Sun Shines Bright on Rose Parade Spectacle : Pageant: Protests have little effect on crowd. GM's controversial float captures the Sweepstakes Trophy.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

It didn't rain--again. Political ill winds barely ruffled the carnation-clad sails of the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria as they motored down Colorado Boulevard. General Motors built a better float than Honda.

And for the first time, the hundreds of millions of people who watched the Rose Parade on television Wednesday included viewers in Russia and other parts of the old Soviet Union.

With a bow to political correctness and the back of their hand to weather forecasters, parade organizers gave the world the view of Southern California it has come to expect on New Year's Day--of 16-foot penguins smiling in the sunshine, grown men in red long johns cavorting on water slides, a giant pop-eyed baby swinging a terrified pussycat by its floral tail, and of cowboys, cowgirls, Indians and Spanish explorers marching to the same martial beat.

As anticipated, there were demonstrations by American Indian groups and others angry about the choice of Cristobal Colon, a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus, to be the parade's co-grand marshal on this the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage to America.

But for most people who attended, the protests did nothing to dim the spirit of the day. A winter storm that had threatened held off, keeping the parade dry for the 37th consecutive year. The disputes that had buffeted planning--from outraged ethnic groups, indignant sheriff's deputies and irate feminists--did not spoil the 103rd Tournament of Roses Parade.

Even the parade's most controversial float, General Motors' giant, futuristic space vehicle, became a winner. Six weeks ago, auto workers angry about an impending GM plant closure in Van Nuys voted to boycott the GM float. But in the end a number of employees couldn't resist working on the float, which won the parade's top prize, the Sweepstakes Trophy for creative design.

"The parade was extraordinary," said Colon, who rode in a carriage near the head of the parade. "The protesters were practically insignificant compared to all the people giving us a warm reception."

Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Cheyenne Indian, was also satisfied. The only American Indian in Congress, Campbell, a Colorado Democrat, was invited to be co-grand marshal of the parade in an attempt to mollify critics of Colon's selection.

"The crowd was overwhelmingly positive," said Campbell, who rode horseback, wearing traditional headdress, his face streaked with paint. "There were so many people waving and reacting positively I know I did the right thing,"

For those who watched, the parade's 60 floats, 22 bands and 29 equestrian groups offered its usual combination of thrills and hijinks.

"It was great. . . . We were surprised how organized it was. . . . We'll definitely come back," said Janice Sherman of San Marcos, who spent the night with her family in sleeping bags on Colorado Boulevard.

For her daughter, Kerri, "the most fun was throwing marshmallows" at passing cars.

Not that the parade went without a hitch. In a parade dedicated to "Voyages of Discovery" full of wreathed rockets, airships and other assorted space vehicles, it was the tow truck that saved the day. Nine stalled floats, including Honda's, required assistance, according to Ken Veronda, Tournament of Roses spokesman.

The annual riot of chrysanthemums, orchid petals and magnolia leaves produced one very hairy moment. Farmers Insurance Co.'s 25-foot-high, 55-foot-long mule-drawn float went out of control as it headed down a steep grade on Colorado shortly after making the turn from Orange Grove Boulevard.

The float, with its "Discover America Theme" depicted by a miniature tableau of Victorian homes, rough-hewn barn and windmills, veered into the crowd and sent people scattering. One person who had been riding on the float fell off and was taken to a hospital, according to Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies.

Linda Ramos, a nursing supervisor at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, said that three people were treated for scrapes and bruises as a result of the runaway float. She said all were released within 30 minutes.

One of those hurt slightly but not taken to a hospital, Mary Mullen of Glendale, found herself trapped by the crowd as the float headed toward her. The lawn chair she was sitting in was crushed when the float pushed a tournament official and his motor scooter into her.

"There were so many people behind me that I couldn't move," Mullen said. "So, I just fell backward in my chair. I could feel the motorcycle on my legs. All I could think about was my niece. I just pushed her out of the way."

Mullen was treated by paramedics at the scene and remained to watch the rest of the parade.

During the hours of revelry before the parade started, there were 65 arrests for public drunkenness and other minor offenses. Five more arrests were made during the parade. But the arrest tally was little more than half of last year's total, leading peace officers to call it an unusually quiet New Year's.

"This is the lowest total that I remember in 27 years with the department," said Pasadena Police Lt. Phil McWade.

Pasadena police reported one stabbing. A 16-year-old needed 16 stitches to close a cut on an ear. He was treated at St. Luke Medical Center and released, McWade said. The sheriff's office reported the arrest of an armed parolee who was dressed in a deputy sheriff's uniform and attempting to relieve other deputies on duty.

Two groups of protesters made their presence felt.

As the first float--a redwood and sycamore bark rendition of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria--rolled along Colorado toward Garfield Avenue, it was met by a group of about 100 people waving picket signs and banners denouncing Columbus and Colon.

One demonstrator sported a red circle with a slash through a ship and read: "500 years of genocide."

As the crowd chanted "No Colon, No Colon," a woman ran into the street and threw balloons in the shape of human hands onto the asphalt.

The balloons broke, splattering fake blood and forcing the parade to stop for a few moments. A phalanx of sheriff's deputies ran after the woman, who then lay down and used her hands to puncture more of the balloons filled with red dye. She was carried away by deputies, and the parade continued to cheers and applause from some spectators.

The inclusion of Campbell as the parade's co-grand marshal did not appease most of the demonstrators, who called him a "token Indian."

"He doesn't make a whit of a difference," said Helen Anderson, a Mescalero Apache and chairwoman of the Alliance of Native Americans, who organized the protest. "Campbell is a politician and any politician is totally out of touch with what goes on."

A trio of animal activists also made a cameo appearance.

An hour into the parade, members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a spirited protest against General Motors. Ingrid Newkirk, the organization's national director, leaped out of the crowd wearing a pink bunny suit, and was joined by two men in pig and rat costumes.

They held up signs proclaiming "Animal Crash Tests Keep GM in the Dark Ages," "General Murderers," and "Cut Animal Tests, Not Workers."

The protesters were quickly corralled by deputies and hauled away to a waiting squad car. Sheriff's Sgt. John Stites said the three would be charged with disturbing the peace. Although Rose Parade officials voiced concern, the parade was hardly interrupted.

Mark Pierson, 36, of Hollywood, one of those arrested, said he had participated in the protest because GM is "the only auto manufacturer that still uses animals in tests."

No GM official was available for comment. However, last September when confronted with a similar protest, GM officials defended tests using animals saying they led to innovations that have saved human lives and reduced injuries.

But neither mishap nor protest could dampen the spirits of Tournament of Roses President Bob Cheney, the man who had become the lightning rod for much of the tumult preceding the parade.

"I'm on an absolute high," Cheney said. "I can't believe the number of people on the parade route who were supportive. They were saying 'Nice job. Tough year, but a great parade.' "

Cheney's headaches began with the furor over Colon. At one point, Sheriff Sherman Block threatened to pull his entire contingent of 800 deputies after the Pasadena City Council called on the sheriff to exclude "neo-Nazis" and "white supremacists" from the force of deputies doing parade duties. Pasadena Mayor Jess Hughston apologized to the sheriff, and the deputies did not boycott the parade. Moreover, the sheriff's contingent included about 100 officers from the department's Lynwood office, home office of the alleged white supremacists.

More ill will grew out of charges by feminist attorney Gloria Allred that the Tournament of Roses Assn. withdrew an invitation to moderate a panel of former rose queens on the subject of the changing role of women. Allred said she was "disinvited" because tournament officials saw her as a "liberal" and a "rabble rouser." Parade officials denied that they had ever asked her to be part of the panel.

The current Rose Queen, Tannis Ann Turrentine, said she was awed by the experience of riding in the parade.

"It was amazing," the 17-year-old said. "I'm just spinning. I'm not comprehending what happened."

Except for the allusion to Columbus, the parade itself managed to avoid controversial messages. Its theme, "Voyages of Discovery" drew a variety of interpretations, and many were big hits along the parade route.

Among the crowd pleasers were Nestle's "Space . . . The Final Frontier," a 45-foot-tall, 100-foot-long replica of the Starship Enterprise made from tens of thousands of silver tree leaves. Also popular was the red horse-drawn trolley covered with red carnations from the city of St. Louis, and Arco's "America on the Move," a revolving carousel displaying 12 types of transportation used to discover and explore America.

Tow truck and all, American Honda Motor Co.'s float may have drawn the most enthusiastic applause. It featured a pop-up history book, which slowly unfolded to depict the signing of the U.S. Constitution, a space shuttle launching and the Mayflower.

"It reflects (America's) sense of involvement in the protection of your rights," said Filipino tourist Michael Domingo, 32, who said the history book was his favorite float.

Heading the parade judge's favorites was GM's "Looking to the Future", a 90-foot-long space vehicle whose probing snout resembled a browsing brontosaurus. Covered in silverleaf, seaweed, onion seeds and Champagne roses, the vehicle's head rose high above grandstand viewers.

The floats were, by no means, the only popular attractions. Drawing cheers were longtime Rose Parade equestrians such as cowboy lariat twirler Montie Montana--riding in his 58th consecutive parade--and broadcaster George Putnam atop his platinum palomino, Mr. Chips.

Among the celebrities present were astronaut Gordon Cooper and actors Ernest Borgnine and George Takei.

Recently released hostage Joseph Cicippio attended the parade as a special guest.

The official crowd count observed local tradition and, as usual, estimated that more than 1 million people turned out along the 5 1/2-mile parade route.

Meanwhile, spectators who live near the parade route said the crowds were thinner than last year--perhaps because of the possibility of rain, while others said the recession may have have kept some out-of-towners at home. It was possible to walk down the sidewalk along the parade route, they said, compared to the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds of previous years.

"You couldn't walk around last year," said Harvey Fung, 30, who lives on Oak Street, a few blocks from Colorado Boulevard. "You couldn't see (the parade) unless you stood on a chair."

With the temperature hovering around 60 by midmorning, it was brisk by Southern California standards. But for many along the route, it was a day to be thankful while people in other parts of the country were shivering. As scantily clad majorettes from the Londonderry, N.H., High School marching band came prancing by, Sharon Tate of Hollywood, herself bundled up in a sweater, leather jacket and wool muffler, said "I'll bet they're glad not to be in New Hampshire today."

For others, the day offered yet another shot at the main chance. Just after the parade passed a stretch of Colorado, a tall young man in a red, white and blue leather jacket walked down the street holding up a large placard which proclaimed: "New Actor--Dennis Woodruff--Seeks a Big Break."

Times staff writer Irene Chang contributed to this story.

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