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Helping Hands: The 120th Rose Parade

Tomorrow another year ends and the following morning another year begins. The 120th Rose Parade in Pasadena starts at 8 a.m. The parade’s theme is “Hats Off to Entertainment” and the Grand Marshal is actress Cloris Leachman. At the beginning of the parade will be the United States Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard (MCMCG) from Barstow.

Those representing the MCMCG this year are Base Commander Col. Kenneth Enzor, color guard members Sgt. Maj. Michael Berg, Gunnery Sgt. Pete McConnell with the American colors, Sgt. Nicholas Cox with the Marine flag, Cpl. Anthony Villalobos and Lance Cpl. Greg Pihs.

In addition to riding in the parade, the horses and their riders participated in the Equestfest, which was held last Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It was one of many pre-parade activities held in the Greater Pasadena area. Equestfest offered visitors an opportunity for continuous entertainment to view riding and roping demonstrations, drills, exhibits, displays and more.

The history of horses in the Marines dates back to 1830 when mounted Marines went into battle in Georgia and Florida. They were an official part of the Marine Corps in Nicaragua during the “Banana Wars” and in the Peking China Rebellion in the 1930s. Technical advancements made horses in the Marines obsolete long ago, however there is an important place for them here and now. In 1967 the U.S. Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard was established and stationed in Barstow. Horses are wild Palomino mustangs adopted from the Bureau of Land Management’s “Adopt a Horse” program and trained by the Marines. It is the only equestrian unit in the Marines.

Following are some history notes found in my files and collected from encyclopedias, books, letters and so forth. The first Rose Parade was sponsored by the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club. Members from the East and Midwest had wanted folks from their former areas to know of the paradise they had found in Southern California. The first year Jan. 1 was on a Sunday, and it was decided to change to parade date to Jan. 2. Most churches were built along the parade route street, and on Sunday horses were used to bring church-goers and were tethered there. Not wanting to frighten the horses, they decided “never on Sunday” for the parade. In about five years the project had become too large for the Hunt Club and a Tournament of Roses association was founded to continue the parade.

A little information about the football games associated with the Tournament of Roses: The first game was held in 1902, when the University of Michigan was challenged by a West Coast university. At the end of the third quarter the game was canceled at a score of 49-0 in favor of Michigan. The football game was not played again until 1916. In 1923 they built a new stadium, in 1947 they had a sell-out crowd and in 1998 they celebrated the 52nd anniversary of Rose Bowl football.

In 1990. a report was given that the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard had traveled for a total of 30,000 miles and reached an audience of 565 million people and were working toward an entire team of wild horses.

For information this year, my thanks to former Barstow resident Gary Bandel, who has now served 15 years as a Rose Parade volunteer and this year will be helping along the parade route. And thanks also to Gunnery Sgt. McConnell, who will be riding with the MCMCG in the parade.
Happy New Year to you all!

Helen Bendure is a correspondent for the Desert Dispatch She can be contacted at

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