Olympians Representing USET Foundation Cheered by Millions in 119th Rose Parade
RELEASE: January 10, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Phelps Media Group
"This will be the most people we will ever ride in front of," said Melanie Smith Taylor to Beezie Madden as they rode down Colorado Avenue in the 119th Rose Parade on New Year's Day in Pasadena, CA, as part of the 12-member all-Olympian squad representing the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation. Indeed, more than a million spectators lined the five-and-a-half mile route for the two-hour parade that featured floats, marching bands and 300 horses, including for the first time in history, a squad representing the U.S. Equestrian Team.
"It was just a sea of people," noted Smith Taylor, a show jumping veteran and Team Gold medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. "I was so amazed that for the whole length of the parade, just wall-to-wall people came out to watch and all of them were smiling and waving. It just made you feel so good to be a part of it. If you could just bring extra joy to their day, because they certainly brought joy to us being out there waving to us. It was quite spectacular."
The team representing the USET Foundation in the Rose Parade was comprised of the three Olympic equestrian sports, with four members in each discipline—all of whom had participated in at least one Olympic Games. Smith Taylor, Madden, Margie Engle and Anne Kursinski were the show jumpers; Guenter Seidel, Steffen Peters, Debbie McDonald, and Sue Blinks were the dressage riders; and Darren Chiacchia, Nina Fout, Kim Severson, and Karen Stives were the eventers. They were all attired in competition clothes representing their disciplines. Their mounts were loaned by the Los Angeles Mounted Sheriff's Posse and were outfitted with USET saddle pads and USET quarter sheets. Leading the squad on foot as flag bearers were USET Foundation President and CEO Jane Forbes Clark and U.S. Eventing Team Alternate at the 1968 Olympics, Mason Phelps.
The USET Foundation squad marched as #47 in the line-up of 90 participants that included marching bands, floats and equestrian groups. The 119th Rose Parade was broadcast live by nine networks in the United States, including ABC, NBC, HGTV, Tribune, Univision, Telemundo, Travel Channel, Discovery HD Theater, and Sky Link TV, and locally on California stations KWHY-22 and KTLA-5. The event was viewed by millions of people in more than 75 countries.
"We were the only Olympic discipline out there so it was fun to be a part of that," said Smith Taylor. "We followed the China Beijing float and so that really got you in the spirit. It was definitely an added benefit for the U.S. Equestrian Team." The USET Foundation squad paraded behind the Olympics-themed "One World, One Dream" float sponsored by Avery Dennison and the Roundtable of Southern California Chinese-American Organizations.
"It was really fun," said eventer Darren Chiacchia, Team Bronze Medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics. "It was amazing. I really didn't know what to expect, but the crowds were unbelievable. The people were really into it and cheering, 'Go Team USA,' so that was really a great experience. I don't think any of us quite knew what we were getting into for the length of time and the preparation and the line up and freezing cold and all that, but we're all pretty seasoned in discomfort shall we say, all in the name of getting the result. It was great exposure for the team. I was thrilled to be able to represent the United States Equestrian Team. It was great to represent the eventing team. It was a wonderful concept and fantastic for Mason, his mom, and Jane to get all that done and give us the opportunity to have that level of exposure."
The preparations and details involved in the USET Foundation's participation in the Rose Parade were extensive. Phelps, President of Phelps Media Group, Inc., International, had arranged the inclusion of the group and then with USET Foundation Executive Director Bonnie Jenkins, Executive Assistant Nancy Little, Jane Fo