Monrovia’s Musical Heritage at the Rose Parade

    The Monrovia City Band. – Courtesy photo

    By Terry Miller

    Pasadena may have the Tournament of Roses, Arcadia may boast about being the unofficial home of the Rose Queens and Sierra Madre may have a prize winning float, but what’s a parade without a band? That’s where Monrovia comes into the historic picture. Well, maybe not this year, but the first band ever entered in the Rose Parade was from Monrovia, way back in 1891.

    Monrovia’s City Band was founded just 18 months before the parade in June of 1889. At that time the band was a bit heavy on horns featuring five cornets, three alto, two tenor, one baritone and two bass horns (in different keys) and light on reeds, having only one piccolo and one clarinet. The band was kept in tempo with one snare drum, one bass drum and a cymbalist.

    There may be more glamour in what other cities provide but Monrovia can take pride in its historic addition to the Jan. 1 tradition.

    The Rose Parade’s musical legacy dates to that 1891 pageant when the Monrovia City Band joined the procession of flower-covered pony carts in the second Tournament of Roses Parade. Since then, hundreds of thousands of musicians from all over the world have made the famous march through Pasadena on New Year’s Day. The Rose Parade has welcomed high schools, colleges and universities, and military bands. Past parades have featured a variety of musicians including marching bands, drum and bugle corps, brass and percussion bands, and bag pipes.

    The earliest Tournament of Roses welcomed 3,000 spectators to its first parade filled with beautiful, horse-drawn carriages covered in flowers. More than a century later, the parade floats are a marvel of state of the art technology, all tucked away beneath flowers and other all-natural materials.

    Each year more than 80,000 hours of combined service are supplied by 935 volunteer members of the Tournament of Roses Association. Nicknamed “White Suiters” because of the distinctive white suits every volunteer wears, these community-spirited men and women give up their evenings, weekends and holidays to ensure the success of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game.

    The average float costs well over a million dollars to build — with framing/welding labor and, of course the design and floral mastery that goes into each and every float.

    Although just two commercial float builders exist, Phoenix and Fiesta, both are located in Monrovia’s back yard, Irwindale, where they work their magic. There are a handful of self-built floats as well — including Sierra Madre, La Cañada and Cal Poly — which also offer behind the scenes tours.

    Phoenix Decorating has been a pioneer of cutting edge technology, hydraulics, animatronics, computer systems association and mobile technology application bewildering many.

    Fiesta Parade Float’s floral presentations are considered some of the best in the industry. Fiesta is known, in particular, for the attention to detail on floral presentation, as well as the arrangement of exotic organic materials used to bring the design concept to life.

    To take a look at how these floats are made first hand, contact either company to see what schedules may be available:

    Phoenix Decorating Company
    (626) 793-3174
    5400 Irwindale Ave., Irwindale

    Fiesta Floats
    (626) 610-0974 
    16016 Avenida Padilla, Suite B, Irwindale


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