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Organizers Nix 2021 Rose Parade, Its First Cancellation Since WWII

The Kaiser Permanente float was one of many participating in the 131st Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., in January. Organizers have canceled the 2021 event, citing health and safety risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kaiser Permanente float was one of many participating in the 131st Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., in January. Organizers have canceled the 2021 event, citing health and safety risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

There will be no Rose Parade on New Year's Day in 2021, marking the first cancellation of the annual spectacle since World War II.

Organizers of the colorful Pasadena, Calif., tradition announced on Wednesday that they would be unable to host the parade in accordance with the state's reopening timeline and "after thoughtful consideration of the restrictions and guidelines in place as a result of COVID-19."

"The health and well-being of our parade participants and guests, as well as that of our volunteer members, professional staff and partners, is our [No. 1] priority," said Bob Miller, 2021 president of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association. "Obviously this is not what any of us wanted, and we held off on announcing until we were absolutely sure that safety restrictions would prevent us from continuing with planning for [the] 132nd Rose Parade."

The parade, known for its lavish, flower-covered floats, is a beloved Jan. 1 tradition. It drew an estimated 700,000 in-person spectators and 37 million television viewers in 2019.

Organizers noted that throughout its long history, the event has only been canceled three times: during the wartime years of 1942, 1943 and 1945.

The decision to cancel next year's parade comes after a specially commissioned feasibility and safety report from public health experts at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California showed that even with safety precautions, the event could create a "high-risk environment for viral spread." The report also cited the potential health risks of participants and spectators traveling to the area, in many cases by plane.

Organizers explained that preparations for the parade, which typically begin in February, would also not be possible this year in light of the state's health and safety regulations.

"In addition to the advance planning required by our band and equestrian units, the construction of our floats takes many months and typically requires thousands of volunteers to gather in ways that aren't in compliance with safety recommendations and won't be safe in the coming months," said David Eads, executive director and CEO of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association.

The organization has 935 active volunteer members and 35 year-round staff members.

It also hosts the annual Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1. According to Wednesday's statement, organizers continue to plan for the game, which will serve as a college football playoff semifinal. They said they are prioritizing safety and "remain hopeful" it can still take place.

And while Colorado Boulevard may look less colorful than usual that day, organizers are also planning "a new kind of New Year celebration" in conjunction with their broadcast partners and sponsors.

"Each year, the country turns its eyes to Pasadena for America's New Year celebration and we plan to deliver on that important promise," Eads said.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.