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AN AMERICAN ALBUM: Floral Beauty, Rousing Bands, and Free Speech Embellish the 119th Tournament of Roses Parade

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What can be more American than seeing the Tournament of Roses Parade, an American tradition since 1890? It’s come a long way, baby, since the first few decorated horses and buggies. The 2008 parade provided an optimistic beginning for the New Year, with its phenomenal artisanship, mechanical creativity, and exotic floral beauty.

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Rousing marching bands, stunning horses, cowboys and cowgirls, and patriotic displays of Constitutionally guaranteed free speech, were all enhanced by the sense of freedom and expansion in the theme, "Passport to the World's Celebrations."

One blogger wrote that she was “thrilled to see impeachment and other political banners, reminding us of our duty to preserve our democracy…(and) thought they fit nicely with the parade's melting pot theme that reminded all of us that the U.S. is an important part of a huge global community.”


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Pre- and post-parade activities included the famed Backbone Campaign’s bobble heads: “Chain-ey” gang caricatures of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleeza Rice adorned in prison garb, complete with balls and chains.


CODEPINK human rights activist Tighe Barry, decked out in Revolutionary attire, hams it up for the camera while he has a friendly discussion with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department before the parade. The LASD is well regarded locally for their respectful attitudes and actions.


Uncle Sam seated on the first float of the parade - Western Asset Management’s The Circus Comes to Town. Over 160 feet long, it featured a circus train with four life-sized cars. (Phoenix Decorating Co.)


The Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band has marched in the parade for 79 consecutive years. Americans have been exercising free speech for over 200 years, and Kucinich supporters exercise theirs in front of the Norton Simon Museum. (See this image in Part 5 of the video of the parade on KTLA’s site at: The convergence of activists near the museum was called the White Rose Coalition in honor of the 1942 Munich resistance movement. Members of the Coalition, founded by attorney Peter Thottam, include the Los Angeles National Impeachment Center (, CODEPINK, The Backbone Campaign, Troops Out Now Coalition, World Can't Wait, ANSWER, Progressive Democrats of America, the Green Party, Veterans for Peace, and United for Peace and Justice.

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Thottam, a former political candidate for the Green Party, said organizers had been promised by the Pasadena police and Tournament of Roses officials that they would not be arrested if they did not block other spectators' views with their signage, noting, "Everything we are doing is strictly within our First Amendment rights, and we do not want to interrupt anyone's enjoyment of the parade. We have made it clear to every participant that we want to be respectful."

One of the most inspirational stories in parade history was that of the 230-youth marching band, Nuestros Ángeles de El Salvador. At the last minute, a major portion of their funding fell through and they were short $200,000. Rather than give up the trip, they gave up their airline tickets and left El Salvador on Christmas Day, riding thousands of miles in a caravan of five buses. Costumed in white, they inspired onlookers with their music and their resolve, marching in what seemed to be an angelic triumph.

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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