While the eyes of 93,359 ticket holders and millions of television viewers were fixed on the Rose Bowl field Jan. 1, a small army worked behind the scenes to ensure the game went off without a hitch.
The stadium area was already bustling as the Rose Parade started at 8 a.m., with security crews, parking and ticket attendants, concession workers and logistics supervisors in place.
A truck carrying FBI agents in military gear — just one component of a Pasadena Police Department-led security force — drove by. Later, some headed toward positions on the stadium’s upper levels.
Rose Bowl Game Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Ash, who arrived at 5:30 a.m., grabbed a coffee in the media tent with Senior Game Manager Edward Corey. Each carried an 80-page script, much of it detailing the flurry of activity between the 1:30 p.m. welcome message and 2:10 p.m. kickoff. A sequence including band, team and VIP introductions hinged on a B2 flyover occurring at precisely 2:04 p.m., directly following the National Anthem.
Inside the stadium, concessionaires installed beer taps and fired up grills. The Pasadena Jaycees placed stacks of programs for sale.
In the tunnels below the stadium, Pasadena Public Library publicist Catherine Haskett Hany and Caltech Sports Information Director Stephen Hinkel checked in 150 news photographers. Photographers and runners who during the game carry filled digital photo cards to a media center between locker rooms must be cleared to earn field access.
Hany, who also helped credential 250 reporters, was short on sleep after working until 2 a.m. at an open-bar hotel party for the press.
Around 11 a.m., Rose Queen Vanessa Manjarrez and her Royal Court arrived at a VIP tent just west of the stadium to eat and shake off the chill of the parade.
“It was freezing. It’s been freezing all day! … I’m trying to defrost,” Queen Vanessa said with a laugh. She arrived at Tournament House at 4:30 a.m., following a 2:30 a.m. hair and makeup appointment.
Before the game, she and the court would take the field to do what Rose Parade royalty do best. “We wave,” she said. “That’s pretty much it, but I’m really excited to go onto the field.”
Around noon, the Stanford Cardinal and Wisconsin Badger football teams arrived as fans cheered from above the locker room tunnels.
At 12:45 p.m., University of Wisconsin Dance Team Captain Vanessa Iorio and her teammates stretched and assembled cheer flags on the west sideline. Iorio confirmed that it was cold even by Badger standards on the 5.5-mile parade route. Afterward her crew ate In-n-Out burgers, “which all of us from Wisconsin just love because we don’t have them out there,” she said.
Stanford band members, the school’s Dollies dance group and its tree mascot — played by senior Nicoletta Heidegger in a 20-pound costume — controlled the east sideline.
After 1:30 p.m. announcements boomed over the loudspeaker and the video board lit up. On the Wisconsin sideline ESPN President John Skipper spoke with U.S. Air Force Lt. General Ellen Pawlikowski. Pawlikowski took the field during the first TV timeout to thank members of the armed services.
“The Rose Parade is a remarkable logistical feat, and this is, too,” said Skipper, whose network will broadcast the Rose Bowl through 2026 under a $1.1 billion deal inked in May. “There isn’t a better place to be on Jan. 1.”
At 1:52 p.m., Corey and Ash escorted Tournament President Sally Bixby, Grand Marshal Jane Goodall and the Royal Court to the field for their introductions. At 2:02 p.m., the stadium rose for the National Anthem. Fireworks exploded.
The B2 that buzzed the Rose Parade that morning made its stadium flyover to an eruption of applause at precisely 2:04 p.m.
The sequence was timed perfectly. Well, almost.
“We were running three or four seconds early,” Corey said. “I told the Stanford band director to hold that last note for a few seconds.”
The Stanford players took the field, followed by Wisconsin. At 2:08 p.m., Ash and Tompkins escorted Goodall and Bixby to midfield for the coin toss.
At that point, football officials took over the clock and the logistics crew’s heavy lifting was just about done. But not quite.
As Wisconsin players trudged to their locker room after their 20-14 loss, dozens of security guards wheeled a fold-out stage to midfield. Guards and police restrained one exuberant fan from rushing the field.
The stage faced nearly empty stands on the Wisconsin side — an odd choice for those on the ground, but one that positioned the celebrating Stanford faithful in the background for TV cameras. A blower behind the stage blasted red, white and green confetti into the sky.
When the cameras stopped, the coaches and some players made their way to the media tent for a final press conference. Both school bands played a few last songs for those who remained in the stands.