Two Grand Marshals Double the Fun for Parade Crowd : Holiday: Controversial decision to have both a descendant of Columbus and an American Indian is a hit.


By the time the two grand marshals made the big turn onto Sierra Madre Boulevard, a half mile from the end of the Rose Parade, the crowd seemed to have adopted them as their own. They were "Chris" and "Chief."

"Hey, Chris! Happy New Year! Chief! Woowoowoowoo!"

Any apprehension among parade organizers that Cristobal Colon and Ben Nighthorse Campbell would be subjected to embarrassing demonstrations dissipated Wednesday morning as quickly as Tuesday's scattered clouds.

There were a few isolated boos and other protests for Colon, a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus, whose selection as grand marshal had been denounced by some as an insult to the Indians who died as a result of the arrival in the New World of the Spanish conquerors.

But for the most part, the crowd cheered the pair and wished them well.

"Part of me wants to acknowledge the truth of what they're saying," said Jeanne Mallett, a Long Beach hair stylist who is part American Indian. "But part of me is sick of people complaining about everything under the sun. It would be nice if we were just one planet, one people."

Campbell, a Democratic congressman from Colorado who was asked to join Colon as co-grand marshal to appease American Indian critics, rode solemn-faced on his horse War Bonnet. He was dressed in full American Indian regalia, with a fringed buckskin suit and a headdress of eagle's feathers cascading down his back, his face streaked with red and blue war paint.

"Hey, Chief, why don't you get off your horse and walk like your ancestors did?" shouted Bob Stepner, a retired gardener from Los Angeles, perched on top of a stepladder on Orange Grove Boulevard.

Campbell, a former international judo champion, waved a ribbon-decorated lance. Each of the 72 feathers in his headdress had been awarded to him by Cheyenne elders after a martial arts victory. He had acknowledged before the parade that riding his horse was a nodding tribute to the Spanish, who brought the first horses to the Americas.

"Most Indian people have almost a reverence for the horse," he said. "It was brought over, of course, by the Spanish."

During a brief pause in the march, Helen Nelson, the owner of a dry cleaners in Westminster, Colo., identified herself to Campbell as a fellow Coloradan.

The congressman cracked a rare smile. "See, they named a street for our state," Campbell said, pointing at the Colorado Boulevard street sign.

Campbell rode in front, separated from Colon by a carriage carrying the congressman's wife, Linda, and his son and daughter.

Colon, in a neatly tailored European suit, waved and flashed a telegenic smile from the back of a flower-festooned carriage drawn by a gleaming black Clydesdale horse.

"Arriba Mexico!" he shouted at Robin Quintanilla, sitting curbside on Colorado Boulevard, his video camera cocked. "Up with Mexico."

"No Mexico," Quintanilla shouted back, with a broad smile. "El Salvador!"

Critics of Colon's famous ancestor mostly held their peace. "It's pretty cheap," said Helen Salcedo, a Bell High School junior, sitting glumly on the curb beneath the 210 Freeway overpass. "After Columbus came, the Indians were practically made extinct. Look at all the security they need for him."

Colon and his wife, Isabel, rode past, surrounded by a squad of security guards from the Santa Monica-based Contemporary Services Corp.

"They should have made the Indian the only grand marshal," Salcedo said.

For the most part, however, Colon seemed to bring out the Spanish in people.

"Viva Espana! Ole!" shouted one woman.

A pair of elementary school girls watched the Spanish aristocrat pass, then shouted in unison: "Hasta la vista, baby!"

At parade's end, Campbell slowly climbed off his horse. "That was the hardest five miles I ever rode," he said, explaining his serious demeanor.

Tough crowd? "No, this Indian saddle. I've got some extra padding under it, but it's still like riding on rocks."

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