Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Rose Parade thrills crowds with war vet, city floats

Thousands lined Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard Monday for the 123rd Rose Parade that included an Occupy protest, an Iraq war veteran grand marshal and local students who rode atop Glendale’s float.

Themed “Just Imagine,” the event attracted an estimated 900,000 visitors and featured 44 floats, 21 marching bands and 20 equestrian troupes marching down the 5½ mile route through the heart of the city. The parade was held the day after New Year’s to avoid disrupting Sunday church services.

A group called Occupy the Rose Parade stirred up the usually nonpolitical event with a demonstration that included an octopus float constructed from plastic bags, which was kept calm with the help of a “peacekeeping” team the activists formed. The group aimed to draw attention to income equality and corporate greed. The demonstration did not dent the enthusiasm of parade-goers, many of whom spent the night camped out on air mattresses and in sleeping bags to claim coveted positions.

Pasadena police reported making 10 arrests on the Rose Parade route in a 24-hour period before the parade, from 5 a.m. New Year’s Day to 5 a.m. today. Of the 10 arrests, four were misdemeanors for people being drunk in public. There were two other misdemeanor arrests and four felony arrests, according to Pasadena Police Lt. Phlunte Riddle. The number was down from last year, said Riddle.


Glendale was one local city that sponsored a float. Its driver of the past five years, Cindy Nakamaru, had a rare view of the parade. Usually, Nakamaru is tucked into a compartment at the bottom of the float where she can’t see out, but in this year’s float, “Just Imagine the Music, Fun and Freedom,” she was 15 feet above the ground on the shoulder of the circus elephant.

“I’m outside, this is very unusual,” said Nakamaru, who was joined by an all-female crew on the float.

Neighboring cities won awards for their designs. La Cañada Flintridge won the Bob Hope Humor Trophy for “If Pigs Could Fly,” Burbank won the Mayor’s Trophy for “The Dream Machine” and South Pasadena won the Fantasy Trophy for “When Life Gives You Lemons...”

Some of those cities were also represented on this year’s Rose Court, the group of seven young women who will represent the Tournament of Roses at events and receptions throughout the year. Pasadena native Drew Washington, 16, a student at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Cañada Flintridge, is this year’s Rose Queen.


Washington said she was “excited” from atop the Royal Court float minutes before the parade started. “I’ve been looking forward to this day since October.”

J.R. Martinez, a decorated veteran of the Iraq war and a champion on “Dancing with the Stars,” was the parade’s grand marshal. He sat in an open car as fans cheered and waved.

“It’s been a beautiful four days,” Martinez said. “The people are so nice and so accommodating. I can see why this tradition continues.”

The Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game generate $180 million in economic activity, according to Tournament of Roses officials, ranging from the corporate sponsorship of individual floats and the football game to money spent in the region by visitors who come for the game or the parade. The University of Oregon Ducks defeated the University of Wisconsin Badgers 45-38 in this year’s game, which kicked off at the conclusion of the parade.

Some of the people most thrilled to be at the parade that draws viewers from around the world were the first-timers who were riding on the floats.

Brandon Ruvalcaba won an Americana at Brand scholarship to be on Glendale’s float, “Just Imagine the Music, Fun and Freedom,” built at the Rose Palace on Raymond Avenue in Pasadena.

“I’ve never even been to the Rose Parade and for me to be a part of it is amazing,” he said after the float reached the end of the route. “I was actually surprised at how tired I was of waving.”

Angela Sanchez, like Ruvalcaba a UCLA student, said riding on the float was “a once in a lifetime” experience.


“Even though we were up early you don’t get tired until the end,” she said. “You’re really thriving on the crowd’s energy.”