Since 1890, the Tournament of Roses has been ushering in the new year with a parade of spectacular floats and enthusiastic marching bands down the streets of Pasadena, California, USA.
Rotary became a part of the pageantry in 1923, when the Rotary Club of Pasadena entered a float in the 34th annual Rose Parade.
The club participated in three more Rose Parades – 1927, 1946, and 1966 – before making it an annual tradition in 1980. That year, recognizing the parade’s potential for promoting Rotary to an audience of millions worldwide, clubs in the western United States decided to sponsor a float in honor of the organization’s 75th anniversary. The Rotary Rose Parade Float Committee was later formed and continues to coordinate the fundraising for and construction of the float today.
Putting together a float is an ambitious undertaking, not least because parade rules dictate that the entire surface be covered with organic materials such as flowers, fruits and vegetables, or seeds. Hundreds of Rotary, Rotaract, and Interact club members from the United States, as well as Canada and Mexico, donate their time to build and decorate the float.
Float themes have reflected Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio, its commitment to service, and its humanitarian programs. The theme of the 1998 float, “Bringing the World Together,” celebrated the 50th anniversary of Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships and highlighted the Foundation’s work to build peace.
The 2001 theme, “Recognizing Tomorrow’s Leaders,” celebrated the many young people Rotary has channeled into positive leadership roles through the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program.
On 1 January, the Rotary Rose Parade Float Committee will celebrate 32 consecutive years in the parade with a float proclaiming the 2010-11 RI theme, Building Communities -- Bridging Continents .
Rotary International does not fund the float; the Rotary Rose Parade Float Committee receives donations from individual clubs and Rotarians.