Jan. 1, 2020 marked not only New Year’s Day but kicked off a year of 400th anniversary festivities for the descendants of those who came to America aboard the Mayflower and landed in what is now Plymouth, Mass., in November 1620. To commemorate the anniversary, the California Society of Mayflower Descendants sponsored a float in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade that was decorated solely by Mayflower descendants, their families and friends.
The theme of this year’s parade was the Power of Hope. According to the California Mayflower Society 2020 Ambassador and past State Governor Marcia Huntley Maloney, the Mayflower float was themed The Voyage of Hope – 1620 to honor “One-hundred-two passengers - men, women and children, families who wanted to make a home in the New World and a life of religious and civic freedom - huddled on that 90-foot ship, braving storms, starvation and freezing cold. Half of them did not survive that first winter.”
Spearheading the effort was Carole Curran; Float Chair, Jane Wong; Costume Coordinator and Yucaipa resident, Karen Schwartz, Float Decorating Chair, who coordinated 700 volunteers over seven days to decorate the Mayflower entry. The Voyage of Hope - 1620 won the Rose Parade’s Americana Award for “most outstanding depiction of national treasures and traditions.”
Both the California Society of Mayflower Descendants and its national parent organization, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, have education as their mission - specifically, American history education, which is of relevance today, with so much attention focused on the Constitution and its meaning, an oft-forgotten fact is that a crude document, the Mayflower Compact, drawn up on board the Mayflower as she anchored in Provincetown Harbor off the coast of Cape Cod that first winter, formed the foundation of American democracy and governance. In keeping with its focus on historical accuracy, The Voyage of Hope – 1620 was based on the original Mayflower ship scaled to 45%. Visually, the float may dispel myths about Pilgrim ancestors, who have earned a false reputation for wearing only black and buckles. As the Mayflower descendants who rode the float illustrated, the Pilgrims wore colorful garb in their daily life - black fabric was too expensive and was mostly saved for special occasions.
The General Society of Mayflower Descendants has an Inland Empire Colony that meets at Bob’s Big Boy restaurant in Calimesa. Yucaipa resident Karen Schwartz is a member of the Inland Empire Colony. Not only was Schwartz the float decorating chair for this project, but also rode on the float in costume as it “sailed” down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s morning.
The Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California is a non-profit lineage society dedicated to preserving the history of their Mayflower ancestors through education and research. Members are active participants in the documenting of tens of thousands of Mayflower ancestral lines that may otherwise be lost to history. For more information about the California Society of Mayflower Descendants, please contact Marcia Maloney at 714-730-0390.