Natalie Russell’s journey into the realm of the Tournament of Roses is a story of serendipity and tradition. “My husband, then boyfriend, joined the Tournament in 2005,” she recalls, “and I wasn’t going to be left out.” Thus, in 2006, Natalie became a volunteer Member, her connection to the Parade solidifying alongside her engagement and eventual marriage. “Joining the Tournament felt like a natural progression,” she reflects, citing childhood memories of visiting the La Canada float with her grandparents. “After moving to Pasadena, joining the Tournament seemed like an obvious step.”
As a Member, Natalie’s responsibilities are diverse and integral to the success of America’s New Year Celebration. “I’m part of a massive team that manages the events and logistics of the Rose Parade,” she explains. From escorting floats down the Parade route to coordinating with various participants, Natalie’s involvement is both varied and vital.
Among Natalie’s volunteer experiences, one stands out—the chance to bond with Sebastian, the Hyacinth Macaw of the late float designer Raul Rodriguez. “My most memorable experience so far has to be holding Sebastian,” she recalls fondly. “Raul and Sebastian always rode on one of his floats, and one year, while assisting Raul off the float at Post Parade, he needed someone to hold Sebastian. I ended up on the lucky perch.”
Now, Natalie assumes the role of chair of the Heritage Committee, tasked with offering tours of the Wrigley Mansion, the Tournament’s home for more than 50 years. “We provide public tours in the ‘off-season’ and support Tournament events as we ramp up for the Parade,” she explains. Natalie aims to expand docent training among their membership, ensuring inclusivity and efficiency within the committee.
Looking ahead, Natalie’s aspirations within the Tournament of Roses remain buoyant. “There are numerous facets to explore,” she talks about, expressing interest in float judging and involvement with float entries. “What I love most about the Tournament is its variety,” she adds. “As changes loom in the college football scene, maintaining this diversity of experiences for our volunteers is paramount.”
The spirit of heritage and community thrives with Natalie Russell, her steadfast dedication a testament to the enduring history of the Tournament of Roses.