PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Gabby Giffords will serve as grand marshal of the 134th Rose Parade next year.
The former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona will ride down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena on Jan. 2. Giffords will be part of the coin flip for the 109th Rose Bowl game later that day.
Because Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday next year, the parade and game will be held on Monday in keeping with the Tournament of Roses’ tradition of never having the events on a Sunday.
“I’m so honored to be grand master of the Rose Parade,” Giffords said Thursday after being introduced on the lawn of Tournament House in Pasadena. She walked out to the Tom Petty song “I Won’t Back Down.”
The parade’s theme of “Turning the Corner” represents the world emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and the sweeping turn the floats and bands make from Orange Grove Boulevard onto Colorado Boulevard as part of their 5 1/2-mile route.
Giffords, 52, was shot in the head in January 2011 outside a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store during a public appearance. Because of the severe brain injury she suffered, she had to re-learn how to walk and talk.
“Our lives can change so quickly. Mine did when I was shot but I never gave up hope,” Giffords told the crowd. “I chose to make a new start, to move ahead and not look back.”
Tournament of Roses president Amy Wainscott chose Giffords as “a perfect example of how to valiantly turn the corner.”
Giffords is a gun safety advocate who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this year.
Giffords’ husband, Democrat Mark Kelly, is running for reelection to the U.S. Senate from Arizona. He didn’t join her for Thursday’s announcement, but he will be beside her for the New Year’s festivities.