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Enjoy Illinois Floats in the ‘Middle’ of the 135th Rose Parade

Enjoy Illinois float showcases ‘Middle of Everything’ ad campaign and Route 66 to promote traveling to Illinois

By Todd R. Berger

12.28.23 ILME Enjoy Illinois Middle of Everything Rose Parade Float Rendering
Rendering of Enjoy Illinois’ 135th Rose Parade float || Courtesy of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Tourism

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Tourism (Enjoy Illinois) returned for its second float appearance at the 135th Rose Parade presented by Honda on Jan. 1, 2024, in Pasadena, California, as a part of America’s New Year Celebration. 

Reflecting the Rose Parade’s theme, “Celebrating a World of Music,” Enjoy Illinois spotlighted the state’s music history along Route 66 with its float called, “Illinois: The Middle of Beats & Blues,” a nod to the state’s award-winning tourism campaign, “Middle of Everything.” Parade spectators experienced a captivating live musical performance by the hit a cappella group Straight No Chaser delivering a medley from the iconic movie filmed in Illinois, “The Blues Brothers.” The float featured a replica of a drive-in movie scene, showcasing “Joliet’’ Jake Blues and his brother Elwood, along with a classic 1950s car.

“We are thrilled to showcase Illinois at the 2024 Rose Parade for the second year in a row and celebrate the state’s rich music history along Route 66 with our ‘Illinois: The Middle of Beats & Blues’ float,” says Daniel Thomas, deputy director of Enjoy Illinois, in a prepared statement. “From the Route 66 starting point in Chicago to Springfield and Collinsville and all the historic small towns in between, the Mother Road serves as the crossroads of cultural expression, offering unique attractions and adventures you can only experience in Illinois.”

The Enjoy Illinois float recreated the iconic Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, starting with Chicago’s Route 66 “Begin” sign. The journey through the float revealed larger-than-life replicas of the Gemini Giant spaceman in Wilmington, the Pink Elephant in Livingston, and the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville—an homage to the quirky roadside attractions along the historic route. At the front of the float, iconic Springfield landmarks, Shea’s Gas Station and the Route 66 Legends Neon Sign Park Experience, offered a glimpse into Route 66 landmarks around the state’s capital. 

The 24-foot-tall float took three months to build with the help of 22,000 volunteer hours and will feature 30,000 flowers. The Enjoy Illinois float incorporated many elements to spotlight Illinois’ agritourism industry, including pumpkins, corn, soybeans, lavender, sunflowers, prairie grass, and blue violets, the state’s official flower.

“The Tournament of Roses was thrilled to see Straight No Chaser’s performance on the Enjoy Illinois float during the 2024 Rose Parade, marking the second consecutive year of Enjoy Illinois’ participation,” says 2024 Tournament of Roses President Alex Aghajanian. “Straight No Chaser’s a cappella brilliance graced the float, harmonizing with the theme ‘Celebrating a World of Music,’ to showcase Illinois’ rich musical heritage. The group’s unforgettable musical experience was an incredible addition to the festivities and brought us all together to celebrate the vibrant spirit of Illinois.”

“We are so proud and beyond excited to perform on the Enjoy Illinois float in the 2024 Rose Parade,” says Straight No Chaser member Randy Stine, who was born and raised in Illinois. “Like so many people around the country, we grew up watching the parade every New Year’s Day. What a dream come true it is to be a part of such an iconic event.”