The Rose Parade: Inspiring Volunteers for 131 Years

Pasadena City Hall

The iconic Pasadena City Hall, with its Spanish Colonial Revival design, is located at the picturesque center of downtown Pasadena. An architectural feat, the building serves as the backdrop for many Hollywood movies and photoshoots.


The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is an oasis of art and culture set amid 120 acres of consisting of 12 breathtaking gardens and 14,000 species of plants. The library hosts a rare collection of historic artifacts and prints.


Gamble House

Built during the American Arts and Crafts movement, the Gamble House is the best preserved example of work from architects Charles and Henry Greene. The home, built for David and Mary Gamble of Procter & Gamble, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


One Colorado

One Colorado (47 W. Colorado Blvd.) is an outdoor shopping center outfitted with gorgeous cobblestone and charming brick walls where you will find find elegant clothing stores like Finn + Willow, Joie, and Cop Copine.


Old Pasadena

With 22 blocks designated a National Register Historic District, “Old Pas,” as locals affectionately call it, offers open air shopping plazas, hidden laneways and a lively strip of retailers and restaurants along the main drag, Colorado Boulevard.


Playhouse Sign

The artsy Playhouse District is home to the renowned Pasadena Playhouse along with museums, galleries, eateries and a smattering of independent shops. The Playhouse District also serves as a canvas for an eclectic and robust public art collection.


Plaza Las Fuentes

Plaza Las Fuentes, located across the street from the beloved City Hall, is a local favorite for basking in unique colors of multiple mosaic tile walls. When the flowers are in bloom, the plaza is the perfect place to relax in the middle of a busy day.


Rose Bowl Stadium

A National Historic Landmark built in 1922 and known mainly for the Tournament of Roses Football Game, the Rose Bowl Stadium has also earned its world-class reputation by hosting NFL Super Bowl Games, Olympic Soccer Matches, and Men's and Women's World Cups.


Volunteers make the non-profit planning world go ‘round. The annual Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day is hosted by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association and employs 935 volunteers every year! That is some incredible volunteer motivation. We talked to the (volunteer) President of the 2020 Tournament of Roses, Laura Farber, about energizing a volunteer base to consistently pull off the world’s biggest (and some say, best) parade.

The Rose Parade

The 2020 Rose Parade will be the 131st parade held in Pasadena. What began as a way to drive tourism towards SoCal, the parade and subsequent Rose Bowl Game have become American institutions.

Preparations for the 2020 parade began before the 2019 event took the first step. This allows bands and float makers time to prepare and fundraise and speaks to the organization of the association. When asked about traction surrounding the parade, Laura touched on the increasing popularity of it. While it has always been a big event (800,000 annual attendees!), technology, social media and innovation have allowed the parade to be broadcasted further and wider than ever before. With this growing innovation and attention comes a growing international presence at the parade. Laura said she has travelled to various countries, many in Latin America, to review bands that want to play in the famed parade. Laura mentioned how often, when she is travelling, people express how amazed they are that such a big event is run by a volunteer-driven organization. Smart Meetings chatted with Laura about how she keeps volunteers motivated, energized and organized. Here’s what we learned:

Energizing Volunteers

  • The prestige of the event is, according to Laura, a huge motivator in getting new volunteers. There is actually a small volunteer fee that participants are willing to pay for the privilege of volunteering. As the Tournament of Roses is much more than just the Rose Parade; they host a youth empowerment forum, give grants to non-profits, host community events etc. volunteers feel they are helping an organization that is doing good for their community. That belief in the values of the association is the main motivator behind volunteer involvement.
  • Recognition is “absolutely crucial” to keeping volunteers energized and coming back year after year. Recognition of volunteers’ efforts and ideas leads to the high retention rate of volunteers that the Tournament of Roses has and creates an environment in which volunteers feel valued and appreciated.
  • Volunteers work within 32 Operating Committees that effectively divide and coordinate tasks. The organization also implements a ‘two-year gig’ system in which the first year a volunteer learns and the second year they teach. This promotes innovation and allows volunteers to be creative whilst preserving institutional knowledge. Allowing volunteers to be innovative gives them a chance to make a real impact and is a big motivator!

Smart Tip: If you end up in Pasadena around New Year’s, the Pasadena CVB has a visitors’ hotline available in the weeks leading up to the parade to help with information about the event, hotels, travel etc. so expert advice is just a phone call away!