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Paving the Way for the Rose Parade : Businessmen Donate 65,000 Hours for New Year's Event

December 30, 1985|NANCY RIVERA | Times Staff Writer

Promoter Mark Bevan can't forget the New Year's Day that the brakes locked on the float he was driving in the Rose Parade, and he nearly crashed into the float ahead.

Pasadena restaurateur Bob Kawashima particularly remembers the time he headed the committee to pick the Rose Queen. That year, two young men joined the hundreds of hopefuls, dutifully calling out their numbers and doing a turn for the judges.

And then there was the Bengal tiger.

A few years back, when a too-tall float collided with a traffic light and stopped the Rose Parade for 18 minutes, furniture store owner Don Fedde and some other Pasadena Tournament of Roses Assn. officials found themselves hugging the broken light standard from a precarious position on a photographers' stand to keep the cement pole from toppling into the crowd. When it came time to tow the disabled float, the officials found that the only place to attach the tow bar was right in front of an uncaged tiger that stood with its trainer.

"Needless to say, we now have tighter restrictions on animals of that type," Fedde said with a laugh.

Fedde, Kawashima and Bevan are among the hundreds of business people who each year donate thousands of hours--65,000 by the association's estimate--to stage the Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl Game.

They forgo a New Year's Eve champagne haze to patrol barricades, herd the 60 flower-covered floats, round up the 278 equestrians, organize upwards of 4,500 musicians from 22 marching bands and generally do whatever it takes to put on what 1985 Tournament of Roses President Frederick D. Johnson Jr. calls "a two-hour floral greeting card to the world."

This New Year's Day, the theme of the parade is "A Celebration of Laughter," and columnist Erma Bombeck is grand marshal.

The Tournament of Roses Assn. has about 800 active members--most of them business men and women who live or work within 15 miles of Pasadena City Hall--who are known by the white suits that they wear on parade day. The association also has about 600 inactive but dues-paying members.

Beyond the official "white suiters" of the Tournament association, the parade draws untold numbers of volunteers--certifiable "parade junkies" who annually glue flowers to floats or march, ride or drive the 5.5-mile route.

It's a singular way for business people to participate in their community: Every town has its chamber of commerce and its service organizations, but only Pasadena boasts the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game.

The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce shares many members with the Tournament association, and chamber Executive Vice President Tom Snelson admits that his organization has no hope of competing for business people's time and energy as parade time nears. But Snelson says he doesn't mind much, considering the estimated $68.1 million in business that the parade, game and related activities generate each year for the area, according to a study commissioned by the Tournament association.

"It's a binding force in the community," Snelson said. "It's the one thing that really rivets the world's attention on Pasadena. It's given us a lot of name recognition."

Mark Bevan first got hooked on the Rose Parade when he was 15 1/2 years old and possessed a new learner's permit that allowed him to drive a small float. It ran out of gas.

"I was sitting there and the bands were passing me by, and here I was out of gas," said Bevan, who now is a partner in Stiletto Ltd., an entertainment managing, marketing and merchandising firm with such clients as Barry Manilow, John Cougar Mellencamp, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder.

Ignoring guffaws from the crowd, Bevan climbed out of the float with a jug of gasoline he had packed and filled the tank.

Now Bevan is about to participate in his 19th Rose Parade, driving the Baskin-Robbins float.

Bevan, who is not a Tournament association member, takes a week off at the end of the year to get ready for his drive and to perform miscellaneous tasks primarily for C. E. Bent & Son, the company that dominates float building for the parade. He said he developed much of his business skill during the years he spent decorating floats for Bent and supervising crews of high school students.

"A lot of the management techniques I use today I learned from trying to get 20 guys and girls, mainly girls, to do something at the same time," he said.

Bob Kawashima, who currently heads the Tournament's music committee, owns a small Pasadena hotel and two restaurants in Pasadena and Torrance called Miyako, as well as a Japanese tea garden at Descanso Gardens.

Even he is amazed by the task of feeding more than 4,500 musicians. "That's a lot of lunches," he said.

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