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Charles Phoenix on the history and tradition of the Rose Parade




Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Charles Phoenix/Facebook
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Shari Kennedy of Kiwanis International adds color to an American flag on a float in the Rosemont Pavilion on Thursday, days before the Rose Parade on New Year's Day. The float uses wheat, corn kernels, green tea leaves, parsley, and crushed split peas, among other materials, for its color.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Liz Fox of Arkansas decorates the float for Donate Life, a non-profit organ and tissue donation organization. Fox's husband, David Lee Fox, will be one of several donors honored and pictured on the float with ground flower petals.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Crystal Ogden of Prescott, Ariz., a crew chief for Phoenix Decorating Company, wears a bright green hat to match the green tractor float she is overseeing.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Sarah Helman, left, and Nicole Sunga cut flowers for the City of Hope float. The two said they would spend their evening in the Rosemont Pavilion working on the float.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
David Lacy of Covina works on a float honoring veterans and children from the Korean War. Lacy glues lettuce seed to soldiers' faces and helmet straps. Lacy himself is a veteran, as he was in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Kekayo Armstrong, 13, cuts up yellow flowers for the City of Hope float. This year's Rose Parade features 41 floats.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Volunteers work on scaffolds high above the ground. The floats at Rosemont Pavilion are on view through Monday, and there are still volunteer opportunities.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Mark Klemme of Wisconsin, a member of the volunteer organization Kiwanis International, decorates a float from high up. Floats are decorated in locations throughout Pasadena, La Canada Flintridge, Sierra Madre, and Burbank.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Phoenix Decorating Company employees place beams over the Donate Life float, in preparation for adding color to the float. The 41 floats can also be viewed after the parade on Sierra Madre Boulevard on New Year's Day and Jan. 2.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
Qi Yang, left, and her classmates from Shore High School volunteer with Kiwanis International to pull apart pieces of bark for a float.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Charles Phoenix wearing a splatter-painted suit.
The Rosemont Pavilion next to the Rose Bowl, which houses Phoenix Decorating Company's floats, is bustling on Thursday evening, days before the parade on New Year's Day.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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Pasadena is gearing up to play host to the 124th Rose Parade, an annual local tradition that features fantastic floral floats and marching bands from throughout the country. 

Host and retro extraordinaire Charles Phoenix — who plans to wear a splatter-painted and rhinestone-laden suit this year — offers some helpful tips on how to see the show and a little history lesson on how it all started.

Give us a quick Rose Parade history lesson
"It started in 1890, the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena was like, 'Let's brag! We've got a sunshiny day, its January 1, let's chop off some roses from our rose bushes and some other flowers , put them on our carriages and parade down the avenue.' Within a couple of years it caught the attention of the press across the United States, and basically it was to brag that we have such incredible weather here."

What can you tell us about the parade route?
"It starts on Orange Grove and it turns the corner and I believe it goes 5 1/2 miles down Colorado Blvd. This is the class route it's been for decades and decades and decades and then it goes up Sierra Madre where it winds up where they collect all the floats and you go see it the day after. It's an amazing display of people."

RELATED: Everything you need to know about the 2013 Rose Parade

What's it like to help build a float?
"A lot of glue on your hands, but it's such an incredible experience. The Downey Rose Float Association is in a big barn in Downey, right now they are still building the float. It's just a giant arts and crafts projects, and the clock is ticking, and everyone's excited and the finishing touches literally go on just 5 seconds before the judges arrive to judge the float."

What tips can you give first-timers who want to see the parade?
"What I do is I go and hang out in front of the Tournament House on Orange Grove where all the floats are lined up. Get there about 6 a.m., you walk up and down and you see all the floats lined up, and then pretty soon you're hanging out at the tournament house and you see the queen and her court, and there's a whole bugle corps. the tradition, the pomp and circumstance, it's magical what can I say. When the parade starts I go right up to the exact corner where it begins. That's where on one street they have the equestrian all lined up … on the other side street right across from them they have all the marching bands. Just to see them up close and turn the corner, then they've got the floats. The whole parade is run with military precision, it is a pinnacle of civilization, it really is, and I think an incredible source of pride for all Southern Californians, because it is our baby and it represents us to the rest of the world because the rest of the world is watching."