For Lance Tibbet, president of the Tournament of Roses Association, the annual Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game have always been a family affair.
He recalls crisp mornings begun with hot chocolate and donuts.
“My first memory was when we used to camp out. My parents and I camped at a vacant lot close to the Orange Grove and Colorado start. We’d spend the night and have hot chocolate and donuts. Then we’d go to the grandstands,” he said.
They would attend the game, then, “Afterward, we’d go to my grandmother’s house. It was a whole daylong event that was a lot of fun, a lot of family,” he recalled in a recent phone interview.
While hot chocolate and donuts ranked high among his favorite things, Tibbet also recalled that animation was still in its infancy when he was a youngster. “Floats had just begun to incorporate animation and I always looked for some sort of movement,” he said.
Now, as an adult, Tibbet said he loves “the way we impact people’s lives in a positive way.” The tournament, he said, “brings people together; we used to call them Kodak moments.” The tournament is “an event that people look forward to. It’s a tradition across the states; it’s a bucket list item,” he said.
Tibbet’s father, Bert, had served as a Tournament of Roses volunteer for 24 years.
“Once my dad became a volunteer, he would come home with the stories of what went on behind the scenes. It was a really fascinating operational machine and that got me really inspired and excited,” Tibbet explained.
Tibbet himself began volunteering when he was 21, “which was the earliest you could join. I was a college student and it was my very first experience.”
At that time, Tibbet was on the post-parade committee.
“I absolutely loved that,” he remembered. “People who attend thank you like you put it on personally for them. I quickly learned what an impact the Rose Parade has.”
A lot of years have passed since then. Some of his best memories include the 2008 queen’s court when he watched the court get up on the float.
“Watching them grow into the role and be such fabulous ambassadors to the tournament is one of my favorite memories,” he said.
When he was chairman of the post-parade, he remembers how actress Angie Dickinson used to come with her late daughter Nikki. “It was the one thing they both did each year.”
But the post-parade, the exhibition of the floats after the parade, is a place where Tibbet really can put his vocational background to work. As a partner and vice president of operations at Magic Growers Inc., a wholesale Pasadena nursery specializing in growing “California Appropriate” flowering Mediterranean and perennial plants for the retail nursery and landscape trades, his knowledge of flora came in handy. Here he could actually answer questions about the flowers used to decorate the floats.
Tibbet and his wife, Amelia, have continued the family tradition with their two sons.
“When our boys were younger and old enough they began at Phoenix, decorating the floats. Both rose to positions of crew chiefs on the decoration for one of the floats. Joel became a member of the tournament. Seth went on to work for Phoenix. He worked on building floats professionally.”
The tournament isn’t the only place where Tibbet has been “Making a Difference.” He’s involved in the Pasadena Optimist Club, the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of NOBLE, the USS Pasadena (SSN 752) Foundation and has served as president and board member of the Nursery Growers Association of California (NGA). He has also been active in scouting in Pasadena at both the Cub and Boy Scout levels.
“Making a Difference” is the theme of the 2018 parade and Tibbet is thrilled to have Emmy and Golden Globe award-winner Gary Sinise as the grand marshal, citing Sinise as a founding member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and how that theater provided benefits such as the Veterans’ Night Preview series. The Gary Sinise Foundation, which helps vets and first responders, recently raised its match goal of $125,000 on Giving Tuesday.
“When my wife and I talked to Gary, he mentioned that ‘It’s a Wonderful Life” was one of his favorite movies.”
Sinise will be riding in the very car that Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey used for the movie, Tibbet revealed, adding that the special car has been used for the last decade as a photo op to raise money for veterans.
The car will likely be up for sale soon, but not before it rolls down Colorado Boulevard in the 2018 Rose Parade Presented by Honda.