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Rose Parade 2015: 'It was great ... from beginning to end'

Today's Rose Parade was led by a riderless horse in honor of Louis Zamperini

Despite chilly temperatures, thousands of people lined the streets of Pasadena on Thursday for the 126th Rose Parade, huddling under blankets and sipping hot chocolate as they watched flower-covered floats roll past.

As the last marching band passed, capping the two-hour parade, people began packing up their blankets and chairs. Some snapped a few last photos before heading to their cars. Others hugged friends goodbye.

Hector Morales turned to his 5-year-old daughter, Rotce, and shrugged. "Se acabó," he said, telling her it was over.

Rotce made a sad face. She'd loved the bands, she said.

Morales said the quality of the floats made up for the cold weather.

"It was great, great," he said. "From the beginning to end."

The iconic Southern California parade takes place before the annual Rose Bowl football game.

Sue Zavala, 65, draped in a brown scarf, sat atop a 6-foot ladder with her boyfriend, Jim Vigue, 72. He stood on a small step stool at her side. 

"I can see everything up here," Zavala said. "I got the best seat in the house."

Vigue lives near the parade route and has watched from the street the last eight years. He said he usually brings his grandchildren, but this year they were older and more interested in sleeping in than waking up for the parade.

But Vigue said he couldn't stay away.

"It's right here at my doorstep," he said. "It's just such a unique event. I love Pasadena, I love all things that are special about this town. And this is one of them."

As the first float bearing the Rose Parade logo slowly began the 5½-mile trek down Colorado Boulevard, children gasped as their parents looked on.

"There they are!" exclaimed a 3-year-old boy named Jack, who watched the parade from his father's arms. Jack, dressed in a bright windbreaker and fleece hat, scanned the street, his blue eyes slightly teary.

"He's cold, but he's excited," said his father, Mark Lavine, 48.

Jorge Rea and his children, swaddled in Raiders blankets, had a prime viewing spot near the start of the parade route. Rea bundled up his children and drove from their Central Valley home at 3 a.m. to see the parade in person for the first time in several years.

Rea, 40, said he wanted to start a family tradition with his children.

"It feels good to show the kids there's a parade shown across the country that they can experience live," he said. "It brings people from different cultures and states. It's a great place to be."

The crowd roared as a Hawaiian-themed float featuring a flame-spitting volcano rolled past.

"Look," one woman yelled. "That deserves a trophy."

Ronni Edens bobbed her head as a marching band passed. She's been coming to the parade for more than 30 years, and paused as she tried to nail down her favorite part.

While she was brainstorming, she waved at a man on a passing float. "Happy New Year!" he shouted.

She yelled it back.

"That's the best part," Edens said. "The best part is saying 'Happy New Year' to everyone, even though they're strangers. It's the best way to start a year."

Around 6 a.m. before the parade began, Dan Smith, 52, and Alla Lazareva, 43, huddled in a coffee shop sharing a cappuccino and two slices of warm toast. The Sarasota, Fla., couple were in town to watch their son march with the Florida State University band.

They chuckled when Smith looked up the forecast back home in Florida: 68 degrees.

"It's tough," he said, bundled under four layers of clothing topped by a Florida State Seminoles jacket. "I figured we'd make it back to the Rose Bowl. But I didn't think it'd be nearly freezing."

Lazareva guessed it was as cold in Pasadena as her native St. Petersburg. Not the one in Florida, she said. The one in Russia.

"It's going to be cold," she said. "But it's going to be fun."

Along the parade route, Jennifer Lamarche huddled in a chair wearing matching Oakland A's hat and scarf. She had been there since 1 a.m. after driving to Pasadena from Oakland with three friends.

Lamarche said she usually watched the parade on television, but wanted to see it in person. She prepared for the cold -- "three blankets, two pants, two socks" -- but admitted it had made her a little cranky.

Still, Larmache said she didn't regret the trip.

"I've never been here and I wanted to see it live," the 41-year-old said.

Temperatures were expected to top out Thursday at 58 degrees, forecasters said. The National Weather Service said the temperature in Pasadena dipped to 36 degrees, threatening the 1952 record low of 32 degrees.

Farther down Colorado Boulevard, as the sun inched over the horizon, tow trucks drove by blaring their horns. One woman danced to the rhythm. Another did jumping jacks to stay warm.

One woman walked by and laughed, muttering: "This is Boston on a warm day, wimps."

Nearby, LaShawnda Nelson, her sister and two friends had an elaborate campsite, complete with a fire pit roasting shish kabobs. They'd made the trek from Riverside and had been outside since 9:30 p.m. but decided to wait until morning to set up along the parade route.

Christine Perez walked by, holding hands with her 9-year-old son, Anthony. She eyed the group's fire pit with a bit of jealousy.

She smiled at Nelson and admitted they didn't have many supplies. "It's our first time," she said.

Nelson, a longtime parade attendee, told Perez she'd share some pointers. Her first advice? "Move closer."

This year's parade theme was "Inspiring Stories," designed to showcase those who "elevate the human spirit by who they are, what they have done and what they continue to do," according to the parade's website.

Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, USC graduate and World War II prisoner of war, was named this year's grand marshal. The Torrance native's life is told in the book "Unbroken," which premiered as a movie by the same name in December.

Zamperini died in July at 97, two months after he was named grand marshal. USC's mascot, the white horse Traveler, walked the parade route without a rider in honor of Zamperini, and Zamperini's family rode in the grand marshal's car in the parade

Times staff writers Kate Mather and Javier Panzar contributed to this report.

For more Rose Parade updates, follow @katemather, @jpanzar, @TrevellAnderson, @marisagerber, @ParviniParlance and @taygoldenstein on Twitter.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

10:25 a.m.: Updated to add scenes, interviews from the end of the parade. 

9:50 a.m.: Updated to add details from the parade.

9:22 a.m.: Updated to add details from the parade.

8:49 a.m.: Updated to add details from the parade's start.

8:04 a.m.: Updated to add more details from the parade route.

7:30 a.m.: This post has been updated to add more details, interviews from along the parade route.

This post was originally published at 7 a.m.

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