Wil Forrest enjoys a performance by the band Los Lobos during the 2020 Rose Parade’s closing show finale presented by Wells Fargo.
Photo: Brian Lucero-Contreras
Inside the Stagecoach
January 6, 2020

The show goes on for Rose Parade family

Three years after their father’s death, Samantha and Wil Forrest treasure three decades of memories from their family’s involvement in the annual Rose Parade.

Crafted using nearly 18 million flowers, the Rose Parade’s floats are a New Year’s Day TV staple.

Samantha and Wil Forrest grew up in the family that, for 39 years, helped bring NBC’s Rose Parade — broadcast live from Pasadena, California — to people in the U.S. and 243 countries and territories.

“It is a beautiful celebration full of positive feeling meant to bring the country together to ring in the New Year,” said Wil Forrest, a personal banker for Wells Fargo in Simi Valley, California.

Arthur and Paul Forrest at NBC’s Rose Parade broadcast center in 2015.
Arthur and Paul Forrest during the 2015 Rose Parade. From 1977 to 2016, they helped NBC create Rose Parade memories for people around the world.

Their grandfather, Arthur, was the Rose Parade telecast’s executive producer and director, and Paul, their father, its associate director, from 1977 to 2016.

When they were kids, Samantha and Wil Forrest followed the same Rose Parade routine each year. Their mother, Jane, would wake them at 3 a.m. New Year’s Day, and then they would hustle to Pasadena to meet their father and grandfather as they prepared for the show.

“After getting hot chocolate in the green room, where the hosts and crew relax during down time, my father would take us out on Colorado Boulevard, and we’d walk to preview the floats before the parade,” said Samantha Forrest, a financial crimes associate for Wells Fargo in Oakland, California.

“Family was the number one reason the Rose Parade is special. This was the one show my father and grandfather worked on every year.” — Samantha Forrest, Wells Fargo financial crimes associate

“I remember the sun would barely be rising, and as we walked around bundled up in our coats, we would see more details on each float, and try to identify what flowers and plants were used for the designs,” she said. “That remains my favorite Rose Parade memory. Family was the No. 1 reason the Rose Parade is special. This was the one show my father and grandfather worked on every year.”

As for the NBC telecast, she said, “It’s a live, remote recording and broadcast of the parade in a ‘pop-up’ setting. You have to coordinate the hosts, cameras, directing, and shooting all together and bring it into a seamless production — including commercials. The Rose Parade broadcast is exciting for all the crew, because, like my father and grandfather, many of them worked together year after year and looked forward to working on the show as a team.”

Arthur Forrest retired from broadcasting in 2016, and Paul Forrest died of pancreatic cancer in 2017. Both were award-winning members of the Directors Guild of America.

“I think my father most enjoyed the fact that New Year’s Day for our family and the Rose Parade was a ‘bring the kids to work’ kind of day,” said Wil Forrest.

“Not only did he get to see a side of something many will never see doing his routine, but knew his children got to enjoy the New Year with him as well,” he said. “As a live show, there is only one take, and it has to go perfectly. Many people work incredibly hard to coordinate a perfect show.”

Collage of images showing Samantha Forrest; her brother, Wil; mother, Jane; father, Paul; and grandfather, Arthur, at or watching the Rose Parade.
(Clockwise from left) Wearing her Rose Parade sweater and pins, Samantha Forrest watches the parade from her apartment; Wil Forrest and his mother, Jane, at the 2020 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California; Samantha and Jane Forrest watching the 1999 Rose Parade, which included a “Wizard of Oz” float celebrating her parents’ favorite movie.
Photo: Samantha Forrest and Janny Hu

About 37 million people in the U.S. and 28 million in other countries watched the 131st Rose Parade Jan. 1, 2020, which marked Wells Fargo’s 13th year as a corporate sponsor.

In addition to the closing show grand finale, Wells Fargo presented “Beyond the Flowers: The Path to Pasadena,” a new video storytelling platform allowing participants, volunteers, and fans to submit 45-second videos sharing their excitement, anticipation, and passion for the Rose Parade throughout December. The company also annually sponsors “Equestfest” — a showcase of the parade’s equestrian units. This year’s event took place Dec. 29 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

This year, Wil and Jane Forrest watched the parade from the streets of Pasadena, just as they always have. Samantha wasn’t able to join them, but she watched from her apartment in Oakland — wearing her Rose Parade sweater and pins, of course.

Every parade has a theme, and Samantha Forrest said this year’s — “The Power of Hope” — reminded her of her dad.

“He was in a serious car accident in 1998 that nearly took his life and set his career back — wheelchair-bound for almost a year and living with steel plates and screws in his back,” she said. “Despite this, he stayed strong and built back his career and made a full recovery. He never let anything stand in his way.

“When he died in 2017, people reached out from near and far after to tell me how my dad mentored and helped people with their careers. I think of him every single day because he was the strongest, kindest person I have and will ever know. He passed all those qualities down to Wil and I, who are doing our best to continue his legacy of spreading positivity and hope to the world.”