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Rose Parade won’t feature AIDS Healthcare Foundation for the first time in a decade. Here’s why.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation is out of the Rose Parade, held hours ahead of the Rose Bowl.

126th Rose Parade Presented By Honda
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been a staple of the Rose Parade. This is the organization’s float from the 2015 parade.
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The Rose Parade in Pasadena, just outside of Los Angeles, will not feature a float from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation this year. It will be the first time in a decade that AHF will not be represented in the grand parade, hours ahead of the Rose Bowl, “the grandaddy of them all.”

This year’s Rose Bowl will draw tons of attention, as the Alabama Crimson Tide — a surprise inclusion in the College Football Playoffs — play the top-ranked team in the country, the Michigan Wolverines.

The Los Angeles-based AHF has built a history of thoughtful float inclusions in the Rose Parade for about 10 years, touting its advocacy on HIV and AIDS, healthcare and housing issues in Southern California and around the world.

This year’s absence seems to be, according to the Pasadena Star-News, an issue of creative ships passing in the night, without a clear vision taking hold for the float.

“It’s a different version of writer’s block,” AHF spokesperson Ged Kenslea told the Star-News, in trying to incapsulate what happened. “It’s a float version of writer’s block.”

Builders, designers and the AHF, it seems, couldn’t agree on just what the float would look like to kick off 2024. According to the Star-News, AHF President Michael Weinstein wanted to use Mickey Mouse in the iconic short Steamboat Willie for the float, but over many months they just couldn’t figure out how to tie the character to the work of AHF.

So they had to bow out.

Steamboat Willie will come out of trademark protection on the day of the Rose Parade.

In 2017, the AHF float honored the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.

In 2018, the AHF float honored Martin Luther King Jr. and, as the TV analyst observed, “his dreams of peace, justice and equality.”

In 2022, the AHF float — called “There’s no place like home” — featured the Wizard of Oz for the 100th anniversary of Frank L. Baum’s book, to bring attention to AHF’s work around housing.

AHF has been a consistent winner of awards from the Rose Parade.

Regardless of the AHF’s absence, it’s sure to be a great New Year’s Day with the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl — featuring two head coaches, Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban, who have expressed support for gay men and players.