It’s the volunteer Members who add joy and life to the Tournament of Roses. Among these dedicated individuals stands Rafael Sanchez III, a Member whose journey from spectator to now an At-Large Member of the Executive Committee demonstrates the community involvement that the Tournament of Roses is all about. Rafael’s story speaks to the community and commitment of Tournament of Roses Members.

Rafael’s connection with the Tournament of Roses began almost by chance. Driving through Pasadena after the festivities had concluded in January 2009, the banners announcing volunteer membership applications piqued his curiosity—an interest inspired by years of watching the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game on TV. “I always saw the parade and the game and never imagined that the Association could be so volunteer-based,” Rafael recalls. “Learning I could be a part of it was a game-changer.” The clincher came when he discovered a coworker was one of the white suiters. Rafael attended a prospective Member meeting and successfully joined the ranks of membership, experiencing his first parade in 2010.

As a volunteer Member of the Tournament of Roses, Rafael’s role as a Member is multifaceted, but it’s the simpler joys that resonate most with him. “There’s something incredibly rewarding about being part of a team that brings so much joy and excitement to people from all walks of life,” he says, reflecting on his favorite memories of the Tournament of Roses.

For Rafael, the most memorable experiences come from witnessing the joy and awe on the faces of parade-goers. “It’s about the sense of wonder, the collective joy. Whether it’s families at Floatfest or Bandfest, or seeing the loving support for parade participants—it’s all incredibly moving.”

Recently appointed as an At-Large Member of the Executive Committee, Rafael sees his new role as an opportunity to advocate for broader membership. “It’s about ensuring the voices of all our members are heard and that we’re setting ourselves up for success, now and in the future,” he explains, outlining his vision for a sustainable and inclusive organization. Alongside the rest of the Executive Committee and general membership, Rafael is focused on representing and addressing the concerns of the Members as he states, “I’m here to serve, to make sure our collective effort continues to bring joy and celebration to everyone involved in the Tournament of Roses.”

While Rafael initially joined without a clear set of goals, his journey within the Tournament of Roses has led him to identify and achieve personal milestones, such as driving a van and being part of the Music Committee, both of which he has already accomplished. “Everything beyond that is just the cherry on top with extra toppings,” he says proudly. But it’s the people and the friendships made along the way that keep him coming back year after year.

When asked about his “Best Day Ever!” moments, Rafael hints at an upcoming experience to come that will stand out above the rest. “Stay tuned!,” he says. It’s these countless joyful moments that define his involvement with the Tournament of Roses.