• The 124th Tournament of Roses Parade

    PASADENA (CNS) – The 124th Tournament of Roses Parade will make its way down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena today, with famed chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall serving as grand marshal.

    Themed “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” the annual procession will include 42 floral floats, 23 marching bands and 21 equestrian units.

    The parade will pass in front of thousands of spectators, many of whom will camp on the street overnight to secure prime viewing positions for one of the world’s most famous parades.

    According to the Tournament of Roses Association, the first parade was staged in 1890 by members of Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club — former residents of the East and Midwest eager to showcase the Southland’s mild winter weather.

    The first procession included horse-drawn carriages decorated with brightly colored flowers, followed by foot races and jousts in the area town square. In subsequent years, the parade festivities included rodeo-type events and even ostrich races.

    Among the highlights of this year’s procession will be Farmers Insurance’s “The Love Float,” aboard which a couple — Nicole and Gerald from Chesapeake, Va. — will become the first people married during the parade.

    The couple were high school classmates who reconnected later in life and won a nationwide contest to earn the parade wedding. Nicole and Gerald received a trip to Pasadena, wedding gown, tuxedo, wedding rings, marriage license fees, Rose Bowl game tickets and hair and makeup for the bride.

    The parade will begin near Orange Grove Boulevard and Ellis Street, then move east along Colorado Boulevard and north on Sierra Madre Boulevard. The floats will then remain on display at Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards so people can see them up close.

    Tournament of Roses President Sally Bixby said the theme “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” was chosen with Goodall in mind as grand marshal.

    “The theme can be interpreted as a celebration of accomplishment, discovery and travel of course, but equally valid is its implicit call to action,” Bixby said. “We think Dr. Goodall’s life story is a testament to the sense of adventure and openness to possibility that this phrase suggests. As a young woman, she defied convention to follow her dreams, and she has committed herself to a life of global citizenship, inspiring children and adults alike along the way.”

    The 78-year-old Goodall, a lifelong advocate for the protection of endangered species, is best known for immersing herself into the habitat of chimps in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, documenting the personalities of individual chimpanzees and their human-like characteristics.

    She gained fame for the close relationship she formed with the chimps she was studying, even finding herself accepted as a member of a particular group of the animals for nearly two years.

    In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute, a nonprofit organization that “empowers people to make a difference for all living things.”

    In 1991, she worked with a group of students in Tanzania to form Roots & Shoots, which is the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program.

    “New Year’s Day symbolizes the opportunity to work toward new goals, experience new beginnings and make a difference,” Goodall said. “My dream for this New Year’s Day is for everyone to think of the places we can all go if we work together to make our world a better place.

    “Every journey starts with a step and I am pleased to see the Tournament of Roses continue to take steps toward not only celebrating beauty and imagination, but also a cleaner environment,” she said.

    Vanessa Natalie Manjarrez, a 17-year-old student at Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, will preside over the festivities as the 2013 Rose Queen.

    She and the members of her Royal Court, all 17 years old, were chosen from more than 900 applicants. The Royal Court members:

    – Kathryne Alice Benuska, Maranatha High School;

    – Tracy Italia Cresta, La Salle High School;

    – Victoria Sophia McGregor, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy;

    – Nicole Cherie Nelam, Pasadena High School;

    – Sonia Marie Shenoi, San Marino High School; and

    – Madison Michelle Barili Teodo, La Canada High School.

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