Rose Parade 2013: Thousands gather for New Year's celebration
The 124th Rose Parade in Pasadena kicked off on a cloudy and cold New Year’s Day with the elaborate Dr. Seuss-themed float “Follow Your Dreams.”
The float -- heralding this year's theme, "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" -- contained 20,000 individual blossoms and more than 5,000 roses.
As the parade moved along Colorado Boulevard, among the crowd estimated at nearly 1 million, parade officials dressed in white, head to toe, zipped around in white scooters, and buses occasionally rolled through, escorted by police.
"Awesome!" yelled a tightly bundled Diego Estrada, 6, pointing to the Goodyear blimp as it floated by.
The sun rose to cloudy skies and a scene of joyous chaos at the intersection of Orange Grove and Del Mar boulevards. Parade-goers donned jester hats with bells, neon-pink bunny ears with flashing lights, and plain-old knit beanies against the cold. Nearby, Dole's volcano float shot plumes of flame into tha air and blared mariachi music.
Azalea Tauer, 36, of Temple City, padded with six layers of clothing and a wool scarf, had a fire blazing nearby in a small charcoal barbecue she brought. Her family spent the night angling for a spot for the first time.
"I woke up at 6:30 this morning," she begins to say, and realizes she's more than 24 hours off; that was yesterday. "It just feels like one long day to me," she said.
Meanwhile, Costa Rican folk dancers and Salvadoran band members prepared to join the parade.
Despite weeks of practice, 15-year-old Julissa Blanco, of the Alma Tica dancing troupe, was nervous. "I'm really excited, though," Julissa said, her eye shadow nearly matching the light purple flower in her hair.
Band members from El Salvador, who traveled by bus over four days to participate in the parade, stopped by to snap a picture.
Drummer David Vega, 20, said, "So far it's been a marvelous experience to be a part of the world's largest parade.”
A passerby screamed out "Viva!" and the group proudly echoed the exhortation before heading out to join the rest of the 160 band members.
A group of thrill-seeking 20-somethings from Purdue University traveled cross-country to see the Rose Parade close up.
"I've seen it on TV before, I just want to see it in person," said Ian Dryg, 23, a graduate student studying bioengineering. "It’s cool how they just let us set up here."
Dryg and six of his friends rented a truck and headed out from Indiana on Dec. 16, the day after finals. They stopped in Utah and Las Vegas before arriving in Pasadena.
The group spent the night nearby in New Year's Eve revelry, then decided the alley off Colorado Boulevard would be a good place to crash.
The Southern California winter was no match for their sleeping bags designed for sub-zero temperatures. Their beards were scraggly, their clothes worn, but their spirits were high.
"We're definitely getting used to the cold," Dryg said.
Near the beginning of the parade route, next to a 12-foot panorama of flowers and sculptures from the city of Torrance, was another elaborate display, including a blue tarp, blankets, sleeping bags and 10 people ages 8 to 37.
"It's just a big family burrito, rolled up with a little of everything," said Juan Chavez of South Los Angeles, father and uncle to some of the bundled-up crew.
Campers traditionally cluster at the start of the parade. Getting there early allowed them a first look at the floats by the glow of street lamps and floodlights.
A few hours before the parade's start, the challenge for many was staying warm -- and awake.
Chavez's clan had been camping out since 3 p.m. Monday, staking out a spot after a trip to Wal-Mart for extra blankets. It was the family's first time seeing the Rose Parade up close.
But after 12 hours of waiting in a nest of blankets and sleeping bags, all except one had fallen asleep.
"I'm not going to sleep," said Chavez's sister in law, Arlene Aguirre, 37. "I'm going to drink a Coke."
But a few minutes later, Aguirre nodded off.
Meanwhile, Chavez stoked some coals in a small grill at 5 a.m. Tuesday, but barbecue was the furthest thing from his mind.
"Just trying to stay warm," Chavez said, hunching his shoulders in a dark hoodie. "My brain is half frozen."
Pasadena police reported no major problems. A total of 22 people had been arrested along the parade route since 6 p.m. Monday evening, they said.
All of those arrested were adults and all but one were apprehended on suspicion of public drunkenness, said Lt. Rick Aversano. That individual was caught in possession of burglary tools, Aversano said.
The small number of arrests was “pretty typical” of the last eight to 10 years, as the proportion of families has increased among parade-goers over the years, Aversano said. In the 1980s, he said, police would arrest about 500 people over the same time period.
“The numbers are down significantly,” he said. “People are well-behaved.”
-- Christine Mai-Duc, Frank Shyong, Joseph Serna and Eryn Brown
Photo: Dancers make their way along the 2013 Rose Parade route. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times