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Rose Parade campers stake out sites, celebrate New Year's Eve

By James Barragan

12:39 AM PST, January 1, 2014

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It's an annual tradition for some families: waking up at the crack of dawn to attend the Rose Parade in Pasadena.

Some families, however, take it a step farther, camping out on the streets where the parade will take place, reserving key seats in which to watch the parade on New Year's Day.

And while they're at it, they may as well have a party too.

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As a new year approached late Tuesday night, the parade route teemed with campfires, bicycles, skateboards, scooters and roller bladers who weaved in and out of float-gawking crowds.

Campers on the street resorted to their radios or live Internet feeds to let others know that the new year had begun.

As the countdown reached zero, Orange Grove Boulevard erupted in cheers, laughter and dancing. Some resourceful campers provided the tunes of Kanye West's "Stronger."

Deborah Escobar, 49, of North Hollywood, had staked out a campsite on the corner of Orange Grove and Del Mar boulevards with her friend Jacqueline Olan. It's the same spot they staked out four years ago.

"I just fell in love with the experience," Escobar said. "Every year I come back to the same spot."

Olan, 45, said she loves the experience of seeing the floats before anybody else does. And both friends enjoy the festive atmosphere and camaraderie of the night.

"It's New Year's Eve, so people have a good time. Sometimes the lady across the street sells us coffee," she said pointing to a home on the other side of the street.

But their favorite moment is midnight, when bystanders bring in the new year with cheering and hugging.

This year, Olan and Escobar roped in their friend Norma Avitia.

"I just heard that they have so much fun, so I came with them," Avitia said. "And I hope this isn't the last time."

Letty Zamora and her family had taken a six-year hiatus from their Rose Parade campouts. But after their third child turned 6 years old and still hadn't lived the experience that his two older brothers had gotten annually as kids, the mother of four and her husband decided to bring the family back to the event.

"Our 6-year-old hadn't gotten the experience, so we decided it was time," Zamora, a Lancaster resident said. "He's still at that innocent age when everything is magical. He saw the floats, and he thought it was so cool. It's wonderful."

And the Zamora family showed their experience at their campsite, displaying a heater and multiple blankets to keep them warm throughout the night.

"We just bring out all our camping gear," Zamora, 51, said. "It's a family activity that we can all do without anyone complaining," Zamora said. "It's definitely family time." 

Lynn Rupp and his wife last came to the Rose Bowl in 1988 when Michigan State was last in the bowl game.

The Morgan Hill, Northern California, residents were strolling along Orange Grove Boulevard on Tuesday night and taking in the spectacle. 

"It's kind of fun. Everybody is doing something or wants to take a picture," Rupp said as a stranger asked him to take a photo for him. "It's like a little big party in the middle of the night. "

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james.barragan@latimes.com