WASHINGTON — One of the oldest American parades, the Rose Parade, aka the Tournament of Roses, began 133 years ago. On New Year’s Day of 1890, the beautiful tradition of featuring roses and flowers was launched in Pasadena. Californians tried to keep the tradition alive during World War II, but the beautiful festivity was canceled in 2021 because of COVID.
The state of California hosts the largest community of Armenian Americans, and Pasadena is one of the most densely Armenian-populated cities. Naturally, the famous parade could not go on without Armenian participation.
“We have had five floats and three awards,” said Arthur Kokozyan, the director of the American-Armenian Rose Float Association, when we met in Washington, D.C., during his most recent visit to the nation’s capital. “About 50 million people watch it every year. This is about four times bigger an audience than those who watch the World Series of Baseball,” he remarked.
“Խենթեր եկան քով քովի [the crazy ones got together]” added Kokozyan in Armenian, recalling that in 2014 a group of Armenians who had what was at that point a seemingly difficult dream to participate and to gain an award at the rose float formed a committee.
“Eight of us, not tied to any politics, got together with this goal. We have had five floats and three awards,” noted Kokozyan, referring to the participation of the Armenian Americans in 2015 (the winner), 2016, 2017, 2018 (won Judge’s award), and 2019. “Now, we are back again,” added Arthur. The Association has already submitted the application for the 2024 award and got approved. Now they are working on the designs on the Rose Parade Float of 2024. The Facebook page of the Association features the updates.
The Armenian American group has received trophies, including the top one, 60% of the time it participated. Kokozyan refers to the profound preparation they work on as a key reason for success.