Badgers Take Time to Smell the Roses

It was an unseasonably warm morning in Madison, on December 29, 2019, as more than 1,200 alumni, friends, and fans set off with the Wisconsin Alumni Association® on the Official Badger Bowl Tour to cheer on the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl. Those flying with WAA filled the Dane County Regional Airport donning their spirited travel gear. When the planes landed in Los Angeles, in true Hollywood fashion, the flights were met on the tarmac by buses to provide door-to-door service from the airport to the hotels.  

The next morning was filled with exploring the best of L.A. and Rose Parade prep. One group from the Official Badger Bowl Tour went behind the scenes on a Rose Parade Float Decorating tour where they watched as floats were covered from top to bottom in a variety of fruit, seeds, bark, grasses, and flowers. A second group toured the famous J. Paul Getty Museum, taking in breathtaking gardens and pieces from famous artists such as Rembrandt, Manet, and van Gogh.  

In the afternoon, thousands of red-and-white-clad fans packed the L.A. Live outdoor center for the Wisconsin Football Pep Rally. The event included words from Chancellor Rebecca Blank, executive director of the Wisconsin Alumni Association Sarah Schutt, members of the NCAA runner-up UW volleyball team, former Badgers running back Melvin Gordon, and athletic director Barry Alvarez. The crowd even wished Alvarez a happy birthday by singing! And, of course, to bring the spirit of Camp Randall Stadium to L.A., UW coach Paul Chryst ’88 and four players — Jonathan Taylor, Tyler Biadasz, Chris Orr, and Zack Baun — led the crowd in “Jump Around.” 

The next morning, New Year’s Eve day, kicked off with a pride-filled brunch. A curated playlist of Badger favorites was buzzing in the background as fans enjoyed season highlight videos and Badger camaraderie. The afternoon saw many folks soaking up some vitamin D before preparing to turn in early since more than 700 tour-goers needed to be up before sunrise to experience the beautiful Rose Parade.

When Game Day, and New Year’s Day 2020, finally arrived, 4,000 alumni and friends made their way to the sold-out BADGER HUDDLE® tailgate. Fans were greeted at “Camp Randall West” by a larger-than-life inflatable Bucky and enjoyed tons of Badger fun inside the tailgate — including a decked-out photo booth and a face-off between Johnsonville Brats and local Pink’s Hot Dogs. The entertainment stage was also filled with Badger spirit as Governor Evers, Chancellor Blank, Alvarez, Schutt, and comedian Charlie Berens ’09, kept the energy high. Fans were then sent off to the game by Dr. Corey Pompey and the UW Marching Band.

The walk to historic Rose Bowl Stadium was lined with excited Badger fans. As we took our seats, we were met with inspiring views of the mountains and a B-2 bomber flyover.

The game was a riveting back-and-forth contest, with both teams taking each other’s best shots. But it was Wisconsin with the lead, 17–14, at halftime. That and the UW Marching Band’s tribute to our armed forces was more than enough to keep Badger fans in a spirited mood. Unfortunately, the ball didn’t bounce Wisconsin’s way enough in the second half, and our team left the field with victory just out of reach.

Badger fans didn’t let the outcome of the game dampen their spirits or pride, though, as they showed-up in full Badger regalia for the trip home the next morning. Some Badgers got to enjoy the novelty of a partially outdoor airport at Long Beach — something that would never be possible back home!

We want to thank all of the alumni and friends who joined the Wisconsin Alumni Association on the Official Badger Bowl Tour to the 106th Rose Bowl. We hope to see you and your Badger spirit on the next tour!

On, Wisconsin!