By Catalina Combs – June 10, 2021
How would you describe yourself? What do you do for a living? Anything you would like to share?
I am a man-about-town. I love to be social and be involved in the community. Something that many people don’t realize is that I can be shy until I warm up or am surrounded by people that I know and love.
I am passionate about architecture and design and studied interior design at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. I am also involved in the Gamble House and Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts, so I really just love to be involved in the community.
I sell residential real estate with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Pasadena. It is the job that I was born to do, the perfect match of my analytical side (contracts and numbers) and my emotional side – there is nothing unemotional about buying or selling your house! I love what I do.
Family is very important to me; my husband Garrett and I live in Pasadena and have a 14-year-old miniature pinscher, Greta. My parents, sister, brother and their families all live in the area. I joke that we all live about a mile and a half apart. My mom is well known for her big Sunday dinners where we all get together – 8 adults, 4 kids, and 5 dogs – it is chaotic but a testament to how important family is to us.
What has your experience been like as a volunteer for the Tournament of Roses?
I have loved every moment of my experience as a volunteer. I enjoy being part of the Tournament community, meeting and working with other members and staff, and working hard toward a shared goal. It really is a bonding experience where we have an opportunity to build life-long friendships.
The energy at all of our Tournament events is palpable, and the excitement of our participants, guests, and even our members is so inspiring – it just makes me want to do more and better. Getting to connect with so many different people from across the city, county, state, country, and world is so fulfilling and keeps me coming back for more. I just so enjoy being part of the process and the team that produces America’s New Year’s Celebration – I consider it an honor and a privilege.
How has Tournament changed since you first joined?
I think there are actually two parts to this question. As I became more involved and moved through different committees, the organization started to reveal itself, and I developed a greater understanding and deeper connection to the Tournament. Kind of like the metaphor of peeling an onion, the more I see and know, the more I appreciate. Some things have revealed themselves that have been there the whole time, so part of the lens that I use to look at the organization has developed over time and continues to do so.
With that said, I do think the organization has evolved in the last 14 years quite a bit. I see a more diverse membership that better reflects the community that we are in. As a gay man, I was delighted when we set up an outreach and activation booth at the San Gabriel Pride Festival in 2019. When we do things like that and share our successes, particularly around diversity, there are less layers of the onion to peel.
When I joined the Tournament, I loved the idea of being part of something so much bigger and greater. My aunt was a Tournament member for many years, and I always looked at her fondly in her white suit – it was something that I aspired to, yet as I came of age, I wasn’t sure there was a place for me in the Tournament, now I know there is.
I also greatly appreciate that while we have evolved and changed, our traditions have stayed intact. It is just as important to change and evolve as it is to maintain the traditions that make us so unique and special. I think there is a way to maintain the history and grow at the same time. From my perspective, the Tournament of Roses Association has done just that; this is due in great part to our leadership, and I am thankful that we can have change without losing what makes us so special.
What excites you about volunteering? Is there a role that you look forward to taking on with Tournament or elsewhere?
The people. I thrive on meeting new people and learning about them. That answer may sound trite, but it is honest.
I look forward to growing with the Tournament. Actually, that is something I think the Tournament does well, pushing members to grow. I can get used to a routine, so I find comfort in that. Changing committees every two years keeps things fresh and pushes me to grow and learn. With that said, there hasn’t been a single committee that I have been on where I didn’t want to do just one more year; One more time to make things better or push my responsibility to the next level. I am very competitive with myself.
What personal connections do you have with Pasadena and the Rose Parade?
This is a loaded question! Well, I am 3rd generation Pasadena native, and my family has lived in the area for more than a century. My maternal grandparents grew up here and even went to the same elementary school, my parents grew up here and met working at Canterbury Records on Colorado and now my siblings and I are here raising the 4th generation (my husband and I have 4 nieces/nephews all 4 years old and under). We have a guttural connection to this place, and I believe there is no place better to live. It is just in my DNA.
As I said previously, my aunt (Micky Ireland) was a member for many years. Growing up, we would always go to the parade and sit on Sierra Madre Blvd. just south of Post Parade. I
remember her coming by our area in her white suit. I remember how proud my grandfather was of her – I had always loved the parade, especially the floats, and I adore my aunt – I just knew I wanted to be a part of the organization. Then, after college, grad school and working for my alma mater, I moved back to Pasadena. Applying for membership was one of the first things I did!
What does the Pasadena community mean to you?
Home. I mean this in all seriousness, I love going around town and feeling at home. I love knowing the employees at Trader Joe’s, taking a walk around the Rose Bowl and seeing 4 or 5 people that I know and bumping into friends when my husband and I go out for dinner. Maybe this sounds hokey, but there is this warm embrace of living in this city and being a part of the community.
As we celebrate Pride month, what does Pride mean to you?
This is a big question. How much time do we have…
For me, the concept of Pride month has a lot to do with who I am, how I came to be, and the mark that I want to leave. Living authentically and “moving the ball forward.” By that I mean, I look at the history of the LGBTQIA community and feel fortunate to live in this time, to have had the generations before me that blazed a trail and advocated for the rights that we have today. I am inspired and want to continue that path authentically for the next generation.
What moment in Pride History has influenced you or shaped your career/life?
I don’t know if this is Pride history, it certainly isn’t a moment I am proud of, but it is LGBTQIA History. When Proposition 8 was on the ballot in November 2008, I felt like the people of California were finally going to affirm the rights of the LGBTQIA Community and send a message to the country that our state was different, and even with big money behind “preserving the sanctity of marriage” the people of California would protect the rights of the LGBTQIA community. At that time, I was surrounded by like-minded people and didn’t think I knew anyone that was in favor of Prop 8. To me, from where I sat, I thought Prop 8 was sponsored by a minority group and that the people of California couldn’t possibly agree with that. Then it passed, and I was floored.
The following spring, my parents were in Iowa for my father’s work. My mom called and with complete joy and celebration, told me that same-sex marriage was legal in Iowa! IN IOWA – a state that is not well-known for liberal politics or strong advocacy. This shifted my thinking, helped me understand my role and my assumptions and in some strange way, made me yearn for diversity of thought in the people I surround myself with.
The great thing about the concept of Pride is that it is a personal journey. Something that we can all celebrate in our own way.