For the first time in its 130-year history, the Rose Parade Grand Marshal — 10-time Grammy Award winner Chaka Khan — entertained along with her grandchildren with a medley of her hits before one of the world’s most renowned processions made its way along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena.
The 5 1/2-mile Rose Parade stepped off at 8 a.m., beginning with the “Opening Spectacular” performance featuring Khan, “Dancing with the Stars” champion Jordan Fisher and hundreds of dancers, including the HTEDance & Spirit Group from Irving, Texas, and The Boys of Temecula dance company.
The annual event had a brief mishap when the Chinese American Heritage Foundation’s float was disabled by a small fire near the intersection of Orange Grove Boulevard and West Green Street and had to be towed along the remainder of the route.
The train-shaped float, called “Harmony Through Union,” depicts the Transcontinental Railroad’s completion on May 10, 1869, when two trains met face to face on the railway. Several descendants of the Chinese, Irish, German, African and Mexican laborers who built the railway were onboard the 95-foot float.
The parade itself featured 40 floral-covered floats, 18 equestrian groups and 20 marching bands from across the country and around the world, including bands from Japan, Sweden, Costa Rica and Canada.
The marching bands from the University of Washington and Ohio State University — the teams competing in Tuesday afternoon’s Rose Bowl Game — also took part in the parade.
Sequoyah High School senior and San Marino resident Louise Deser Siskel reigned over the procession as the 101st Rose Queen. She was accompanied by the six members of her Royal Court:
— Lauren Michele Baydaline, a senior at Westridge School and resident of South Pasadena;
— Ashley Symone Hackett, a senior at John Muir High School and a Pasadena resident;
— Rucha S. Kadam, a senior at La Canada High School and a La Canada Flintridge resident;
— Sherry Xiaorui Ma, a Temple City resident and a senior at San Marino High School;
— Micaela Sue McElrath, a senior at Westridge School and a Pasadena resident; and
— Helen Susan Rossi, a Flintridge Preparatory School senior and La Canada Flintridge resident.
The stars of the parade, however, were the brightly colored, animated floats — all covered from top to bottom with flowers or other organic materials. As usual, this year’s parade features floats sponsored by some Southland cities, including Alhambra, Burbank, Downey, La Canada Flintridge and Torrance, along with groups and businesses such as 24 Hour Fitness, Honda, Carnival Cruise Line, Chipotle, Kaiser Permanente, Northwestern Mutual, Shriners Hospital for Children and Trader Joe’s.
Universal Pictures make its debut as a float sponsor, teaming up with DreamWorks Animation to present a float heralding the upcoming animated film “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” The float featured a floral-covered, fire-breathing dragon.
Stella Rosa Wines made its second Rose Parade appearance with a “Taste the Magic” float, ridden by the Grammy-winning band Kool & the Gang, who also performed in a nod to the parade’s Melody of Life theme.
Khan, known for hits including “I Feel for You,” “Through the Fire and “This is My Night,” was chosen to align with the parade’s theme, “The Melody of Life.”
Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny said the theme has universal appeal, since music touches the lives of people around the world.
“On a personal scale, it gets us through our day, it accompanies us through good times and bad times,” Freeny said. “It is quite literally the soundtrack of our lives. But on a grand scale, it has the ability to heal, to unite, to promote change, to bring joy and harmony and rhythm and happiness. Music has a unique power to transcend borders and boundaries, to travel across countries and continents. It speaks to old and young. It represents, enriches and sustains our human existence. It quite simply touches every single life on Earth.”
The parade’s closing ceremony will feature pop singer Anne-Marie.
After the parade concludes, the floats are on display from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday during the Showcase of Floats at Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards. Last entry is 4 p.m. on both days.