PASADENA, Calif. – After a holiday season of relentless rain in Southern California, the Rose Parade was bathed Saturday in abundant sunshine.
Clear skies and chilly temperatures greeted the flowered floats, ponies and princesses that were set to roll down Colorado Boulevard at 8 a.m.
Food Network star and popular cookbook author Paula Deen was serving as grand marshal and 17-year-old Evanne Elizabeth Friedmann of La Canada was queen of the parade themed “Building Dreams, Friendships and Memories.”
Many who staked out prime viewing spots on the sidewalks had to brave temperatures that dipped into the low 40s overnight. By early Saturday, they shivered under blankets and huddled around fire pits to stay warm.
“It was cold but well worth it,” said Mark Tarango, as he rolled up his sleeping bag a the start of the 5 1/2- mile parade route, which was expected to be lined with as many as 700,000 spectators.
Tarango and his wife drove from Bakersfield, about two hours away, on Friday so that their three children could witness the spectacle for the first time.
“You get to appreciate it more in person. You miss the details, the smells, the festive atmosphere on television,” he said.
Some die-hard fans who didn’t camp out overnight got up before dawn to stroll up and down Orange Grove Boulevard, eager for a close-up view of the floats before the parade began.
Gerilyn Freedman of Woodland Hills said that for the last 10 years she has gotten to bed early on New Year’s Eve so she could get up early to admire the floats before the throngs arrive.
“I feel like a kid the night before. I get so excited about the parade that I can’t wait to get up,” Freedman said.
Weather has dominated the leadup to the parade. Workers prepping floats and grandstands in Southern California have faced soaking conditions and, the East Coast blizzard made travel tough for participants, including a high school band that saw half of its members stranded in Philadelphia with fears they wouldn’t make it to the elite parade. But all 350 members of the Downingtown High School band are set to be in uniform on Saturday.
Floats will include one called “Donate Life” which will hold some 30 organ transplant recipients and “florographs” — images rendered in natural materials — of some of their donors.
And later in the day unbeaten Texas Christian University will take on Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl game.
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