PASADENA (AP) — The flower-drenched Rose Parade rolled with few hitches Friday under cloudless blue skies to the delight of hundreds of thousands of fans, some of whom camped out all night on sidewalks determined not to let security fears get in the way of their fun.
The temperature at the start of the annual New Year’s Day pageant in Pasadena barely topped 40 degrees but spectators shed layers as the sun lit up dozens of bright floats featuring characters and settings woven with roses, carnations and other flowers.
The theme of this year’s parade, “Find Your Adventure,” was inspired by the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016. The grand marshal was documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who produced the Emmy-award winning series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”
Burns waved to the crowd with his family from an antique convertible. Earlier, he said he has been a fan of the parade since he was a child, though he had never before attended in person.
“I don’t think I’ve ever missed one on television since the early ‘60s,” he told parade organizers.
The 44 floats included an entry paying homage to the City of Hope medical center that was built by and featured athlete cancer survivors.
A losing record didn’t stop the Los Angeles Lakers from entering a float titled “Every Second is an Adventure,” ridden by team legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Paula Abdul, a former member of the Laker Girls dance squad.
The massive Disney entry featured a Star Wars theme complete with stormtroopers on one end and characters from the animated hit “Frozen” on the other. It won the Extraordinaire Trophy for most spectacular float — one of several awards given to the massive works of art that thrilled spectators along Colorado Boulevard.
“The Bachelor” television series float depicting a romantic date on an exotic beach also drew big cheers from the crowd and won the President’s Award for most effective use of flowers.
The India Punjab float got people moving to its Bollywood beat. It was followed by whooping and hollering by a mounted unit from the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division.
Overhead, a squadron of sky-writing planes scrawled anti-Donald Trump messages but few people seemed to be looking away from the floats. A gentle Santa Ana wind carried the aroma of sizzling bacon-wrapped hot dogs down the boulevard.
Enthusiastic fans began lining the parade route Thursday. Many sipped hot cocoa and were equipped with portable heaters, blankets and sleeping bags to stay warm as overnight temperatures dipped to the mid-30s.
Their numbers were expected to swell to more than 700,000 for the annual parade that served as a kick-off to the 102nd Rose Bowl football game between Iowa and Stanford.
It was the final parade broadcast for longtime TV hosts Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards, who have described the colorful floats and parade participants for more than 30 years. Eubanks, 77, and Edwards, 72, thanked fans and their broadcast crews as they signed off for the last time and passed the torch to Leeza Gibbons and Mark Steines, who will take over next year.
Authorities said the event was held under unprecedented security, although there were no known threats.
Geoffrey Hayton, an attorney from Redlands, near the site of the recent San Bernardino attack, said his father began attending the parade in the 1950s and his family has attended ever since. For the first time this year though, he had a conversation with his wife about the potential dangers of going to the parade.
Ultimately, they decided fear wouldn’t stop them. “Statistically, I feel like we’re pretty safe,” Hayton said.
The massive influx of people into the city, the length of the parade route, and numerous venues ranging from float decorating pavilions to Tournament of Roses headquarters and the Rose Bowl stadium have always required a huge deployment of law enforcement, but officials said the 2016 security effort was bigger than ever.
Mark Selby, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles and the federal coordinator for the Rose Parade and security, said the plan involved unprecedented resources and technologies.
Federal authorities intended to use a variety of explosives-detection methods ranging from bomb-sniffing dogs to devices that register even minute amounts of radiation, Selby said.
Officials warned Rose Bowl game spectators that a number of items would not be allowed inside the stadium, including banners, large beverage containers and drones.