With a tumultuous year behind us, it seems like more and more people are uniting and gearing up to try to make 2018 better. To kick off the year on New Year’s Day, a message of hope and kindness will be witnessed by millions of people around the world at the 129th Rose Parade Presented by Honda through its theme, “Making a Difference.”

“The 2018 theme, ‘Making A Difference,’ is a way to honor and celebrate all of the people in our communities who quietly and without desire for reward or recognition, act in selfless, generous and kind ways to aid or benefit others,” said Tournament of Roses Association President Lance Tibbet during his announcement of the theme at Tournament House in Pasadena.

The Rose Parade originally began as a way for Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club to promote the West Coast idyllic temperature to their East Coast counterparts. In 1890, the Pasadena members invited them to a mid-winter holiday in the sun, filled with games like chariot races and polo, according to the Tournament of Roses website.

It was during this time when the infamous quote, “In New York, people are buried in snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise,” was uttered by Professor Charles F. Holder at a club meeting.

Actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise is set to be the 2018 Tournament of Roses grand marshal. While Sinise is most famously known for his role as Lt. Dan Taylor in the film “Forrest Gump,” it is his humanitarian work that earned him the honor of being grand marshal.

“Gary’s humanitarian work with our defenders, veterans, first responders and their families over the years embodies our theme to the fullest.” Tibbet said in a statement.

The 2018 festival also marks the 100th Rose Queen, with the title given to Altadena resident Isabella Marie Marez. The La Salle High School senior and junior ambassador for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, along with the Royal Court, will serve as ambassadors at events leading up to the Rose Parade. The Court includes Alexandra Marie Artura, Savannah Rose Bradley, Lauren Elizabeth Buehner, Georgia Jane Cervenka, Julianne Elise Lauenstein and Sydney Grace Pickering.

“It is an adrenaline rush of happiness, excitement but mostly honor. I am so honored to be up there with all the other 99 queens,” Marez said in an interview with SoCal Muse.

The annual parade will feature 39 floats all covered in fresh flowers and other natural materials, like leaves and seeds, as per parade regulations. The floats will be judged by Counselor to México City’s National Chamber of Commerce and professional florist María Eugenia Carrion, Disney Parks Live Entertainment Principal Art Director Bradley Kaye and Jim Suttonto, display designer for Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which is considered to be one of the world’s great gardens.

Along with the floats, there will be 20 equestrian groups. To this day, the parade never happens on a Sunday, a tradition that dates back to the festival’s origins with the Valley Hunt Club so as to not disturb horses hitched outside churches during Sunday service near Colorado Boulevard. To further honor the parade’s history, the club still enters a flower-decorated carriage, which were the original “floats.”

This year’s bands include four international groups: Australia’s Marching Koalas from Dangar, New South Wales, Australia; Banda De Música Herberto López – Colegio José Daniel Crespo from Chitré, Herrera, Republic of Panamá; Burlington Teen Tour Band from Burlington, Ontario, Canada; and Kyoto Tachibana High School Green Band from Kyoto, Japan.

The Tournament of Roses will also feature performances by Broadway star Todrick Hall and Andy Grammer.

The 129th Rose Parade Presented by Honda begins at 8 a. m. on Jan. 1, 2018, on Green Street and Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena and continues down Colorado Boulevard for a total of five and a half miles.

This year the route will be closing early due to traffic and public safety measures. Closures will take effect beginning at 10 p.m. Sunday until 2 p.m. New Year’s Day along Colorado Boulevard, from Orange Grove Boulevard to Sierra Madre Boulevard and northbound on Sierra Madre to Paloma Street, according to the tournament website.

“We all have the ability, power and responsibility to help one another. I encourage us all to practice kindness and make a difference,” Tibbet said during the Rose Queen coronation.