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Michigan and Alabama to face off in Rose Bowl football game

The 110th annual Rose Bowl game will begin at 1 p.m. PT/4 p.m. ET.

The fourth-ranked University of Alabama Crimson Tide are up against the top-ranked University of Michigan Wolverines. The College Football Playoff semifinal will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN.

Alabama has won six national championships in the last 15 years, most recently in 2020. 

Michigan hasn’t won a national championship since 1997, but this is its third straight season in the playoffs. The Wolverines have played in the Rose Bowl 20 times before today’s game — more than any other Big Ten school, according to the university. If they win, it will be the first time in the program’s 144-year history that the Wolverines have nabbed 14 victories in a single season.

Winning floats highlight parade’s musical theme

The Cowboy Channel’s “Cowgirls Rule!” floats picked up the Americana Trophy for its depiction of national treasures and traditions. The float celebrating women in Western sports featured a performance from country singer Annie Bosko.

The Tournament Volunteer Trophy, which awards an outstanding floral presentation that embodies this year’s theme, went to Kiwanis International’s “Serving in Harmony” float. It depicted a sheepdog listening to music on a gramophone with a piano in the background.

The San Diego Zoo’s float, “It Began with a Roar,” took home the Sweepstakes Trophy for the most beautiful entry based on float design, floral presentation and entertainment. It featured representations of the zoo’s animals — Karen the orangutan, Omeo the koala, Chinook the polar bear, Gramma the Galapagos tortoise — as well the zoo’s icon, Rex the lion.

The San Diego Zoo float rolls down the parade route at the 135th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.
The San Diego Zoo float.Jae C. Hong / AP

The parade closed out with a performance from Jordin Sparks

Singer Jordin Sparks closed out the celebrations with a grand finale performance of her 2008 hit “No Air.” Sparks, dressed in a white, black and red corset and flanked by dancers in red, white and green outfits, performed in front of a float and a sign with the words “ROSE PARADE.”

Dancers also held up signs that said “GO JORDIN” and ran past with flags bearing her initials.

Sparks wished onlookers a “Happy New Year” and declared it was “time to celebrate.”

Illinois float pays tribute to Route 66 and Blues Brothers

A float celebrating Illinois, titled “Illinois: The Middle of Beats & Blues,” paid tribute to the Blues Brothers and Route 66.

The a cappella group “Straight No Chaser” performed music of the Blues Brothers as more than a dozen dancers dressed in the traditional black sunglasses and black suits danced alongside the float.

The float was commissioned by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Tourism. 

Tiger Squadron flies in formation over parade

The Tiger Squadron, a Southern California-based precision formation flying crew, soared over the parade. The formation was comprised of nine planes.

The formation flew by as a float honoring veterans learning to code was being shown. The float had military paraphernalia and in the center featured a computer display, representing the veterans who enter the coding field. Words on the float read, “Deployment to Employment.”

Drumroll! Marching bands make their appearances

The United States Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band performed at the start of the parade. It’s made up of three groups: The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, the 1st Marine Division Band and Marine Band San Diego.

Other bands that have appeared so far include Pipes on Parade, a collection of bagpipers dressed in authentic Highland kilts. This was their first-ever Rose Parade performance.

The Pasadena City College Herald Trumpets ushered in this year’s Rose Queen, Naomi Stillitano, a senior at Arcadia High School. The trumpet band features nine high school musicians who auditioned for the spots.

And the more-than-400-person Michigan Marching Band performed ahead of their school’s Rose Bowl game against Alabama.

A float carrying the 2024 Tournament of Roses Rose Court moves along the parade route at the 135th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.
A float carrying the Rose Queen and her court.Jae C. Hong / AP
The 135th annual New Year's Rose Parade
The Blue and Gold Marching Machine from Greensboro, N.C.Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

‘Visit Lauderdale’ performed by Alexander Star

Emmy-nominated songwriter Alexander Star performed his South Florida-themed song “Visit Lauderdale” — a tribute to the Broward County-based city.

Star referenced Ft. Lauderdale iconography, singing about the area code with the lyrics “954 we show out” and later in the song mentioning the local airport Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport by suggesting those who want to visit fly into “FLL.”

The float had Florida hallmarks like palm trees and manatees. At one point, so much colorful smoke erupted to celebrate Star’s performance that he temporarily disappeared beneath it.

The Rose Parade’s 135-year history

The first Rose Parade was held in 1890 by the Valley Hunt Club, a private social club in Pasadena, to showcase Southern California’s blooming flowers in winter. A parade of horse-drawn carriages displayed hundreds of colorful flowers, with games to follow, including chariot races, jousting, foot races and tug-of-war.

By 1920, the parade fully transitioned to motor-driven floats. It was televised starting in the 1940s, and the 1954 festivities marked the first color broadcast in the U.S.

The parade has been held annually on Jan. 1 (or Jan. 2 if New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday) with a few exceptions: It was canceled in 1942, 1943 and 1945 due to World War II, then again in 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.

Dancers perform alongside the Explore Louisiana float.
Dancers perform alongside the Explore Louisiana float today.Jae C. Hong / AP
Rose Parade in Pasadena
The La Canada Flintridge float.Jae C. Hong / AP
Banda Municipal de Zarcero of Costa Rica.
Banda Municipal de Zarcero of Costa Rica.Jae C. Hong / AP

Audra McDonald, the parade’s grand marshal, has arrived

Broadway legend Audra McDonald, this year’s grand marshal, has arrived on her float. McDonald, who has six Tony awards, was wearing a white coat and teal blouse as she waved to those in attendance.

Grand Marshal Audra McDonald, left, waves to the crowd.
Grand Marshal Audra McDonald, left, waves to the crowd.Jae C. Hong / AP

Organizers said McDonald was selected as grand marshal because she is the “embodiment of the theme,” which is “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language.”

The parade kicks off with a medley of pop songs

From covers of Coldplay to Troye Sivan to Snow Patrol, the “opening spectacular” encompassed a range of songs by artists both new and old. The performance also appeared to touch on the parade’s theme, which is “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language,” according to the event’s website.

Online, the performance received mixed reviews, with one person posting to X writing that they “would like to see more floats, less musical acts.”

That person got their wish — following the musical act, the parade officially kicked off.

Who’s performing this year 

Openers: Michelle Williams, Grammy Award-winning R&B singer and former member of Destiny’s Child, will perform in the center of a giant rose for this year’s opening act. She will be joined by “American Idol” star David Archuleta, “The Voice” 2012 winner Cassadee Pope and musical artist Rush Davis.

Mid-parade performances: Emmy-nominated songwriter Alexander Star will sing a tribute to Fort Lauderdale atop the “Visit Lauderdale” float. The “Explore Louisiana” float will feature a Mardis Gras-inspired performance from Cajun fiddler Amanda Shaw, guitarist James Burton and Grammy-nominated Zydeco musician Sean Ardoin. And the “Enjoy Illinois” float will showcase the a capella group Straight No Chaser, known for blending blues and jazz with country and rock.

Finale: Jordin Sparks, Grammy-nominated singer and winner of Season 6 of “American Idol,” will close out the festivities with a three-song medley.

PHOTOS: The final days of Rose Parade preparations

Rose Parade floats usually take months to build. Then, the week before the parade, they’re adorned with fresh ingredients like seeds, bark and flowers.

The parade is produced by the nonprofit Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association and spans more than 5 miles along Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard. The football game to follow is held at the nearby Rose Bowl Stadium.

Rose Parade floats at Rosemont Pavilion, Pasadena.
American Armenian float Armenian Melodies at its finishing stage at Rosemont Pavilion in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday.Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Rose Parade floats at Rosemont Pavilion, Pasadena.
North Carolina A&T State University band, ahead of their anticipated performance at the Rose Parade 2024, arrives at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday.Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Image: Pasadena Prepares For The Rose Bowl
An aerial view of preparations for the Rose Bowl Game at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday.David McNew / Getty Images
Final touches put on Rose Parade floats at Rosemont Pavilion in Pasadena
People work on the Cal Poly Universities’ “Shock N’ Roll: Powering the Musical Current” Rose Parade float at the Rosemont Pavilion in Pasadena, Calif., on Friday. Hans Gutknecht / MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

When is the Rose Parade, how to watch and what to expect

An expected 800,000 spectators will flock to Pasadena, California, today to watch floral floats, equestrian units and marching bands fill the streets during the 135th annual New Year’s Day tradition: the Rose Parade.

This year’s parade theme is “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language.” 2024 Tournament of the Roses President Alex Aghajanian said the theme was chosen because “in a world of different cultures, beliefs, hopes, and dreams, one language unites us all — music.”

After the parade, the 110th annual Rose Bowl game will kick off at 1 p.m. PT, when the Alabama Crimson Tide face off against the Michigan Wolverines.

Read the full story here

First appeared on www.nbcnews.com

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