In 1891, a horse-drawn “gospel wagon” rolled onto the dirt streets of downtown Los Angeles offering “food, clothing and salvation” to saloon denizens.
This year, skid row’s Union Rescue Mission will make its first appearance in the Rose Parade. A group from the shelter will ride the route in a replica of the gospel wagon to highlight its 125th anniversary and serve as a reminder that poverty and addiction still accompany L.A.’s enviable climate and flora.
“We’re just hoping to raise awareness about people experiencing homelessness,” said the Rev. Andrew Bales, the mission’s chief executive.
Victoria Villegas and her husband, David, parents of seven children spread throughout California, chose to visit their daughter in Pasadena this year for one reason: to attend, for the first time, the parade they grew up watching on television.
"I feel like I've been here," said Villegas, 54, who traveled down from Bradley, a tiny town in Central California. "New Year's Day, that's all you watched."
Wrapped in sleeping bags and blankets, with their feet propped up on a cart storing their belongings, the couple said they'd considered bringing a portable heater but worried about security.
For Tina Robertson, attending the Rose Parade had always been a dream.
The Birmingham, Ala., resident recalled watching the parade on TV as a kid, and said it was her mother's dream to one day come in person. She teared up and said that her coming to the parade was as much about seeing the flowers and floats as it was about honoring her mother's life.
Robertson, in her 40s, arrived in California on Sunday afternoon with her son, Dakota Robertson, 24, and his girlfriend after an eight-hour road trip from Phoenix, where her son works as an engineer.
Clemente Palacios, 36, branch manager of a bank in Pasadena, stood on the sidewalk with his grill, whipping up a big pan of chorizo and eggs for 52 bank employees who eagerly awaited breakfast on rows of lawn chairs in front of him.
The smell of chorizo wafted over the crowd. It was a new grill, a Christmas gift from his parents.
"Best manager ever," said a sheriff's deputy standing near the bank. He said he wanted to hang around the area and get some of Clemente's eggs.