A 19-year-old student at Pasadena City College, who almost did not make the tryouts because she lost her mom couple of months prior to the event, was named Rose Queen in 1966. Her name was Carole Cota Gelfuso, and that year turned out to be a year of many “firsts”.
By Carole Cota Gelfuso
Here are eight things that defined my year as the 1966 Rose Queen:
- Prior to the tryouts for the 1966 Royal Court, only students attending Pasadena City College were allowed to participate. There were two reasons why the Tournament of Roses changed the rules, thus allowing students from all the schools in the Pasadena Community College District to enter. This was due to an increased number of young ladies bypassing a junior college, going straight to a four-year institution. Also, since the outlying communities of Pasadena entered floats, bands, and had other involvements in the Rose Parade, it cemented the idea of opening up the tryouts. Coincidentally, after all was said and done, the seven members of the Royal Court turned out all to be from Pasadena City College.
- 1966 was the first time a Rose Queen was chosen who lived in Los Angeles (Eagle Rock). The local papers, Los Angeles Times and Herald Examiner, could not get enough coverage of this event.
- This year was a first as all of the popular Disney characters, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella and Sleeping Beaut, were positioned to lead the floats and actually began the Parade. It was particularly joyous for the children lining the Parade route. Sure helped to have Walt Disney as our Grand Marshall!
- For the first time, the television channels arranged for me to speak from a hidden microphone while on my float, to personally greet viewers around the world, as our float appeared before the television cameras on the corner of South Orange Grove and Colorado Boulevard.
- In the 1966 Rose Bowl, UCLA played Michigan State and UCLA had its first Rose Bowl Victory! It was the most exciting finish of a football game as UCLA was trailing and scored a touchdown in the last few seconds, when the Quarterback, Gary Beban threw a pass into the in-zone for the extra two points, giving UCLA a one-point win.
- I wore two crowns in 1966 as, in the spring, I was selected as the Queen of the “Little 500” (a bicycle race) which takes place at Indiana University, two weeks before the Indy 500 and is considered the biggest college weekend in the country. The movie, “Breaking Away” is about that event. I had my first plane ride, first class, no less, and my seat partner was Otis Chandler, Editor of the Los Angeles Times.
- I was the first Rose Queen to be married during her reigning year (which is allowed; you just need to be single on January 1st when you ride the float!). That marriage is going on 51 years now.
- As a bride I was the first and last Rose Queen to have her wedding reception held inside the Tournament of Roses House. I am forever grateful, but that is no longer offered.
> Watch an 8mm silent reel of the 77th Annual Tournament of Roses in 1966 (erroneously stated as 1965 in the title):
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