'Cardinal and gold deeper than just colors'

DOWNTOWN — Hundreds of cardinal-and-gold clad USC fans converged at the Americana at Brand Monday for a pep rally that filled shops and restaurants with the echoes of snare drums and trumpets.

Fans surrounded the large dancing fountain at the center of the shopping complex, often relocating to get a better view of the Trojan Marching Band, which was positioned in a corner next to the fountain and was visually obstructed by a stage set up for ESPN Radio and other permanent structures at the site.

The rally, scheduled in preparation for USC’s Rose Bowl Game matchup with Penn State on Thursday, was at the newest and largest complex owned by billionaire developer Rick Caruso, who is a USC alumnus and chose to host this year’s rally at the Americana, which is closer to the Rose Bowl than the Grove, where the rally was for the last three years.

Fans began cheering and clapping as soon as the band first marched into the center’s park area, exciting James Ceniceros, who had driven with his family from Seattle — a trip that took more than 37 hours because of a historic snow storm — to join the Rose Bowl festivities in Los Angeles.

“That’s why we came,” he said of the rousing atmosphere that began with the band’s arrival.

The sound of the fight song prompted an emphatic cheer from Sylmar resident Dalila Perez-Acevedo, who was pumping her hand through the air and dancing with her 1-year-old daughter.

“We’re huge USC fans,” Perez-Acevedo said, explaining that seven of her siblings had graduated from USC after her parents moved from Mexico and dreamed of sending their children to the university.

“For us, cardinal and gold isn’t just a color, it goes deeper than that,” she said. “It’s our parents’ dream come true.”

School pride brought most visitors to Monday’s rally, many of whom watched from across the fountain or through store windows.

Beverly Wu, a Los Angeles resident, gave up on looking for a spot among the crowds near the fountain and decided to head into Barnes & Noble instead.

“It was way too crowded,” Wu said, as she climbed the escalator to the third floor, only to find that the store’s open-air balcony was full and that she would have to look through a window.

Cheerleaders performed as the band played its popular set of school songs, with flag twirlers performing on a side path because there wasn’t enough room with the band. Tommy Trojan and Traveler 7, the university’s mascot and horse, were also on hand for photos and viewing until 6:30 p.m.

The event was an inconvenience for some shoppers, who came to pick out clothes for New Year’s Eve parties or to have dinner with friends.

“We weren’t prepared for this,” Glendale resident Armine Shishikyan said of her and her friends’ reactions to the crowds, adding that the group could not get a table at any of the Americana’s restaurants because they were all full. “We hate football. We were here for a calm Monday evening and then we saw these crazy orange and yellow people.”

But the rally was special for Ricardo Artemio Garcia Cruz, who was visiting for the Rose Parade with a marching band from Mexico.

The event was a big deal, he said, because he had seen and heard the band on the Internet and was now getting a chance to experience a performance in person.


 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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