One of my favorite parts of the parade has always been the horses so I was particularly excited to see the Equest Fest. This is a side event where some of the horse groups put on a show in an arena. It is held in the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and the venue was smaller than I thought it would be. The crowds were also smaller as well though, which was nice, and there was plenty of time before the event to walk around and see some of the horses up close. This was a late day for us (didn’t need to be on the bus until 9:45am) and we arrive at the event at 11am. Since the show started at noon, Lee and I jumped in the food line first. There was a pretty limited selection and it was pricey ($9 for two tacos or a burrito) but it was really good. Then we walked by the outside arena where some people were walking their horses and over to the Budweiser and Wells Fargo area. I have seen the Budweiser horses many times at the Ohio State Fair, but they never fail to impress and this time I got up close and personal with Clyde the Budweiser dog and his successor April who is still a puppy and somewhat reluctantly held still for a picture or two.
Some kids learning to rope outside
This little girl was really good
The buffalo soldiers and their horses
Our military was well represented
The Budweiser Clydesdale sin their stalls
Clive on the left and April to the right
April was super cute and curious. She didn’t ride on the truck during the show. They are just getting her used to the crowds and she did great
Then we walked next door and saw the Wells Fargo wagon and their team of horses. Wells Fargo sponsored the event and many of their employees attended the event. They had rented one of the large banquet facilities and had their own VIP access which was neat. Our VIP seats were very good though, directly across from the Wells Fargo contingent.
The Wells Fargo wagon is a coming down the street
Beautiful horses pulled it
Hey Red check out this spanking new ATV for the parade. Lee thought you would like it
I was also very happy that they had a small Rose Parade tent with souvenir apparel. My love for this parade is such that I didn’t even blink at the $55 price for a fleece jacket. It was just a question of which one to buy and Lee was very patient as I tried every one of them on before making my choice. Afterwards we were able to walk right outside and put the fleece on the bus and I used the bathroom on the bus. One of the nice things about having the bus so far is that it has been parked close by and we can use it as a place to put things. The bathrooms so far at the places we have been have been crowded, so it was nice to have access to an extra one just for us. If you ever go to this event there is a bathroom on the left side of the arena as you walk in that is practically empty. The one on the right side had a line 25 women deep. That’s been one of the great things about having Lisa and Jim with us. They came to these events two years before and give really great advice about things like, cold seats, bathrooms, food availability etc. The practical stuff that can really ruin a sight-seeing day, they are not only aware of but proactively tell us about. I really appreciate that. After putting our purchases away we went inside the arena to our assigned seats. It was a beautiful sunny day, but since the arena is covered it did get a bit chilly in there and of course the seats were very tight, but Lee and I had a nice spot and he had room to put up his small tripod so he could get video. I am glad he did because many of the horse presentations don’t translate well to still pictures, but I did my best, so here is a photo look at what we saw. Each presentation ran about 5 minutes (the entire event went 3 hours) and there was a little time in between groups for the horses to enter and exit. Not every horse group in the parade was represented, but a nice group of them were.
The grand entry
One of our hosts Jann Carl who used to be on Entertainment Tonight
And Carson Cressley who was a big hit with the crowd
Hi horse was beautiful and he was a great rider
The event was filmed by RFDTV and Lee was excited about the huge jib arm camera that was pretty close to us
The national anthem was sung and accompanied by this Marine mounted color guard
The Wells Fargo wagon
A presentation by Medieval Times who ride pure Spanish breeds
This horse was taught to jump completely in the air and I got the shot!!
My favorite was Benny Martinez who has been riding in the parade for 34 years since he was a little kid. I can remember watching him when he was little doing these tricks
He gets his horse to lay down then mounts him on the ground
He walks the entire 5 mile parade route with the lasso around the horse …impressive
Watching the horse gallop though was even more so and you never get to see that in the parade
The Dakota Thunder Shires are beautiful. I love draft horses
This group is the Calizona Appaloosa club. The horses were so pretty and the riders celebrate their native american heritage and 1,300 mile journey they made to Canada to escape the western soldiers
The American Endurance Ridersare a group that specializes in long rides (15 miles minimum) and allows any kind of horse to participate in the club
The Scripps Miramar Saddlebreds are honoring the National Parks by including original Yellowstone wagons. In the early days folks traveled to Yellowstone and rode around in these wagons
The next group was the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department mounted unit, and they put on a little scene where the mounted police rescued a family from some “bad guys”. Lee loved this as it was staged like an old wild west show with a little story, I thought it was a little hokey, but the pony was cute and everyone was having a really good time.
It was neat when they showed how they hooked it up and their horses were very well-trained
My favorite was the Norco Cowgirls who I have seen for many years in the parade
This year they added the Little Miss Norco team for the first time
They have several mother daughter teams and one three generation family!
The Budweiser team came at the end and was a huge hit. The horse are selected by size (smallest in the front) for their position in the team. The front horses need to be more maneuverable and the back horses more powerful, which I did not know
They demonstrated how the driver would turn the horses at a 90 degree angle to load the wagon into a dock which was really neat
Each team is controlled separately in this maneuver and you can really see the strain on the drivers face
After the Budweiser team the Cavalry came back and gave a riding demonstration with guns, rifles, and sabers
Along with their mule team
And puppy masoct
Really great drills
I loved that the team is commanded by a woman. They introduced them all at the end and gave their home towns. The kid from Pasadena got a big cheer
Overall it was a fun event and although I am not sure I would spend $40 to do this as a standalone I am very glad it was included in my package. Plus I got my Rose Bowl fleece without crazy crowds and the seat cushion was a nice bonus. Next up, Bandfest and the Ronald Reagan Library then thankfully we get a free day. I am not used to this much activity!!
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Almost a year ago, I signed up for the Escapees membership. Escapees is the largest RV group in the country and being part of their club offers many benefits for RVers. When the welcome packets came, I looked at the list of HOP’s (Head Out Programs which are designed kind of like a land cruise) and saw they were offering the Rose Bowl parade for $895 a person. I have wanted to go to the Rose Bowl parade since I was 5 years old. I have never missed a parade, and Lee even talked me into getting our first big screen TV by mentioning I could watch the Rose Bowl Parade on it!! The thing about the Rose Bowl Parade though is I knew when I went I would need to be with a group. Traffic, logistics, and bathroom availability are big concerns and I never was a person who would tent camp overnight on a sidewalk to see something. So I always knew a package deal would be the best way to go and not only was the price right for the Escapees HOP, but the itinerary was fantastic. The HOP includes VIP tickets to the parade, the Equinefest (horse show), band fest, and the day after tour of the floats plus a campground, many meals, and tour bus travel to all events.. The kicker though was a half day where you get to volunteer work on a float…I was sold!! I asked Lee about it and without hesitating he said absolutely (he knew how much it meant to me) and I booked the tour back in February. We’ve planned our travel around it all these months and finally the week is here. We are staying at the Valencia Travel Village. It’s a “stack and pack” kind of campground with campers very close to one another, but the staff was very friendly and they do offer nice services like a pool and hot tub and dog walking. So we headed towards Castaic and luckily had a nice pleasant drive. Heading south the traffic wasn’t too bad, but heading north it was bumper to bumper. Lucky for us, we were headed south. We made it just in time for check-in at 2:55 and then had 1 hour to park and setup. I am happy to say, we pulled into our spot and setup with 10 minutes to spare, and headed over to the orientation, happy hour, and dinner.
We really didn’t know what to expect, but weren’t surprised that we were the youngest in the group. Escapees is for all RVers, but over the years their demographic has gotten older and is mostly retired RVers. A new group we belong to Xscapers is working on changing that by being geared towards younger remote workers and RVers with families, but we knew most folks would be older and were a little worried (well I was I don’t think Lee cared) that we would feel left out of the group dynamics. I was pleasantly surprised that almost everyone in the group was a first time “Hopper” like us and even though they were older they went out of their well to be welcoming and friendly. The lead couple, Lisa and Jim, are very experienced have attended 31 Hops and led 8 of those. Lisa in particular is excellent at dealing with the logistics of large groups of people (there are 48 of us to wrangle) and is nice but firm. In particular I appreciate her stressing punctuality and so far we have started every event at least 5 minutes early because folks show up on time!
The first night we had an orientation, meet and greet, and some Pizza Hut for dinner. I have been really wanting Pizza Hut for months so I was excited about the choice. Happy hour is from 4-5pm and dinner starts at 5. This might seem early to some, but since our events are often scheduled very early I like that schedule. We met some nice people, but left right after dinner and went to bed early since we had to be on the bus at 7:15am the next morning for the float decorating day. Since this was the activity, aside from the parade itself, that I was the most excited about I was wide awake at 3am and just couldn’t fall back asleep. I needed to log some serious blogging hours to get caught up anyway and spent the next several hours finishing the posts about Monterey. I hate when I get behind on posting during heavy activity time periods because I start forgetting things, so was happy to use the time to get “caught up” before the new week really got rolling. Consequently we were at the bus very early and I was happy to see we weren’t the first ones on. We left a little early and were on our way to the warehouse where 5 of the floats were being built.
I thought the floats would be in Pasadena, but it turns out there is little warehouse space there so we went to Asuza California farther east. I was curious about how they moved the floats such a distance when completed and it turns out they drive them there (with a police escort) and since they go so slow it takes about 6 hours to get them the 15 miles to the parade route. Yikes! We were volunteering for a professional parade float builder AES Creative. They had 50 full time staff working on the 5 floats they were building and use hundreds of volunteers. I really liked the laid back atmosphere of the place, because they kept us busy but didn’t make us feel like we were in the way. Plus they were working on China Airlines (they always do an amazing float), the two football team floats, and Disney!! There are other larger float builders, but I am really glad we were at a smaller one because we got to get up close and personal with all the floats and the builders.
The warehouse where the floats were
Our group talking to one of the tour guides
First we took a very nice tour explaining how the floats were designed (the planning starts in February and the project runs the entire year), the bidding process, and the planning process around ordering and storing the fresh materials. As a project manager I was fascinated by the process and they went into a nice amount of detail as we walked through. Plus flowers everywhere! Since the parade was several days away, the teams were mostly still working with the dry materials but the flowers were staged and ready for the big push to get the fresh flowers on 48 hours before the parade. All floats must be at least 50% fresh flowers, but I have always been fascinated by what they can do with dried beans, corn husks, etc. Lee really liked the wood working areas and places where they made foam structures so we both really enjoyed the tour.
Lines of volunteers prepping raw materials. They were mostly kids from local schools, but we also saw a senior citizens group there
Disney flowers which they pay $6 a dozen for
They keep them packed tight so the buds stay closed as long as possible
This flower tent smelled wonderful
The robotic arm that cuts out foam figures
Here’s an example of a cut figure ready for glue and flowers
The professional florists building arrangements
Loved the caution sign
These were my favorite, they are a type of chrysanthemum and very soft
I liked that all the floats have fire extinguishers on them
Oh did I mention part of the Disney float is Star Wars themed!!
The Millennium Falcon was very intricate
So so cool
Loved the China Airlines float too
It’s a canoe on waves and will have rowers in it
This wave detail was amazing
The front of the canoe
After the tour they put us to work, mainly cutting and gluing eucalyptus leaves for the China Airlines float. I jumped over into a quiet space though and starting cutting the tiny petals off of blue statice for the Disney Frozen castle. It was actually pretty relaxing, just cutting the tiny flowers off the stem and periodically a volunteer would come and take them to the blender station where other volunteers ground them up fine. These are then sprinkled on glued areas of the castle to give it a shimmery blue look. And just to show how challenging things can be using natural materials, the frozen castle is ice blue, but nature provides very few natural materials in any shade of blue at all. And this year the statice came in more purple so they were forced to use a slightly darker shade than they would have liked. That is why I like the Rose Bowl Parade so much though. Forcing the float builders to use natural materials makes for beautiful and interesting floats. Also every year they have a theme and this year is is Find Your Adventure: Celebrating 100 years of National Parks. Pretty appropriate for us full time RVers!
Part of our group cutting and gluing Eucalyptus leaves. If you ever get a chance to do this bring your own scissors
Others were gluing silver leaf onto panels
Some of our group working on the Stanford float
These palm trees were made our of corn husks
So here’s the thing, and a piece of advice from me a long time rule follower. Sometimes it is OK to color outside the lines. If you aren’t hurting anyone or causing a problem, leave the pack and do your own thing. Sometimes really cool stuff can happen…Lee taught me that and it has served me well in this lifestyle. I cut flowers for a while and then wandered back into the float area where I saw some kids were placing the flower petals I just cut onto the float itself. Well, I wanted to do that, so I politely asked one of the kids if I could join in and she agreed immediately and I stepped ONTO the float and placed some flowers onto the castle. I was beside myself with joy. One big, huge check box in the bucket list and I can now say I helped build a Rose Bowl parade float. Plus I told my sister and sister-in-law to have my nieces and nephews watch the parade and tell them Aunt Tracy helped build the Disney float. Oh yeah I am a rock star!!
I was very serious about my flower cutting
The blending station
Ice crystals already complete
Sprinkling the flowers on the castle wall
I know I awakened my adventure
The complete float design which is three floats connected together by bridges, altogether over 150′ long
The plans for this portion of the float
The Frozen Castle
They even had a tent with food for a lunch break and it was really good. We all piled on the bus around 1pm then it was a quick dip in the hot tub, happy hour, and an excellent catered dinner. Oh yes, this is the life. Tomorrow is Equine fest which I am super excited about. You never get to see enough of the horses on TV, so they have a day where all the horses perform in an arena. Plus they have great vendors and food there. Have I mentioned I am excited? If excessive perkiness gets on your nerves you might want to skip the next few blog posts!
Here’s a short video Lee put together for the float decorating.
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