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Members of Pasadena's Valley Hunt Club first staged the parade in 1890. Since then the parade has been held in Pasadena every New Year's Day, except when January 1 falls on a Sunday. In that case, it is held on the subsequent Monday, January 2. This exception was instituted in 1893. Local tradition has it that "the Tournament has a deal with God; we'll never hold the parade on a Sunday, and He'll never let it rain on the Rose Parade." However, according to the Tournament of Roses Association Web site, this "Never on Sunday" policy was instituted in order "to avoid frightening horses tethered outside local churches and thus interfering with worship services." Thus, the parade has never been held on a Sunday. Incidentally, the Rose Bowl Game is also not held on Sunday to avoid competing with the NFL. Other bowl games usually held on January 1 also follow this rule, as does the NHL Winter Classic.
Many of the members of the Valley Hunt Club were former residents of the American East and Midwest. They wished to showcase their new California home's mild winter weather. At a club meeting, Professor Charles F. Holder announced, "In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise."
So the club organized horse-drawn carriages covered in flowers, followed by foot races, polo matches, and a game of tug-of-war on the town lot that attracted a crowd of 2,000 to the event. Upon seeing the scores of flowers on display, the professor decided to suggest the name "Tournament of Roses."
Over the next few founding years, marching bands and motorized floats were added. By 1895, the event was too large for the Valley Hunt Club to handle, hence the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association was formed. By the 11th annual tournament (1900), the town lot on which the activities were held was renamed Tournament Park, a large open area directly adjacent to Pasadena's world-famous institution of higher learning, Caltech. Activities soon included ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations, and an odd novelty race between a camel and an elephant. (The elephant won the race.) Soon reviewing stands were built along the parade route and newspapers in Eastern Seaboard cities started to take notice of the event.
The stately Italian Renaissance-style mansion of William Wrigley Jr. (the maker of Wrigley's chewing gum) was offered to the city of Pasadena after Mrs. Wrigley's death in 1958, under the condition that their home would be the Rose Parade's permanent headquarters. Tournament House is the name given the former home where the organization is headquartered.
The first associated football game was played on January 1, 1902. Originally titled the "Tournament East-West football game," it is considered to be the first Rose Bowl. The next game was not played until New Year's Day 1916; they have been played annually since then. The game derives its modern name from Rose Bowl Stadium, which was built for the 1923 game.
In 2002 and 2006 (when the Rose Bowl Game was the BCS National Championship Game), the "Granddaddy of 'em all" was not held the same day as the parade; the 2006 game was played on January 4. Not all fans were pleased with the change; some thought the atmosphere and tradition of the Rose Bowl were lost. However, since the BCS title game is now separate from the host bowl, it no longer affects the date of the Rose Bowl Game (even when the title game returned to Pasadena in 2010 and 2014).
游行的大礼官（Grand Marshal） is an honorary position selected by the president of the Tournament. Many are picked for a relationship to the theme that is also picked by the president.
Vin Scully was chosen as the Grand Marshal of the 2014 parade and Rose Bowl Game. Previously, President Sally Bixby named Jane Goodall as the Grand Marshal for the 2013 parade, succeeding J. R. Martinez, the 2012 grand marshal.
Food Network star Paula Deen was the Grand Marshal of the 2011 parade. Captain Chesley Sullenberger was the 2010 Grand Marshal and actress Cloris Leachman served as the 2009 Grand Marshal, the 10th female grand marshal in the history of the parade. Mary Pickford was the first female Grand Marshal. Other Hollywood celebrities appeared as Grand Marshal are Leo Carrillo, Harold Lloyd, Walt Disney, John Wayne, and Bob Hope.
Repeat Marshals of the Tournament of Roses Parade
- Shirley Temple, 1939, 1989, 1999
- Charles Daggett, 1900, 1901, 1914
- Dwight D. Eisenhower 1951, 1964 (note that Cpl. Robert S. Gray filled in for him in 1951)
- Bob Hope, 1947, 1969
- Richard Nixon, 1953, 1960
- C. C. Reynolds, 1902, 1903
- Dr. Francis F. Rowland, 1890, 1892, 1894, 1904, 1905, 1910, 1916
- Dr. Ralph Skillen, 1907, 1908, 1911
- Edwin Stearns, 1896, 1897
- Martin H. Weight, 1898, 1899
- Earl Warren, 1943, 1955