some lucky folks, it was just like having your own personal, private Rose Parade.

Hundreds of people turned out on New Year’s Day for a mini-preview of the 134th Rose Parade when they caught a glimpse of 34 floats winding their way down local streets from Irwindale to Pasadena.

The real parade, the one on TV and all, moved back to Jan. 2 because of the Tournament of Roses’ “Never on Sunday” policy. But the unofficial, much longer parade, on Monday, Jan. 1, was almost as much fun,

The parade entries — riderless, with some parts detached to safely maneuver overhead obstacles – were nonetheless greeted by residents gathered on sidewalks and street corners. Crowds cheered as the California Highway Patrol motorcycle escorts closed intersections and stopped traffic from the Phoenix and Fiesta decorating facilities in Irwindale.

The fleet’s route includes Arrow Highway until it turns into Las Tunas Boulevard, then on to Temple City Boulevard and Huntington Drive, Fair Oaks, and Columbia before arriving at Orange Grove, a trip that usually takes five hours.

People wait on the sidewalk for a pre-parade of floats to drive down Ornelas Street in Irwindale. The fleet made its way to Pasadena on Jan 1.

Sgt. Michael Arias of the Irwindale Police Department said local officers assist the CHP. This is the 16th year he has helped escort the floats.

“It’s a great family event, so many people come out,” he said. “And it’s an adventure. Sometimes, a float breaks down and you have to wait on repairs. Sometimes, they have to leave a float behind.”

Once darkness falls, drivers in the floats have to be extra careful.

“We don’t have the luxury of driving in daylight like we do in the parade,” said Dennis Parkhouse of Rancho Cucamonga, who has driven Rose Parade floats for 35 years. His son Chris is on his ninth year behind the wheel. The two, driving the jungle-themed Western Asset float, answered questions for streetside viewers before the pre-parade ride.

“There are three phases to driving a Rose Parade float,” Dennis Betancourt said. “First, getting the float to Orange Grove, then driving it in the parade, and third, the move back to Irwindale after the Floatfest.”

Traffic was stopped in Irwindale Jan. 1, as 16 Rose Parade floats made the 13-or-so-mile trip to Pasadena for the 134th Rose Parade.Photo: Anissa Rivera

Maggie Trujillo of Irwindale brought her sons David, 12, Ricardo, 10, and Andrew, 9, to the corner of Irwindale Avenue and Ornelas Street to get a close-up look at Phoenix Decorating Company floats. The boys quickly decided on their favorite, the ocelots on the Western Asset entry. The mini excursion was a great way to catch some Rose Parade magic, Trujillo said.

“I enjoy watching it on TV, but the boys usually sleep through the parade, so we walked here to see (what we can),” she said.

People watch as Irwindale police officers help California Highway Patrol escorts guide the “Enjoy Illinois” float turn the corner from Ornelas Street to Irwindale Avenue in Irwindale on Jan. 1. (Photo by Anissa Rivera)

This is the third time Peter and Nancy Betancourt of Duarte have made the trip to see the flotilla.

“It’s fun, and you get to see the flowers as nice and fresh as can be,” Peter Betancourt said.

David Wotus of Pittsburgh turned out for the event with his wife and two sons. Penn State fans, the family arrived days ahead of the 109th Rose Bowl. They watched the floats being decorated in Pasadena and decided they wanted to see them on the roll too.

“It’s very different in person versus pictures or on TV,” Betancourt said. “It’s more impressive and it’s hard to believe there are so many flowers.”

They caught previews of the Queen’s Float, the Rose Bowl’s 100th edition entry and entries from service clubs such as Kiwanis International, Lions, Elks and Rotary clubs.

People watch as Irwindale police officers help California Highway Patrol escorts guide the “Enjoy Illinois” float turn the corner from Ornelas Street to Irwindale Avenue in Irwindale on Jan. 1. Photo: Anissa Rivera

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It’s always dark by the time the pre-parade reaches the corner of Live Oak and Foss Avenue in Arcadia, where the Loayza family has walked the block from their home to catch the show since 2016. Manny, Carolyn and their three boys, Joseph, 17, Elijah, 14, and Noah, 13 checks social media for updates, then bundle up and take folding chairs out to the corner to watch the floats drive past.

“We enjoy the sneak peek we get just a stone’s throw from our house, the floats quietly making their way to Pasadena under the cover of darkness,” Manny Loayza said. “Our family gets an up close and personal view of these floats before the world wakes up to them. We love being able to wave at the families who volunteer their trucks to pull them.”

The boys pointed out their favorites, anything that captures their imagination, their father said, but especially those that “give us something to talk about on our stroll back home.”

Anissa V. Rivera, columnist, “Mom’s the Word,” Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News, Azusa Herald, Glendora Press and West Covina Highlander, San Dimas/La Verne Highlander. Southern California News Group, 181 W. Huntington Drive, Suite 209 Monrovia, CA 91016. 626-497-4869 .

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