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A Nautical Touch for Bowl Parade

TIMES STAFF WRITER

So what, Ron Oliver figures, if it does rain on his parade Saturday.

It will simply add to the ambience--wet and wild, just like the theme of this year’s Downtown Holiday Bowl Parade: a tribute to the America’s Cup.

But Oliver is less worried about the rain showing up than he is about the fellow from Delaware.

“This guy goes to parades all around the country, with his van filled with popcorn. He’s a street vendor, and we don’t allow them because they’ve got no business license, no resale license, no insurance,” said Oliver, executive director of the Central City Assn., which is organizing the parade.

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“One year this guy shows up here, selling popcorn that he probably made a year earlier back in Delaware, and he’s tooting the horn of his push-cart, and he came real close to spooking the elephants.”

San Diego Police are under orders this year, Oliver said, to keep such vendors off the street. And there won’t be any elephants this year either.

Instead, parade spectators can count on Afghans and Newfoundlands pulling toy carts, 25 llamas, 20 equestrian units--including the Alpine Outlaws--and a gaggle of goats gallivanting as reindeer.

Ah, a parade!

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In tribute to the sailing theme, there’ll be replicas of competing yachts constructed in such a way sd to give the impression that they are sailing down the streets, and helium inflatables of Popeye and Olive Oyl. It takes 5,000 cubic feet of helium to get each of them up in the morning, says parade director Kimberly Prendergast.

The spirit of Southern California will be evident, too, what with the inflatable fish taco, the roller-bladers and the Southern California Convertible Club, the Mustang Club and the Corvette Club. Organizers hope there won’t be a repeat of the year when a band of skateboarders crashed the parade, complete with banner, and skated all the way to the reviewing stands before they were shepherded off the street.

Altogether, there will be 2,500 parade participants--many of them marching musicians and drill team members from seven high school bands, one from as far away as New Jersey.

Brigham Young University and the University of Iowa, whose football teams will be competing in this year’s Holiday Bowl on Monday night at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, will also showcase their marching bands in Saturday’s parade.

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Organizers expect 75,000 spectators to line the route.

The parade will begin at 9:45 a.m. from near the County Administration Center at Pacific Highway and Ash Street, will move south on Pacific Highway and turn east on Broadway, concluding about noon at 8th Avenue.

At any given point along the 1.5-mile-long route, the parade will take about 90 minutes to pass, Prendergast said.

This year’s grand marshal won’t have to worry about maintaining a smile. The honor goes to the America’s Cup itself, the prize to be awarded to the best sailing team that will be competing off San Diego’s waters beginning next month.

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The parade, sponsored by the San Diego Unified Port District, which kicked in $50,000 to pay for it, is in its 10th year. And, over the years, parade organizers and participants have come to expect any number of problems and snafus.

There was the year, for instance, that high school marching bands showed up in their winter wools--and musicians were fainting dead-away from the heat by 8 in the morning as the temperature pushed toward 80.

And the following years, when the bands figured they learned their lessons and wore significantly lighter-weight marching clothes, only to freeze their basses in the nighttime parade after temperatures had fallen.

Another concern of band directors in years past, said Prendergast, was that they would stage their musicians in an area near State Street and Broadway.

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“Back in those days, it wasn’t a great part of town,” Prendergast said. “There were girly shows and peep shows, and here were band kids from Iowa and Minnesota and Florida lining up at 7 in the morning, and you’d never know who would be hanging around or coming out the door of those businesses.”

There won’t be any local high school bands in this year’s parade, Prendergast said. The local musicians, she said, have already competed heavily in tournaments, and the chance to march along downtown San Diego streets during Christmas vacation doesn’t hold the same attraction as it does to bands from, say, Bakersfield, Phoenix or Hammonton, N.J., which are among the seven high school bands scheduled to participate.

Not that local schools won’t be present. Among the parade’s hundreds of volunteer workers will be 40 athletes from Patrick Henry High School, who will be holding down Popeye and Olive Oyl inflatables. Larger versions of the two were rejected for the parade because they couldn’t be pulled below the San Diego Trolley power lines at Kettner and Broadway, and were dispatched instead to holiday parades in Florida.

Among the volunteers will be 45 parade marshals who will work the route with walkie-talkies, making sure entries move smoothly and to alert the seven radio stations and one television station (Channel 39) that will be broadcasting the parade live, in the event any of the entries don’t show up.

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“We don’t want a broadcaster talking about a clown if the goats are in front of him,” Prendergast said. There have been close calls like that, she said.

“One year, when the parade was at night, an entry didn’t show up, and we tried to reach by walkie-talkie the marshal who was assigned to a radio broadcast booth to alert him before the parade started,” she said.

“But the guy wasn’t answering his radio. It was dead. We finally had to run down to the radio booth to let them know, and just then the marshal showed up, too. He said he decided to go to dinner.”

For those who can’t make this year’s parade, you can mark your new 1992 calendars. Next year’s parade will be Sunday, Dec. 27, Oliver said.

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