The first Tournament of Roses was staged in 1890 by members of Pasadena'sValley Hunt Club, former residentsof the East and Midwest eager toshowcase their new home'smild winter weather.
"In New York, people are buried in snow," announced Professor Charles F. Holder at a Club meeting. "Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise."
During the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands and motorized floats. The games on the town lot (which was re-named Tournament Park in 1900) included ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations and a race between a camel and an elephant (the elephant won). Reviewing stands were built along the Parade route, and Eastern newspapers began to take notice of the event. In 1895, the Tournament of Roses Association was formed to take charge of the festival, which had grown too large for the Valley Hunt Club to handle.
In 1902, the Tournament of Roses decided to enhance the day’s festivities by adding a football game – the first post season college football game ever held. Stanford University accepted the invitation to take on the powerhouse University of Michigan, but the West Coast team was flattened 49-0 and gave up in the third quarter. The lopsided score prompted the Tournament to give up football in favor of Roman-style chariot races. In 1916, football returned to stay and the crowds soon outgrew the stands in Tournament Park. William L. Leishman, the Tournament’s 1920 President, envisioned a stadium similar to the Yale Bowl, the first great modern football stadium, to be built in Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco area. The new stadium hosted its first New Year’s football game in 1923 and soon earned the nickname “The Rose Bowl.”
The Tournament of Roses has come a long way since its early days. The Rose Parade’s elaborate floats now feature high-tech computerized animation and exotic natural materials from around the world. Although a few floats are still built exclusively by volunteers from their sponsoring communities, most are built by professional float building companies and take nearly a year to construct. The year-long effort pays off on New Year’s morning, when millions of viewers around the world enjoy the Rose Parade.
Nicknamed “The Granddaddy of Them All” the Rose Bowl Game has been a sellout attraction every year since 1947. That year’s contest was the first game played under the Tournament’s exclusive agreement with the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences. The 1998 Rose Bowl Game was the 52nd anniversary of that agreement, the longest standing tradition of any collegiate conference and a bowl association. Now, as part of the Bowl Championship Series, the Rose Bowl has hosted the National Championship Game between the top two teams in the nation in 2002, 2006, 2010 and will host the National Championship again in 2014.