For more than a century, families and spectators from all over the world line the streets of Pasadena to view the Rose Parade at the start of each new year. It is a family tradition that fills the air with optimism and hope.
Another tradition is also returning this year. For the first time since 2020, Jehovah’s Witnesses will again be seen along the parade route, standing next to mobile carts displaying positive and hopeful messages for families.
The theme of this year’s Rose Parade is “Turning the Corner.” Parade organizers are hopeful that the nearly 800,000 expected attendees will mark this event as a fresh start for the community.
Many attendees are hoping for a better future. At 35 locations along the 5 ½ mile parade route, more than 250 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been preparing to share a positive message with all in attendance.
“People are looking for happiness and answers, and want to make changes. They are hoping that the next year might be better than the last,” said Gene Beltran, local spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in California.
“We’re finding that a lot of people are just excited to get back to some normalcy,” said Mark Plomaritis of Lake Forest. “People are eager, more eager than ever, to hear something positive,” adds Kathryn Plomaritis.
Along the sidewalks, families bundle up against the early morning cold. Some camp out overnight, make s’mores and secure their best spot to view the breathtaking floats. Despite the heightened excitement, there remains a lingering mindfulness of safety, security and the way times have changed.
“People are now very sensitive to what has happened, said James Villanueva, who assists in organizing this volunteer event for Jehovah’s Witnesses. ”I think our presence at the parade will be instrumental in giving people a real hope that these problems are just temporary,” he added.
In September 2022, Jehovah’s Witnesses resumed their public ministry. Out of concern for the health and safety of the community Witnesses had suspended their activity in March 2020.
“The pandemic gave people the opportunity to reorganize their priorities in life. Many feel it’s important to get in touch with their spirituality,” said Zila Rodriguez of Los Angeles.
Returning volunteer, Crystal Jones from Carson said, “The carts are like a cup of coffee on a cold day. They are so warm and inviting.”
Volunteers stand beside mobile display carts welcoming people from all walks of life and cultures. The featured website jw.org is currently available in 1070 languages, including sign language and some nearly extinct indigenous languages.
The message of hope that Jehovah’s Witnesses extend worldwide is what is needed most as we now “turn the corner” toward a new year.