5 things to know about the Rose Parade

Nothing kicks off the new year quite like the Tournament of Roses Parade. The 129th annual event, which will feature an abundance of floral floats, lively marching bands and high-stepping horses, commemorates the Rose Bowl college football championship. And this year, it’s a showdown between the Georgia Bulldogs and Oklahoma Sooners. Curious about the big bash? Here are five things you should know:

It’s an affair more than a century old.

Coined as “America’s New Year Celebration,” the Rose Parade began in 1890 thanks to the Hunt Valley Club, a private social organization in California. Its members, who were former residents of the East Coast and Midwest, were eager to show off their new home’s yearlong warm weather. Thus, a festival of flowers, music and sports was created at the top of the year, where locals could enjoy chariot races and revel in the blooming flowers in the midst of winter.

The first associated football game wasn’t until 1902.

The first match, played on Jan. 1, 1902, was called the Tournament East–West football game, and Michigan dominated Stanford. The next playoff didn’t happen until 14 years later in 1916, and it has been played annually ever since. It’s now also called “The Granddaddy of Them All” because it’s known as the oldest bowl game in U.S. history.

It takes 80,000 hours to organize.

More than 900 people spend a combined 80,000 hours each year putting on the occasion. Every team member is assigned to one of 31 committees with responsibilities that include selecting parade participants, arranging media coverage and giving presentations. The volunteers are nicknamed the “White Suiters” because of the white uniforms they wear while working.

If New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday, they move the festivities to the following Monday. The rule was implemented in the 1890s because coordinators did not want to disturb the horses standing outside Sunday church services. Although the animals no longer tether near places of worship, the tradition remains.

Hundreds of thousands tune in each year.

In 2017, the gathering drew an estimated 700,000 attendees to the streets of Pasadena, and about 28 million people around the globe watched on television. Networks, such as ABC, NBC and HGTV, broadcast the fest each year.

This year’s theme is “Making a Difference.”

Organizers are honoring people in communities who quietly work to benefit others without recognition. “It’s about the human acts of kindness that enrich the lives of others and are the source of inspiration, hope, joy and optimism for all of us,” Tournament of Roses President Lance Tibbet said in a statement.

The 2018 Rose Parade is on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif., and will begin at 11 a.m. EST.