Grand Marshal Audra McDonald Leads 135th Rose Parade Through Pasadena – Pasadena Now


The 135th Tournament of Roses Parade is underway in Pasadena Monday with marching bands, equestrian units and — of course — a host of elaborately decorated floral floats — all making their way down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena under the theme “Celebrating a World of Music.”

The parade began with an “Opening Spectacular” performance featuring Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams, “The Voice” champion Cassadee Pope, “American Idol” alum David Archuleta and Los Angeles singer/songwriter/producer Rush Davis. They all performed on the Rose Parade opening stage, alongside the Honda float themed “Keep Dreaming.”

The parade is making its way along its traditional 5 1/2-mile route, moving east along Colorado Boulevard to northbound Sierra Madre Boulevard, ending at Villa Street.

The San Diego Zoo’s float “It All Started With a Roar” won the 2024 Sweepstakes Trophy, honoring the most beautiful entry encompassing float design, floral presentation and entertainment.

Tournament of Roses Association President/Chair Alex Aghajanian announced the theme nearly a year ago.

“The 2024 theme brings us together through music,” Aghajanian said at the time. “In a world of different cultures, beliefs, hopes, and dreams, one language unites us all — music.

“The sound, texture, rhythm, form, harmony, and expression meld together to move, soothe, excite and delight the world. From bossa nova to blues, classical to country, metal to mariachi and rock to rap, thousands of genres invite us to become one in celebrating a world of music.”

Leading the parade is grand marshal Audra McDonald, a singer, actress and six-time Tony Award winner.

McDonald “not only gracefully epitomizes our theme, but also perfectly personifies the power of music to move, soothe, excite and delight us all,” Aghajanian said.

McDonald’s six Tony Awards are more than any other performer, and she is the only person to win in the four acting categories. She also has two Grammy Awards and an Emmy. She received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2016 and was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2017.

“I am so deeply honored to have been invited to serve as the grand marshal of the 2024 Rose Parade,” McDonald said. “As a California kid, raised in Fresno, … the new year was always ushered in with the Rose Bowl. Every January 1st I’d wake up early to watch the parade and the game with my family.”

In an annual tradition, the parade will also be overseen by the seven- member Royal Court, made up of Pasadena-area high school girls chosen for their public speaking, academic achievement, youth leadership and community involvement.

The court, which has already taken part in dozens of community events leading up to the parade, is led by Rose Queen Naomi Stillitano, an Arcadia High School senior.

The other members of the Royal Court are:

  • Olivia Bohanec, La Salle College Preparatory;
  • Trinity Dela Cruz, Marshall Fundamental School;
  • Phoebe Ho, South Pasadena High School;
  • Mia Moore-Walker, Flintridge Preparatory School;
  • Jessica Powell, Flintridge Preparatory School; and
  • Emmerson Tucker, Blair High School

Nearly 20 marching bands are scheduled to march and perform during the parade, including groups from Japan and Costa Rica, as well as schools across the country. The bands of the two universities participating in the Rose Bowl Game — Michigan and Alabama — will also take part.

Eighteen equestrian units are also scheduled to take part, including the U.S. Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena, the Budweiser Clydesdales and the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment.

But the highlight of the parade by far is the procession of ornate floats, all of which must be completely covered by flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds or bark. The floats are meticulously crafted over several months, beginning with the understructure and concluding with the arduous task of applying the flowers and other materials, generally one piece at a time.

A total of 39 floats are set to take part in this year’s procession. Some are sponsored by local cities, such as Torrance, Burbank and Alhambra, each touting local attractions, while others are funded by businesses such as Kaiser Permanente, Honda, Shriners Children’s and The Cowboy Channel.

Closing out the parade will be former “American Idol” champion Jordin Sparks, who will ride aboard the final float in the parade honoring the Mansion Theatre for the Performing Arts in Brandon, Missouri.

Following the parade, the floats will go on display at the Floatfest at Sierra Madre and Washington boulevard, giving spectators a chance to a get a close-up look at the creations. The Floatfest will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday.

On Tuesday, the Floatfest will be open at 7 a.m. for senior citizens and the disabled, then open to the general public at 9 a.m.

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