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Rose Parade returns to Pasadena amid Omicron wave and smaller crowd

The parade of roses is back.

After the coronavirus forced its first cancellation since World War II last year, the whimsical, flowery procession returns to Pasadena on Saturday.

The parade begins at 8 a.m. PT, with actor and TV host LeVar Burton as Grand Marshal. The theme is “Dream. To achieve. To believe.”

While the return of the Rose Parade is seen by many as a joyous respite from a painful two years of the pandemic, it is overshadowed by a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

As onlookers from across the country lined Colorado Boulevard, nearly one in four people in Los Angeles County who are tested positive for the coronavirus, and the daily number of new confirmed infections is doubling every two days.

The crowd before the parade was considerably smaller than in the past. Although some people have camped along the route since noon on New Years Eve – a beloved tradition for those hoping to get a good view of the floats – a family arrived at 6 a.m. on Saturday and found a spot in the first row.

On Thursday, Kaiser Permanente canceled plans to involve frontline medical staff in the Rose Parade.

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

Kaiser had planned to have 20 medical workers on horseback and on foot in front of his float, which is titled “A Healthier Future” and features the characters of four children, including one wearing a stethoscope and caring for a teddy bear named Booster. The float will always be in the parade.

Many health and safety measures are taken by the event organizers, including the cancellation of indoor events leading up to the parade.

“All of the planning we have done has positioned us well to be able 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 with everyone. We found a few words for it: “A parade, two years of preparation” and “The flowering is back”.

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

Parade spectators aged 12 and over in paid areas, including grandstands, will also be required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours. Ticket holders aged 18 and over will be required to provide photo identification, and all participants aged 2 and over in these areas will be required to wear a mask.

Along the remainder of the 5.5-mile route, where people can just walk and watch, negative vaccination and test results will not be verified.

“What we are asking is that they take their personal responsibility,” by staying in family pods, distancing themselves as much as possible and wearing masks, Eads said.

This year’s parade will feature 43 floats, 20 marching bands and 18 equestrian units, according to the Tournament of Roses.

Michelle Van Slyke, senior vice president of marketing and sales for the UPS Store, said in an interview that preparations for the company’s float – which is called “Rise, Shine & Read!” and features a bright yellow bespectacled rooster named Charlie reading to a group of chicks – lasts for about a year.

In 2020, planning for the floats was already underway when the Rose Parade ended the event due to the pandemic. But the UPS Store, she said, “had its hands full” as a critical business that has remained open amid the closures.

This week, as the final decorations were applied to the float, she said “safety is the number one priority” and masking and social distancing have been essential.

The company’s tank is huge: 35 feet high and 55 feet long. Van Slyke said it weighed around 24 tons, with 12 moving parts and 130,000 flowers.

“If you want to do it, do it in a way that will be fun and magical,” she said. “We all know we’re in the too short-lived category these days, and we want to shine some light after everything we’ve been through the past two years.”

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

“My grandfather would be delighted if he knew I was involved in assembling a tank,” she said.

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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson