New Year’s Rose Parade marches on despite COVID-19 surge
A year after New Year’s Day passed without a Rose Parade due to the coronavirus pandemic, marching bands and floral floats took to the streets again to celebrate the arrival of 2022 despite a new surge of infections due to the omicron variant.
The 133rd edition of the Pasadena, California, tradition on Saturday featured actor LeVar Burton as grand marshal, 20 bands, 18 equestrian units and dozens of floats reflecting the theme of “Dream. Believe. Achieve.”
After days of record-smashing rains, there were sunny skies for the 8 a.m. start of the spectacle, which has an uncanny history of postcard weather.
LeAnn Rimes kicked off the event with a performance of “Throw My Arms Around the World” followed by a military flyover of a B-2 stealth bomber.
Among the fanciful floats was the futuristic-themed “Vaccinate Our World” entry by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation with a robot nurse clutching a syringe. The colorful “Rise, Shine and Read!" float by the UPS Store featured a bespectacled rooster reading to a group of chicks.
“American Idol” winner Laine Hardy performed aboard Louisiana’s “Feed Your Soul” float. For the grand finale, the US Army Golden Knights parachute team landed along the parade route and country performer Jimmie Allen sang “Good Times Roll."
The parade and the afternoon Rose Bowl football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Utah Utes remained on track despite an explosion of COVID-19 infections in Los Angeles County, where daily new cases topped 27,000 on Friday.
The county Department of Public Health said it was the highest number of new cases.
The soaring infections had already prompted Kaiser Permanente to announce that its float, “A Healthier Future,” would not have 20 “front-line medical heroes” riding or walking alongside.
“We must prioritize the health and safety of our front-line medical staff and ensure we are able to treat patients during this recent surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant,” the health care network said.
The crowd was smaller than in previous years, but the parade still drew thousands of fans along its 5.5-mile (8.8-kilometer) route. Many camped out on sidewalks overnight, staking out their spots in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve.
Pasadena authorities urged people to wear masks, upgrading to the N95 or KN95 types, and avoid mingling with anyone outside their own groups. Many attendees wore face coverings, as did Rose Parade Queen Nadia Chung and her court.
The Tournament of Roses Association said ticketholders for parade bleachers and the Rose Bowl game were required to show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours, and masks were required for everyone age 2 and up.
The 2021 Rose Parade was canceled months ahead of time. The Rose Bowl football game was played after being moved to Arlington, Texas.
Previously, the parade was canceled for several years during World War II and the 1942 Rose Bowl game was played in North Carolina after the attack on Pearl Harbor.