Santa Rosa’s Rose Parade canceled for third year amid COVID-19 concerns
Santa Rosa’s Luther Burbank Rose Parade scheduled for later this spring has been canceled for the third year over pandemic concerns as other events move forward amid a decline in COVID-19 cases and as safety protocols ease.
Rose Parade organizers hoped to hold the event on May 21 but the board of directors opted to cancel out of concern for public health and because of planning delays related to the omicron surge.
“It’s disheartening,” said Peter Briceno, president of the event’s board of directors.
The St. Patrick’s Day 5K race hosted by Fleet Feet returned March 13 for the first time since 2019 and Healdsburg last week held its St. Patrick’s Day Parade after a two-year pause. The Butter and Egg Days Parade and Festival in Petaluma is expected to return April 23 and the Sonoma County Fair, which drew upward of 100,000 annually before the pandemic, is back in full swing in August.
As many as 400 participants from school bands, equestrian groups and service organizations march in the annual Rose Parade that draws up to 10,000 people to Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square, Briseno said.
Event organizers typically begin planning for the following year’s parade in late fall and organizing picks up in earnest around Thanksgiving, Briseno said.
Uncertainty brought on in late 2021 by rising COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant and new public health guidelines led the board to cancel the event in early January, he said.
That’s around the time Sonoma County health officials implemented health mandates prohibiting large gatherings and extended the county mask mandate to curb the new wave of cases.
Briseno said the board met once restrictions were lifted in February to decide whether to move forward with the event but members felt it was too late.
Organizers wanted to make sure there were enough volunteers, participants and spectators that felt comfortable being there to make the event a success. Some schools were unable to participate and pulling together volunteers to stage the event in three months wasn’t possible, Briseno said.
“We were already five months behind and that felt overwhelming,” he said. “There’s a lot more to putting on the parade than just showing up.”
Briseno said financial issues didn’t factor into the board’s decision. The event’s former manager warned in 2019 that it might be the parade’s last year because contributions from sponsors had fallen off but Briseno said the board was confident it could cover event costs through sponsorships from longtime supporters and reserve funds now that it no longer paid for a full-time manager.
The annual parade and festival was first held in 1894 as the Rose Carnival. The event’s namesake, horticulturalist Luther Burbank, participated in the parade as early as 1914.
The parade was canceled in 1926 after Burbank died and was on hiatus during World War I and II before resuming in 1950. It had been held every year since until being canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
“This has been a Santa Rosa tradition for 128 years and there has been a lot of hard times in that time,” Briseno said. “We don’t want to let this one be the reason it stops happening.”
The board expects to restart the event next year and is excited to welcome back community members, he said.
“It feels like the needle is pointing in the right direction for us to put on a parade next year and we’re very excited to put together something that we and the community will be proud of,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Paulina Pineda at 707-521-5268 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @paulinapineda22.
Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park city reporter
Decisions made by local elected officials have some of the biggest day-to-day impacts on residents, from funding investments in roads and water infrastructure to setting policies to address housing needs and homelessness. As a city reporter, I want to track those decisions and how they affect the community while also highlighting areas that are being neglected or can be improved.