February 29, 2024

Rising up in Italy, Naomi Stillitano didn’t know a factor about the Rose Parade. Then she moved to Southern California. Seven years outdated, she was swaddled in her mom’s jacket to chase away the chilly of an early January morning.

Naomi remembered being dazzled by the flowers and fantastic thing about the Royal Courtroom.

“I used to be like, ‘I wish to be a princess,’ ” Naomi, 17, recalled of her first Rose Parade. Now, almost a decade later, the Arcadia Excessive College senior is the parade’s a hundred and fifth Rose Queen.

{The teenager} appeared visibly emotional throughout her crowning in October, describing the day as “such an incredible second that I’ll all the time bear in mind.” Her dad and mom, too, had been touched by the distinction. Mother shed just a few tears.

“When you instructed me 9 years in the past that I’d be the Rose Queen of 2024, I’d haven’t believed you,” Naomi stated. “My household celebrated after, they had been so glad. I’m actually honored to only be on this place.”

The highway to the Rose Parade has been years within the making for the teenager, in addition to Match of Roses President Alex Aghajanian and Grand Marshal Audra McDonald. Anticipating an in-person crowd of about 750,000 and remaining optimistic about sunny climate, Aghajanian stated he was trying ahead to “bringing individuals collectively” through the one hundred and thirty fifth rendition of the occasion.

Aghajanian was elected to the Match of Roses Govt Committee in 2015, ready his time to function the 2024 president. His relationship with the Rose Parade started when he was a younger boy dwelling close to the route.

“What my father used to do was exit and spherical up all of the outdated cowboy western stars that had been placing the horses away that had ridden within the parade and invite them into my front room,” Aghajanian stated. “So the likes of Montie Montana and George Putnam and others had been in my front room telling tales.”

Aghajanian will put his personal private stamp on the 2024 Rose Parade with the theme of his selecting, which is formally titled “Celebrating a World of Music: The Common Language.” Aghajanian, an lawyer, stated he considered the theme in the course of the night time, waking up his spouse to jot down the title down.

He hopes the theme will attain those that watch the New Yr’s Day celebration Monday.

“I’m fond of claiming I hope that individuals are sitting on their couches — tapping their fingers or their ft and singing — and are so entertained that it simply begins this excellent celebration throughout,” he stated.

The message is already felt by McDonald, a Broadway singer whose credit embody “Carousel,” “Ragtime” and “Porgy and Bess.”

Members of the Match of Roses Royal Courtroom, together with Queen Camille Kennedy, wave to the crowds on the Rose Parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1, 2020.

(Raul Roa/Los Angeles Instances)

“It resonated deeply with me, primarily as a result of there’s no more true assertion that music is the worldwide language and on this time of such turmoil on the planet, music connects us to our humanity and breaks down boundaries,” stated McDonald, a six-time Tony Award winner.

Apart from the theme, taking part within the Rose Parade reminds McDonald, who was raised in Fresno, of recollections of her late father.

“My dad was an enormous soccer fan,” she stated, “And so part of our custom each New Yr’s Day was getting up and turning it on the tv and watching it.”

McDonald added, “As slightly Black woman rising up in Fresno, by no means in my wildest goals did I feel I’d be capable to symbolize on this specific method for the Rose Parade. So meaning so much as a result of illustration is every little thing.”

Going into 2024, McDonald anticipates the Rose Parade will kick off the yr with a “spark of magnificence, a spark of hope, a spark of understanding.”

“I hope it’s a stunning option to rejoice the start of the brand new yr,” she stated, “and hopefully the daybreak of a greater day for all of us as human beings and humankind.”