The Native Sons & Gold Rush Fire Brigade, had became a favorite for a visiting group from Georgia who vigorously cheered as the NSGW carriages rounded the equestrian center, and the waving California flag also caught the attention of the President of the Tournament of Rose Parade Committee, who enthusiastically jumped up from his seat, to point at and applauded the California flag, which was waving from the hands of one of our participants.

    This was all in-between, cleaning and feeding horses, preparing carriages, breaking down equipment, and lively dinners and after dinner drinks at the Burbank equestrian camp. The final act of exhaustion was decorating the carriages and carefully moving them on trailers on 11 miles of Los Angeles often congested freeways, to the Rose Parade staging area. New Years eve was spent, navigating Pasadena’s many street closures while hauling a horse trailer, while President Carey Pearce’s car was pelted with marshmallows, silly string, and water balloons from overzealous Rose Parade goers, who were already camping on the streets in order to stake a claim to a good viewing spot for the parade.


    The final hours of 2018 were spent with a quick New Years drink at the Viva Rancho Cantina located next to the equestrian center. The owner, who had ironically found out that her nephew was one of our NSGW Fire brigade horse teamsters, had previously adopted the Native Sons and made a point to always be open and available to us, even during private functions. Towards the end of the night, she sent us off with a round of drinks and breakfast burritos for the morning. Being the hard-partying crew that the this bunch of Native Sons was…all were in bed and sound asleep before midnight and the New Year was rung in with a chorus of snoring!

Type Rose Parade 2019, everything is coming up roses for the Native Sons of the Golden West! 
By Luke Bramon
Ramona #109


January 22nd, 2019

    Ramona has a small museum, which has a lot of historical items from California history, as well as John C. Frémont’s carriage, hand written letters from Presidents, and more. Now it proudly has the flag that survived the Rose Parade fire and went the distance in the 2019 Rose Parade!

    With the start of the New Year kicking off like that, it’s pretty fair to wonder if 2019 is the start of a rosey reemergence of the Native Sons of the Golden West! Happy New Year Brothers, may it burn with all of the brightness and excitement of a flaming New Years Parade float and fly by with all the glory of the California flag!

    After five days of endless hours of preparation and Rose Parade activities, which included: an impressive dinner held for all Rose Parade Equestrian participants, which was sponsored by Wells Fargo, at the posh Castaways restaurant in the hills of Burbank. A showcase of the NSGW Gold Rush Fire Brigade at the Burbank Equestrian Center for “Equestfest”; attended by 40,000 people, and televised, the event allowed attendees to watch the Rose Parade participants horses and talented riders perform drills and dances and demonstrate trick riding and roping and allowed them to stroll through the stables, talk to riders and learn about the various tack and the many different breeds.

    The Native Sons & Gold Rush Fire Brigade, had became a favorite for a visiting group from Georgia who vigorously cheered as the NSGW carriages rounded the equestrian center, and the waving California flag also caught the attention of the President of the Tournament of Rose Parade Committee, who enthusiastically jumped up from his seat, to point at and applauded the California flag, which was waving from the hands of one of our participants.

Native Sons of the Golden West can be seen at 1:49:15 

    In support of our traveling brothers who made the trip down from Northern, Central and all parts of Southern California, members of Ramona Parlor #109, enthusiastically voted to open its doors “in the name of “Friendship, Loyalty and Charity”: to all brothers who were participating in the parade.

    Over a six day period, the “Ramona Ritz” had the absolute delight and pleasure of housing our brothers: Grand President Carey Pearce, 1st Vice President James King, Grand 3rd Vice President Ron Brocco and Luke Bramon, who lives two hours away in San Diego county.


    Although the accommodation inside Ramona Parlor's Fletcher Meeting Hall, was very Spartan, it did include the necessary essentials of a heater, cots, a beer ice chest, an amazing assortment of snacks, a kitchenette with a newly purchased microwave and a bar fridge donated by the USC Rugby Club; as well as the most important essentials, such as an impressively stalked wine and bourbon bar, which would rival that of the Grandest of Ritz Hotels. The very useful karaoke radio, which drowned out the snoring roommates!  


    The experience was described as: “A much appreciated, memorable and cherished indoor camping experience, which won’t soon be forgotten”.

Comedians Will Farrell and Molly Shannon play hosts "Cord Hosenbeck" and "Tish Catagan" for Funny Or Die's presentation of the 2019 Rose Parade. NSGW can be seen at 1:49:42

    Since 1890, the Rose Parade, has been an annual California tradition, to celebrate the New Year, while showing off Southern California’s perfect weather, with entrants floats and carriages decorated with an abundance of blooming flowers - even in the midst of winter, which is viewed by millions of people around the world. 

    2019 marked the 130th Tournament of Roses Parade, and the return of the Native Sons of the Golden West participation, after a 38-year hiatus! The excitement leading up to the event was on fire with exuberance. Ironically, it was a fire on a Rose Parade float, which almost prevented the Native Sons of the Golden West & Gold Rush Fire Brigade of four carriages, from being apart of the 2019 New Years day celebration!

    A flammable float on the day of the Rose Parade, was just one of many challenges which were overcome in the making of the 2019 NSGW Gold Rush Fire Brigades Rose Parade participation. Notification of the Tournament of Roses invite came in September of 2018, leaving only three months to plan and organize for the event. On such short notice, the NSGW were amazingly able to gather enough, bodies, money, horse carriages, and flowers to participate in the January 1st, 2019 parade. Making it a memorable come back for the Native Sons and their Rose Parade Tradition.

    Everyone says that Texans are passionate about their flag, but Californians might overshadow them. The Native Sons are famous for marching in parades while carrying the worlds biggest California Bear Flag. A lot of traditionalist in the organization (with both the Native Sons and Native Daughters) wanted to see some form of the flag waving. In fact, we had four California Bear flags attached to the carriages.

    The Rose Parade has a lot of Rules: “No high fives,” “No giving flowers to the crowd,” “No actions which are not previously approved,” and so on. At first I had a small California Bear flag, but everyone was like no, no, that's not good enough, people need to see our flag! The day before the Rose Parade at Equestfest, I “borrowed” a California Bear Flag from the NSGW Ramona Parlor. Like most horse people, the Rose Parade equestrian management team are pretty easygoing and said as long as I kept the flag low and discreet, they’d let it pass.

    The excitement for the NSGW Rose Parade participation wasn't limited to NSGW members, but extended to those surrounding Ramona Parlor. As mentioned, USC Rugby donated the bar fridge, and although Ramona has bathrooms, it did lack showers, which were provided free of charge by the local YMCA, who also offered free use of their gym and swimming pool facilities to all NSGW parade participants.  Most crucially was the support of Ramona’s next-door neighbor, Lunas Restaurant, who provided the Brothers with a daily bucket of fresh ice for the nightly “Ramona Ritz Happy Hour.”

    The announcement of the NSGW participation in the Rose Parade in the media also reawakened the excitement of former NSGW Brothers who had left the brotherhood, due to closers of their former parlors, or due to moving out of state. On several instances, previous Brothers (many in their late 80s) of former Los Angeles Parlors came down to the parade site to view the NSGW carriages, with great pride. Phone calls from inactive brothers of former San Diego Parlors were also received, with happy and delightful cheers and good wishes.


    NSGW Brothers were not the only ones excited with the reemergence of the NSGW involvement in the Rose Parade, numerous Native Daughters of the Golden West also appeared out of the woodwork to share their past experiences with helping to build and construct previous NSGW Rose Parade floats, during one of those stories came information that a former and now deceased Ramona Parlor member, had once owned a float building company which had built “many of the NSGW Rose Parade Floats”. The NSGW Rose Parade fever also overflowed into members of the Gold Rush Fire Brigade, some of whom joined the NSGW as new members, and one gentleman, who now lives in Nevada, who was so excited, that he signed up on the spot and had an informal obligation given to him at the camp inside the Rose Parades Equestrian center.

Photo of the interior of the Ramona Museum featuring artifacts from early California History

    Since we were an equestrian team made up of fist responders, some of us had jumped off to go help the people off the burning float, but we were ordered back by parade staff, then suddenly, we were told to hop onto the carriages and resume the parade, we managed to keep the horses calm and get them around the turmoil and confusion in front of us, and onto the parade route. Once the horses got around the malfunctioning float, there was a big roar of joyful shouts and applauds from the large wall of people cheering for us in the grandstands, which caught us off guard, it was like walking naked out of the shower and into the front room full of unexpected guest!


    All the chaos leading into the parade actually made the parade more exciting, it was like watching your favorite team in the Rose Bowl when they’re down by two points with less than a minute to play, “Will they make it?” Touchdown. We made it. With guns blazing and flags waving!


    Once our carriages had passed the TV cameras, the phone in my pocket exploded with messages of everyone who had seen the NSGW & Gold Rush Fire Brigade and the California flag waving. Messages from NSGW Brothers and NDGW from up and down California were received, as well as messages from as far as Europe and Australia. Let it be noted, that on January 1st 2019, the entire world saw the Native Sons of the Golden West and the California Flag flying high in all its glory!



    After endless hours of preparation and excitement (and numerous obstacles), it was finally show time. Except there was an unexpected fire, which ironically broke out on the Chinese American Heritage Foundation (CAHF) float in front of us, and the NSGW & Gold Rush Fire Brigade was next!

    In the blink of an eye, chaos broke out and we were “that close” to not being in the parade. Once the float caught fire, the driver jumped out, and when he did, the float appears to have kicked itself into reverse at which point it started heading towards us, as well as all the other parade participants and the crowds lining the street! Luckily, the float jackknifed, or it would have been all over red rover.

    As all the bedlam was taking place, the Rose Parade crew sent one of our carriages down an emergency exit; It had been over thirty plus years since the Native Sons of the Golden West had been in the Rose Parade, and we were all thinking, ‘Darn it, we were so close.’ I was already feeling the disappointment for some many people who had been so excited about the NSGW reentry in to the parade.

NSGW Brothers who made the journey to Pasadena to participate in the Parade, included:

Grand President Carey Pearce, Santa Lucia #97

Past Grand President David Allen, Auburn #59

Grand 1st Vice President James King, San Miguel #150

Joe Castillo, 2nd Vice President, Rio Hondo #294

Grand 3rd Vice President Ron Brocco, Sonoma #111

Mark Cochran, Santa Ana #74

DDGP for San Diego and Marshall for Ramona, Luke Bramon, Ramona Parlor, #109. 

    Two hours later, the Brothers were up and on our way to the parade staging area, some Bothers took the time to stroll through the cold and view the parade floats which were lined up along Orange Grove Blvd., while others had the common sense to bundle up inside cars and trucks and continued to get some more sleep.

    By 6:00am, the buzz and excitement of 2019 was alive and well in Pasadena, as Rose Parade participants started to line up for the parade. There had been high-wind warnings for winds of up to 40 miles per hour, but on this day, even the winds took the day off in order to enjoy the parade! 

    The 130th annual Rose Parade traveled for over 5 1/2 miles through the City of Pasadena and reportedly viewed by over 47 million Americans who tuned in to watch the Parade of Roses on TV, while an estimated 700,000 plus, lined the parade route...that’s 14,000,000 eyeballs all looking at you, on five miles of street. With that many people watching, you want to make sure your zipper’s up!


    For the event, The NSGW entry included: a 1900-era depot wagon turned into a band wagon with musicians using original instruments from 1850s and up, an 1898 chief’s buggy, a 1901 hose wagon/hose reel, and a ladder truck – all of which were pulled by big beautiful draft horses, just like in the old days!


The unit included current and former fire fighters in historic fire fighting gear, and Native Sons dressed in historical California western costumes. Being the first NSGW “Young Gun” to represent the Native Sons in the Rose Parade, I was very excited and extremely focused to present well! I had chosen to signify California Hero - John C. Frémont. A Southerner, from Georgia, no one did more to secure California than Frémont - upsetting a lot of people in the process! Not so good at taking orders, Frémont was often in trouble, but also successful in making stuff happen! Frémont wasn’t there to be a part of history, he was there to make history, from helping to conquer California and the West, to leading America in the anti-slavery movement, Frémont was the Frank Sinatra of his day and always did things his way!


    As I had my Frémont costume ready, in came a call from my Coast Guard Shipmates, extremely excited about the NSGW Rose Parade participation, (one of which grew up in Napa and was very fond of the Napa Native Sons Parlor who had sponsored the Napa Coast Guard Sea Cadets when he was a kid) and who had decided that since it was Commodore Sloat and seafarers who helped conquered California, that I should “Wear a Coast Guard formal parade coat” to represent the mariners. Then, just to further annoy people, I decided that I had to wear my big “obnoxious hat.” Basically, my costume made no historical sense what-so-ever, but it sure does break all the rules and I’m pretty sure that’s the way Frémont would’ve wanted it! Nothing says California more than making your own rules! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 

​​Ramona Parlor #109   

Native Sons of the Golden West

Ramona Museum of California History

Dark Brown Background Box contains the website title. Ramona Parlor #109 Native Sons of the Golden West and the Ramona Museum of California History
Native Sons of the Golden West can be seen at 1:49:15

    The Equestfest was televised on a rodeo station and everyone got to see the California flag waving proud and everyone was happy again. The Ramona Parlor Recording Secretary, Teresa Diaz asked, with a big smile on her face, “That isn’t my flag from Ramona is it? Maybe it can find its way into the Rose Parade?” So once again I “borrowed” NSGW Ramona Parlors flag, had a chat to our equestrian liaison and promised to keep it low.

    At the parade entrance, all hell broke lose and we were quickly ushered on to the Rose Parade route, and the staff suddenly changed their tune, with the following request: “Wave the hell out of that flag, high five people, whistle, ring your bells and sing songs, do what ever it takes to get the crowd going!” At that time and moment the Native Sons were back in the game of doing what they do best! When the parade was over I returned the flag to Ramona, Teresa Diaz was so excited that it was as if she herself had been in the parade.