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Viewers Take Final Look at Parade Floats

Times Staff Writers

The triumphal music boomed from within the American flag made of irises, sweet rice and carnations. Flower-encrusted planets encircled the 55-foot float, titled “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”

“It’s Superman,” the taped message roared.

A passing child could only ask the obvious: “Where’s Superman?”

“He’s deflated,” explained one of the white-suited officials.

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Such was the scene in Pasadena the day after the Tournament of Roses parade. Superman, who only Monday had streaked past adoring crowds--not faster than a speeding bullet but at a good parade clip of 3 m.p.h.--lay crumpled on the ground beside his float 24 hours later. Felled not by kryptonite, as one passer-by guessed, but by the lack of helium, Superman’s cornmeal-covered face wrinkled into a sour scowl.

48,000 Visitors

All along the long line of dowager floats, roses drooped, carnations wilted and petals wafted to the ground. But the crowds still came. Officials said 48,000 flocked to view the floats Monday afternoon when they were on display for two hours at Pasadena High School.

And Tuesday, the last day for viewing, foot traffic past the 60 bundles of flowers and mechanics moved with the speed of the Hollywood Freeway at rush hour.

Still, officials expected fewer spectators than the 250,000 who trekked by the display last year--mostly, they say, because the viewing had to be held during the week instead of a weekend.

And, to the spectators, the view improved as they got closer.

“It is so much better to come here than to the parade because you can see the floats a lot closer. The details are much more vivid,” said Maureen Lonsdale, who visited the display with her family.

Details, however, are fleeting.

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The life of a Rose Parade float is short, indeed. After months of gestation, the floats burst onto TV screens across the nation and thrill the thousands who throng to Pasadena.

And then?

“Trashed,” said Steve Melle, one of the officials keeping the viewers from taking anything more than snapshots. Sometimes the substructure is saved for another float, he said, but the exterior is history.

Outside the display area, city crews were busy collecting the tons of garbage left by the hundreds of thousands of people who watched the parade, as well as the 250 horses and three elephants.

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Crews began the cleanup immediately after the parade Monday afternoon, picking up the soda cans, paper plates and other refuse with several vacuum sweepers.

By Tuesday, crews were disassembling the bleachers and wire barriers that lined the parade route.

However, the lying-in-state period for the floats provides one last glimpse of the annual spectacle for latecomers such as Chana Alexander, who said her family made the delayed pilgrimage because of the convenience.

“I don’t take too well to sleeping on the sidewalk,” said Alexander, who lives in Moreno Valley.

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Also, for those who came the day after, there was a bonus: the first float in 41 years of televised coverage that never made the procession.

The costly “Luau” float, which featured a running waterfall and several Tiki dancers, won the Grand Marshal’s award but crashed into a curb at the starting point when its steering mechanism failed.

Big Let-Down

“This was incredibly disappointing because this was the wildest thing we have ever done and it did not work,” said Rick Chapman, founder and president of Festival Artists, which built the float, the first entry for the soft drink Slice.

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But even with the waterfall gushing, 5th-graders preferred the “Monster Mash” float, which featured a towering Frankenstein that sat up and down to the beat of the 1960s novelty tune.

Linda Eisenberg, who escorted the youngsters from the Valley Alternative School in Van Nuys, said she has been to the parade several times but has skipped it the last few years to bring her children to the day-after display.

“Someone told me that you only go to the parade three times in your life: once when you are a child, with your parents, once when you’re a teen-ager, with friends, and once as a parent with your own children,” Eisenberg said. “I’ve done my duty.”

Her charges were less blase.

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“I like the way the monster moves. Even his fingers wiggle,” 10-year-old Nanette Lancaster said. “It would be more fun if all the floats moved, but at least we don’t have to be in school.”


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