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Wells Fargo in the 2013 Rose Parade.
Wells Fargo stagecoaches in the 2013 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. 

The ‘most colorful New Year’s Day tradition’

Find out the history of Wells Fargo’s participation in the annual New Year’s Day Rose Parade and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the work involved in preparing the company’s stagecoaches and floats.

December 29, 2017

On Jan. 1, 2018, Wells Fargo will once again participate in the Rose Parade, America’s most colorful New Year’s Day tradition, in Pasadena, California. Two Wells Fargo stagecoaches will appear as equestrian entries in the parade, and a third Wells Fargo stagecoach will lead the float that brings the parade to a finale.

The Rose Parade dates back to Jan. 1, 1890, when members of the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club paraded around town in carriages decorated with flowers to promote the agricultural and floral bounty of Southern California’s mild winter climate. The first themed floats appeared in 1894. 

Today, the Rose Parade draws a large live crowd of thousands of people and is broadcast to a television audience of millions more. Each year’s parade is a highly organized spectacle that requires a full year of planning and preparation. On parade day, equestrian entries, such as Wells Fargo’s stagecoaches, must be in their parade order by 6 a.m. Pacific time. Promptly at 8 a.m. Pacific time, the Rose Parade begins its five-and-a-half mile march of pageantry through Pasadena.

Wells Fargo’s early participation

For four years in the 1990s, Wells Fargo entered floats in the Rose Parade. “An Old West Celebration,” the company’s first entry in 1991, depicted a gold rush town celebrating the new year. Wells Fargo team members dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours to decorate and prepare the float for parade day.

Dozens of team member volunteers helped decorate Wells Fargo’s 1991 Rose Parade float.
Dozens of team member volunteers helped decorate Wells Fargo’s 1991 Rose Parade float.

The following year, Wells Fargo’s Rose Parade float entry, “Gold Fever — the Discovery of Gold in California,” won the 1992 Governor’s Trophy for best depiction of life in California. The float showed a lively gold rush mining camp, complete with water flumes used as slides by eight stunt performers. A replica miner’s cabin and Wells Fargo office offered a glimpse of life in a gold rush mining camp, and — of course — a stagecoach stood ready to carry the miners’ gold. More than 400 team member volunteers from all over Southern California began decorating the float in October, and by parade day, 100,000 roses in 60 varieties adorned the 110-foot long float ensemble.

Team member volunteers spent hundreds of hours decorating the 1992 float.
Standing 48-feet high, the float for the 1992 Rose Parade required hydraulic lifts to lower it to fit under a freeway overpass.

The colorful floats displayed more than just roses. According to parade tradition, every visible surface on each float must be covered by natural, organic plant material. On the stagecoach that was part of the 1992 float, volunteers painstakingly applied cornmeal to color the wheel spokes yellow and crushed red bell pepper to give the coach body its signature red hue. Art directors and communications specialists from the bank assisted float designers in capturing Wells Fargo’s brand and look.

Wells Fargo’s 1993 parade entry, “Set the Stage — The Theatre Troupe Arrives West,” featured a winter mountain landscape with snow-covered trees towering 50 feet in height. This float, which won the Queen’s Trophy for most effective use of roses, featured a traveling theater troupe that came to town by stagecoach, surrounded by children playing and sledding in their own winter wonderland.  

Wells Fargo’s float in the 1993 parade.
Wells Fargo’s float in the 1993 Rose parade.

Wells Fargo’s 1994 Rose Parade float, “Open Up that Golden Gate,” was even larger than previous parade entries. It depicted a ship arriving in the gold rush port of San Francisco, met by a stagecoach at the dock. A costumed “crew” of 70 musical performers from the San Gabriel Valley Civic Light Opera entertained spectators while stunt professionals portrayed sailors swinging from mast to mast in the ship’s rigging.

This 152-foot long float soared at 65 feet high and attracted the attention of many newspapers and television broadcasts. Logistically, this massive maritime float was a complicated engineering creation, requiring a dump truck chassis to support and haul both the float and its crew. Because of its size, it also required a built-in fire suppression system and evacuation drill practice before rolling down the parade route.

Wells Fargo's float in the 1994 Rose Parade.
Wells Fargo's float in the 1994 Rose Parade.
Photo Credit: Richard Tolbert

The 1994 float was memorable for one other reason: A stray cat decided the unfinished float’s stagecoach was the ideal place to give birth to a litter of kittens, and the feline family remained there until parade day, at which time the owner of the float construction company adopted them. 

Returning to the parade

In 2006, after a 12-year absence, Wells Fargo returned to the Rose Parade. The company entered two of its famous stagecoaches and sponsored both the opening ceremonies and Equestfest, an official Tournament of Roses event held several days before the parade, where hundreds of horses and riders selected to participate in the Rose Parade display their riding skills in an arena showcase.

The 117th Rose Parade occurred on Monday, Jan. 2, 2006, because New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday that year. Unusually heavy downpours drenched parade participants, raining on the Rose Parade for the first time in 50 years.

Wells Fargo’s famous stagecoach and horses have continued to participate in every Rose Parade since 2006.

In 2007, Wells Fargo was an exclusive presenting sponsor of opening ceremony events, the Rose Parade, and Equestfest. That year, three stagecoaches took part in the festivities: one in the opening ceremony and two in the New Year’s Day parade. Inside one parade stagecoach rode 61-year team member Esther Loewen and newly-hired Los Angeles region team member Justin Wisniewski. On the other coach, Tom Swanson of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage rode up top with the driver, with NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar riding shotgun. A special Rose Parade edition of the collectible Wells Fargo plush pony Prince rode on top of the coach.

In 2008, Wells Fargo sponsored an online music video contest where two winners got to ride in parade stagecoaches, and, in 2015, Wells Fargo closed out parade festivities with CEO Tim Sloan, then head of Wholesale Banking, presenting a mortgage-free home to a veteran and his family.

Team member Tyler Smith and CEO Tim Sloan joined Andrea Dellinger of the Military Warriors Support Foundation to award a mortgage-free home to Staff Sgt. Dominic Perrotte and his family at the 2015 Rose Parade.
Team member Tyler Smith and CEO Tim Sloan joined Andrea Dellinger of the Military Warriors Support Foundation to award a mortgage-free home to Staff Sgt. Dominic Perrotte and his family at the 2015 Rose Parade.

2018 Rose Parade

Wells Fargo will continue to have a significant presence in the 2018 Rose Parade, and this year’s theme, “Making a Difference,” aligns with Wells Fargo’s value of building lifelong relationships with our communities. In addition to the company’s three stagecoaches appearing in the parade and closing show, Wells Fargo is once again the presenting sponsor of Equestfest, held Dec. 29 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank, California, where three Stagecoach Appearance Program coaches will participate in the festivities.

During the event, driver George Lane will deliver the Tournament of Roses president for his introduction, and later in the program, drivers David Helmuth and Alan Cartwright will transport the new Rose Parade queen and her court. Wells Fargo’s horses and stagecoaches will also be on display during the event for people to view and take pictures.

This year, six horses will pull each Rose Parade coach — rather than the four-horse hitch typically used in parade appearances — as a way to honor history. Historically, six horses pulled Wells Fargo stagecoaches over prairies and deserts. A six-horse hitch requires a large turning radius, however, and is not always practical on city streets, so the company’s signature red and gold Concord coaches and six-horse teams are sure to present quite a spectacle on parade day for viewers in person and around the world.

Wells Fargo team member volunteers work on the float for the 1992 Rose Parade.
Team member volunteers spent hundreds of hours decorating the 1992 float.
Team member volunteers work on the float for the 1993 Rose Parade.
Team member volunteers work on the float for the 1993 Rose Parade.
Volunteers decorate for the 2013 Rose Parade.
Wells Fargo's stagecoach in the 2008 Rose Parade.
Wells Fargo team member volunteers work on the float for the 1992 Rose Parade.
Team member volunteers spent hundreds of hours decorating the 1992 float.
Team member volunteers work on the float for the 1993 Rose Parade.
Volunteers add finishing touches to Wells Fargo’s float in the 1993 Rose parade.
Volunteers decorate for the 2013 Rose Parade
Wells Fargo's stagecoach in the 2008 Rose Parade.
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