Rose Parade 2012: Sunny skies, smaller crowds and an Occupy march
A Marine marching band from Camp Pendleton and grand marshal J.R. Martinez drew among the biggest cheers from thousands of parade-goers who lined Colorado Boulevard for the 123rd Rose Parade, which began on a chilly Monday morning and ended in warm sunshine.
Crowds lined the 5 1/2-mile route, although organizers said they believed attendees were fewer in number than in previous years because of the weekday timing. Traditionally, the parade is not held Sundays to avoid interfering with church services.
This year’s theme, "Just Imagine," featured dozens of petal-covered floats, exuberant marching bands and more than 300 colorfully decked-out horses and riders.
The parade was punctuated this year by a demonstration by hundreds of members of the group Occupy the Rose Parade carrying signs to draw attention to their cause of income inequality. They marched at the end of the parade with an Occupy Octopus float constructed of plastic bags.
Reaction was mixed: A group of onlookers on an apartment balcony cheered and waved, while some people in the grandstands booed. One man walked past some protesters and said, "You guys had your 15 minutes."
But demonstrators were peaceful and largely ignored by the vast majority of parade-goers, many of whom spent the night camped out on air mattresses and in sleeping bags to claim coveted positions along the street.
Sue Murphy arrived from Saco, Maine, with her husband to participate in her first parade.
“Oh, my God, I’ve been waiting my whole life to get here,” said Murphy, 60, who had bought a banner that said “Happy Trails from Maine” in honor of the late Roy Rogers because she grew up watching him. “I love it all, the whole spirit of the marching bands, the arts, the plants. It’s unbelievable."
Daniel Powell, from Solana Beach in San Diego County, came by himself after other family members proclaimed the event’s 8 a.m. start time too early.
“I just can’t stay away,” said Powell, 52, who said he has attended the parade for the last 25 years and marched in 1979 and 1980 for the USC marching band.
Carla Watson held a bright green sign that said “retired teacher 99%” with a rose and an American flag attached.
She and a friend, Nancy Kredell, 69, who said she was a parade princess 51 years ago, planned to join Occupy protesters during the middle of the parade route.
“We believe in the Rose Parade, but we believe that it is time for the people to be heard,” said Watson, 70.
Attendees at this year’s procession had to shed layers of garments as the chilly morning gave way to temperatures that topped 66 degrees.
Girl Scout Troop 9491 camped overnight with their families, a first for the group, which has helped decorate floats for the last six years.
“It was so warm that it was the year to do it,” said Liz Dailey, 45, of South Pasadena, a co-troop leader.
One of the members, Lorie Meza, 12, rode on the Girls Scout parade float that commemorated the organization’s centennial.
Many parade-goers said they appreciated the selection of Martinez as grand marshal. The actor and former soldier was the fan favorite of the television reality program "Dancing With the Stars. He received loud applause and whoops of encouragement from the crowd.
Martinez suffered burns over 40% of his body during an accident while deployed to Iraq in 2003.
“He’s recuperating and really showing others that you can live on after war,” said Jack Thrall, 76, an Arizona resident attending the parade with his wife, Joan.
[For the record, 7:42 p.m.: An earlier version of this post reported that organizers estimated that 900,000 people had lined the parade route this year, a number they described as being lower than in past years. However, The Times has reported in the past that accounts of the parade attendance, as well as other major marches and protests, have been proven unreliable.]
-- Dalina Castellanos and Rosanna Xia in Pasadena
Photo: Rose Parade grand marshal J.R. Martinez waves to the crowd. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times