Sunday, January 2, 2005

2005 Rose Parade - Once Again, No Rain on This Parade
Flower-decked floats, horses and bands fill Pasadena's streets for the Rose Parade's 50th consecutive year without precipitation.
By Jessica Garrison and Jia-Rui Chong - Times Staff Writers

After days of punishing rain, the exquisite blue skies that dawned for the 116th annual Rose Parade on Saturday proved to some devotees what they have long taken on faith: God watches out for Pasadena on New Year's Day.

This was the 50th consecutive year without precipitation.

The scent of roses and citrus drifted in the clear air over sparkling streets. Horses danced and spectators smiled in wonder at the two-hour procession of 50 floats, including a 207-foot train, the longest float in Rose Parade history, and another, 50 feet tall, designed by engineers at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The soundtrack came from 25 marching bands that journeyed from as far as Taiwan and as near as Pasadena. Some of the teenage musicians were so cold in the pre-parade chill that they wrapped themselves in flags while waiting to march.

Almost as soon as the parade ended, the sun disappeared and dark storm clouds gathered again.

"We have a little valve, we just turn the water off," joked Tournament of Roses Chief Operating Officer William B. Flinn.

He added that many tournament officials believe the moisture-free skies stem from a pact between God and Pasadena. In 1893, tournament officials agreed never to hold the parade on a Sunday, so as not to disturb church services or horses tied up outside. Ever since, if Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday, as it will next year, the parade is held Monday.

The theme this year was "Celebrate Family," and the grand marshal was Mickey Mouse. The procession began promptly at 8:04 a.m. with the swoop of a B-2 stealth bomber and two fighter jets over Colorado Boulevard. Hours later, the bomber caused drivers on the Hollywood Freeway to hit their brakes in awe as the stingray-shaped plane flew back to the Rose Bowl for the 2 p.m. kickoff of the football game between Texas and Michigan.

More awe-inspiring still were the floats.

Giant floral seahorses pulled a carousel chariot. A great blue heron, a snowy egret and a robin passed by a few minutes later. In keeping with the theme, a mother owl sat watch as her babies blinked, and a family of frogs fled on a triple-seated bicycle from a chef with a net.

Ken DeVault, who said he has seen 65 Rose Parades, vividly recalled his first, in 1921, when some of the floats were just cars decorated with flowers. "It seems like they outdo themselves every year," said the 89-year-old Pasadena resident. "You can watch it on television and it's beautiful, but it's nothing like seeing it in person."

Perennial prizewinner Rain Bird, a Glendora-based maker of irrigation equipment, won the Sweepstakes Trophy for most beautiful float. Its entry, "Playful Pandamonium," depicted giant pandas frolicking among eight waterfalls, exotic birds and lotus blossoms.

The Grand Marshal's Trophy for creative design was awarded to Starbucks Coffee Co. for its float depicting a Costa Rican coffee farmer and his family on a journey from the mountains to the marketplace.

And the Jet Propulsion Laboratory won the award for innovation for a 50-foot-high robot adorned with floral representations of nine spacecraft and a jetpack that expelled carbon dioxide. Mike Johnson, a 44-year-old mechanical engineer at JPL who has worked on NASA missions that included the Mars rovers, handled animation for the float. He said he felt nervousness akin to the anxiety he experienced during missions to outer space.

"When you launch a spacecraft … it has to work the first time, and the Rose Parade has similar requirements. Here with the float, it's a live show and there are no second takes," he said.

Rose Queen Ashley Moreno, an 18-year-old senior at La Cañada High School, and her royal court of six princesses rode in a coconut-flake confection decorated with an oversized crown.

Some floats, including that of the Rose Bowl-winning University of Texas, experienced a few snafus.

Shortly after 9 a.m., the Texas float, which featured a large football surrounded by soaring stars made from white coconut, lost a tire and had another go flat. The incident delayed the parade for several minutes until a tow truck hauled the float off the route.

It was a brief moment of triumph for University of Michigan fans.

"This was the best part of the day," said Evan Hyatt, a 24-year-old recent Michigan graduate and a Wolverine fan. Hyatt had traveled from Grand Rapids, Mich., with a friend to watch the parade and game. "The Michigan side was cheering and the Texas people were hanging their heads in shame."

A horse also had to be taken out of the parade and tranquilized because it was repeatedly kicking and rearing up.

Most animals were exceptionally well behaved — as were most people. There were no arrests during the parade, but Pasadena police reported 38 between 5 p.m. Friday and the start of the parade, all of them misdemeanors. Most were for public drunkenness; a few were for throwing objects at police cars.

Many parade-watchers arrived on the Gold Line light rail. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimated that more than 60,000 people had boarded a train by 5 p.m. Saturday — four times as many as on a weekday.

"The Rose Parade is the ultimate in parades," said Tim Freeman, who camped out starting at 8 a.m. Friday with his family and 25 friends to watch his 19-year-old daughter, a baton twirler who led Pasadena City College's Honor Band down the 5 1/2 -mile route.

"For her to be coming down the street leading the band like this makes us so proud," he said.

A few blocks away, Tim Sun sat ready with a cellphone in one hand and a camera in the other. His daughter, Elizabeth Rebecca, 12, was playing clarinet in the Pasadena Unified School District All-Star Band. The cellphone was for calling relatives in Shanghai, who were watching a live satellite broadcast.

Others experienced the parade in unique ways.

Deaf attendees watched the motions of two interpreters.

Their hands pretended to drum as their shoulders moved to the beat of the music. One hand followed another to signify the marching band. Their fingers quickly spelled descriptions of the procession.

"I can't hear the parade, but I can see the interpreters," said Laura Clark, a Lancaster resident who has attended the parade for the last three years. "Their hands are our ears."

Nearby 115 blind people, with family members and seeing-eye dogs, listened to three commentators describe the procession in rich detail, pointing out the colors, movements and even the comfortable shoes worn by the color guards.

Other paradegoers used the event to send a special message.

Senahadi Wirantana, a native of Jakarta, Indonesia, and member of the DhammaCakraTra Buddhist Community Center, has been coming to the parade since 2001. This year, he came with handmade donation boxes that read: "Please help South Asia tsunami survivors."

"The disaster is very, very huge," Wirantana said, "so we think we have to do something, not just see and watch."

But for many, it was another chance to celebrate an annual tradition.

For the last 18 years, Bob Lee has camped out on the northeast corner of Lake Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, arriving at 10 a.m. each Dec. 31 with enough lounge chairs for between 25 and 150 people, depending on how many guests he'll have that year.

He also brings a card table, games, sleeping bags, a propane heater and blue tarps. One tarp goes under his sleeping bag so the cold doesn't seep through; the other goes over him to protect him from people in passing cars pelting him with marshmallows, silly string, eggs or tortillas dripping with shaving cream in the middle of the night.

"It's a science," said Lee, 48, who was wearing two pairs of socks, boots, pajama pants under his jeans, two T-shirts, a sweatshirt and a teal-blue parka as he lounged in a front-row chair.

"It's worth being cold at times. It's worth being wet at times," Lee said. "It's just worth it."

Times staff writers Tonya Alanez, Susana Enriquez, Natasha Lee, Jack Leonard, Rong-Gong Lin II, Zeke Minaya, Rachana Rathi, Nicholas Shields, Veronica Torrejon, Andrew Wang, Erica Williams and Claudia Zequeira contributed to this report.

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