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Another postcard day for the Rose Parade

Thousands turned out under picture-perfect skies Monday for Pasadena’s 123rd Rose Parade and were treated to an imaginative procession of brightly colored floats with surfing dogs and a replica of a royal palace, as well as a crowd-pleasing grand marshal with an inspiring story.

Officials had braced for anti-Wall Street protesters who joined the tail end of the parade with an Occupy Octopus entry, but even that hardly dampened the festive mood along the 5 ½-mile route.

Crowd estimates have been subject to debate for years. This year’s attendance may have been less than in previous years because of the weekday timing, a security official said. The parade was held Monday because New Year’s Day fell on Sunday, which traditionally is avoided so as not to interfere with church services.

“Just Imagine…" was the theme of this year’s parade, which featured 44 petal-covered floats, 16 bands from the United States and other countries and more than 300 colorfully decked-out horses and riders, who strutted along Orange Grove, Colorado and Sierra Madre boulevards.

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Another wrinkle was a demonstration by hundreds of members of the group Occupy the Rose Parade, who carried signs drawing attention to income inequality and then marched at the end of the parade with their self-made float: a 70-foot-long creation constructed of recycled plastic bags.

Extra law enforcement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol and other agencies were called in to monitor the event, but no incidents were reported. Police arrested 10 people overnight for various offenses, but no arrests were made after 5 a.m.

“The protesters were peaceful and respectful of spectators and didn’t interfere with the parade,” said Pasadena police spokeswoman Lt. Phlunte Riddle. “They were allowed as agreed on to follow the parade at the conclusion. Groups of spectators and others who chose to demonstrate their cause were allowed to join.”

Reaction to the protests was mixed: A group of onlookers on an apartment balcony cheered and waved, while some people in the grandstands booed. One man walked past a group of protesters and said, “You guys had your 15 minutes.”

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But the activists were largely ignored by the majority of parade-goers, many of whom spent the night camped out on air mattresses and in sleeping bags to claim coveted positions along the parade route.

Sue Murphy arrived with her husband from Saco, Maine, to participate in her first parade.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life to get here,” said Murphy, 60, who had a banner that read “Happy Trails from Maine,” a salute to Roy Rogers, the cowboy star she grew up watching on TV. “I love it all, the whole spirit of the marching bands, the arts, the plants. It’s unbelievable. “

Daniel Powell, from Solana Beach in San Diego County, came by himself after other family members proclaimed the event’s 8 a.m. start time too early. He began the day by participating in a triathlon, finishing in time to catch the first float.

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“I just can’t stay away,” said Powell, 52, who said he has attended the parade for the last 25 years and marched with the USC band at the event in 1979 and 1980.

Carla Watson held up a bright green sign that read “retired teacher 99%,” with a rose and an American flag attached. She and friend Nancy Kredell, 69, who said she was a parade princess 51 years ago, planned to join Occupy protesters in the middle of the parade route.

“We believe in the Rose Parade, but we believe that it is time for the people to be heard,” said Watson, 70.

Attendees at this year’s procession had to shed layers of garments as the chilly morning gave way to warm sunshine.

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Members of Girl Scout Troop 9491 camped overnight with their families, a first for the group, which has helped decorate floats for the last six years.

“It was so warm that it was the year to do it,” said Liz Dailey, 45, of South Pasadena, a troop co-leader.

One of the members, Lorie Meza, 12, rode in the Girl Scouts float that commemorated the organization’s centennial.

A Marine marching band from Camp Pendleton and grand marshal J.R. Martinez were big hits with the crowd. Martinez, an actor and former soldier who was the fan favorite on television’s “Dancing with the Stars,” won loud applause and whoops of encouragement from the crowd. The retired Army infantryman suffered burns over 40% of his body while serving in Iraq in 2003.

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“He’s recuperating and really showing others that you can live on after war,” said Jack Thrall, 76, an Arizona resident attending the parade with his wife, Joan.

Tournament of Roses officials awarded the Sweepstakes Trophy to Dole’s “Preserving Paradise” float.

It was the second consecutive year a Dole float received the tournament’s highest honor. This year’s entry featured a temple styled after Thailand’s Royal Palace, along with an elephant, a tiger and, of course, lots of fruit.

The Grand Marshal’s Trophy for most creative concept and design again went to a Discover Card float, “The Dream Believers.”

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Other award-winning floats included the Republic of Indonesia’s “Wonderful Indonesia” display, which won the President’s Trophy for most effective use and presentation of flowers, and Kaiser Permanente’s “Every Body Walk” float, which nabbed the Lathrop K. Leishman Trophy for the most beautiful entry from a non-commercial sponsor.

The tournament gave out 24 awards.

hailey.branson@latimes.com

roxanna.xia@latimes.com

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Times staff writers Carla Rivera, Dalina Castellanos, Angel Jennings and Matt Stevens contributed to this report.


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