Three Olympic gold medalists — Janet Evans, Allyson Felix and Greg Louganis — are serving as co-grand marshals of the 128th Rose Parade. Tournament of Roses Association President Brad Ratliff selected the legendary athletes to represent the theme of this year’s event, “Echoes of Success.”
“Each of them has unique stories to tell, all different, and we really wanted to showcase that,” Ratliff said when announcing his selections in November. “I know the stories they have will have an impact on many.”
Evans, 45, is considered to be the greatest female distance swimmer in history. She is a five-time Olympic medalist, winning gold medals in all three of her races during the 1988 Olympics and a gold and silver medal in the 1992 games. Evans has also attained success as an author, motivational speaker, commercial spokesperson and reality TV personality.
Felix, 31, is one of the most decorated female track and field stars in Olympic history, winning six gold and three silver medals between 2004 and 2016. As an athlete ambassador for Right to Play, Felix has visited Lebanon, Uganda, Mozambique and other places to spread the worldwide organization’s message about the positive impact of sport and play on children’s development, confidence and communication skills.
Louganis, 56, deemed the greatest diver in history, is the first openly gay person to serve as grand marshal. He won five Olympic medals in the 1976, 1984 and 1988 Olympics, five World Championship titles and 48 national titles — more than anyone else in history. He is an LGBT activist and the author of the 1995 autobiography “Breaking the Surface.”
The three co-grand marshals were born in Southern California and represent the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic and Paralympic bid committee, which is working to bring the games to that city.
The 2017 Rose Parade will be held on Monday, Jan 2 instead of New Year’s Day in accordance with the Tournament of Rose’s “Never on Sunday” policy.
The grand marshal traditionally rides in a float during the parade and conducts a coin toss before the Rose Bowl Game.
Ratliff announced the theme of the parade in early 2016, explaining that “Echoes of Success” tells “the story of how our character has developed through the selfless contributions of others and celebrates their inspirational gifts. It is a celebration for those people, institutions and organizations that help in the success of others.”
Evans, Felix and Louganis are not the first athletes to serve as grand marshals. In 1997, Carl Lewis, winner of nine gold medals in Olympic track and field competitions, was co-grand marshal with Shannon Miller, the most decorated American gymnast. The position has also been held by Brazilian soccer legend Pele (1987), Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Merlin Olsen (1983), Major League Baseball player Henry L. “Hank” Aaron (1975), professional golfers Juan “Chi Chi” Rodriguez (1995) and Arnold Palmer (1965) and athlete and pioneering coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (1944). Jackie Robinson, the Pasadena resident who broke the color line in Major League Baseball, was posthumously appointed grand marshal for the 1999 parade, while Vin Scully, the long-time Los Angeles Dodgers’ announcer who retired in 2016, held the position during the 2014 parade. The first pairing of grand marshals was ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his popular puppet Charlie McCarthy in 1940. In 1952, Medal of Honor winners Lt. Stanley Adams, Capt. Raymond Harvey, Lt. Thomas Hudner, Sgt. Ernest Kouma, Capt. Lewis Millet, Sgt. Joseph Rodriguez and Major Carl Sitter shared the honor. In 1970, Apollo 12 astronauts Alan L. Bean, Charles Conrad Jr. and Richard F. Gordo served.
In 1992, Cristobol Colon, a Spanish duke and heir to Christopher Columbus, shared grand marshal honors with Congressman Ben Nighthorse Campbell. In 1997 came Olympians Lewis and Miller, and sharing honors with Jackie Robinson in 1999 was astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Shirley Temple Black and David L. Wolper. In 2003, Bill Cosby, Art Linkletter and Fred Rogers led the parade.
From the first Rose Parade in 1890 until 1933, the grand marshals were people who were active in the Tournament of Roses Association, members of the armed forces, or well-known residents of Pasadena or Los Angeles. This policy began to change in 1933, when actress Mary Pickford was named grand marshal.
Shirley Temple Black is the only person to be grand marshal in three parades (1939, 1989 and 1999) and three people served in two parades: Bob Hope (1947 and 1969); Earl Warren, who was California attorney general and governor before becoming Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1943 and 1955); and Richard Nixon, who was in the 1953 parade when he was a US senator and in the 1960 parade when he was vice president.
Not all of the grand marshals have been people. Kermit the Frog and Mickey Mouse rode in the 1996 and 2005 parades, respectively, and in 1940 puppet Charlie McCarthy shared grand marshal honors with his boss, Edgar Bergen.