Hundreds of thousands of New Year's revelers camped on sidewalks and woke up early to see the parade that was retooled after Sept. 11 to inspire a nation shaken by terrorist attacks.
Mary Pat Haas traveled to Pasadena from her New York City home to watch her nephew drive the Eastman Kodak float.
"Wonderful," she said of the spectacle. "I'm glad they're all out here and the terrorists aren't keeping them home."
Parade-goers stood and cheered as three fighter jets buzzed overhead and then screamed in delight as a B-2 stealth bomber boomed down Colorado Boulevard at the start the procession.
Attending the 113th Rose Parade seemed to become a patriotic duty for many who didn't let cloudy skies and rain-dampened streets, nor unprecedented security, stop them from staking out spaces along the 5½-mile route.
"It inspires us to carry on with our normal lives no matter what happens," said Kathy Frey, 49, who came from Las Vegas.
Others were more interested in just having a good time than recalling the tragic events earlier this year.
"I watched it on TV since I was a little kid. I wanted to smell the roses in person," said Vicki Kopplin, 54, a teacher from Minneapolis.
Pasadena police Cmdr. Mary Schander said this year's crowd appeared lighter than past years. She blamed the decrease on threatening weather rather than concerns about security.
Soon after Sept. 11, the parade's theme of "Good Times" took on a decidedly more patriotic bent, and float decorators labored until the last minute putting red, white and blue petals in place.
The parade's first float towered above the crowd. American Honda Motor Co.'s "Born in the USA" entry featured a 50-foot robot wearing a red, white and blue helmet and made of machine parts developed by U.S. industry.
A space shuttle backpack spewed brilliant floral flames as Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" boomed in the background.
Many floats displayed more subtle expressions of patriotism. On Home Depot's "Building Better Communities" entry, an American flag waved on the porch of a house under construction. A first-time entry from the Southern California city of Cerritos featured a working carousel decorated by floral flags and images of Lady Liberty.
Among those invited to take part in this year's parade were New York City rescue workers, who rode on the city of Los Angeles float.
"This shows the love Los Angeles and the rest of the nation has for us," said New York firefighter Bill Spade.
Parade grand marshal Regis Philbin agreed.
"Any New York firefighter, police officer or emergency worker should be grand marshal," Philbin said.
Nostalgia also permeated the parade. Classic cars were parked on the city of Glndale float around a burger stand where a girl in a pink poodle skirt danced to Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock."
A female Elvis and a vegetable Howdy Doody led the Boeing Co. float that served as a decade-by-decade look at pop culture. The current decade was represented by a bald eagle popping from a gift box.
Among the crowd-pleasers was a float by the BP oil company that featured a volcano that shot out real flames and smoke as brontosauruses craned their necks at the crowd,
The parade offered other reminders of the need for unity. The crowd stood and applauded for the band from Columbine High School in Colorado, the scene of a campus shooting spree in 1999 that left 15 people dead.
Along the route, police were visible on every block. At the corner of Colorado and Orange Grove boulevards, the starting point of the parade, three agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms stood watch with a bomb-sniffing dog at their side."I appreciate their need to make (increased security) happen," said Bob Porlier, a 57-year-old Duarte resident who patrolled the parade route years ago as a sheriff's deputy. "They should do it every year."
Early parade viewers braced for weather that, although mild by most of the country's standards, was unusually chilly and damp for Pasadena.
Rain from a series of recent storms still dampened sidewalks Monday as people began lining up along Colorado Boulevard under cloudy skies.
That didn't deter John Chavez, 34, from his spur-of-the-moment decision to bring his family from San Diego.
"You can't just let one person take America away from us," he said.
For the first time, police asked campers in recreation vehicles to keep an eye out for suspicious activity as part of a "Parade Watch" program. Access to the main grandstand area was restricted and spectators were discouraged from bringing backpacks, coolers and large bags.
Some people thought security changes could have been better handled.
Longtime parade-goer Don Prask found the route he normally takes to the parade had been closed off.
"For an organization as well know for planning as they are, they really muffed this one up," Prask said.
Fifty-eight people had been arrested by 10 a.m. Tuesday along the parade route, Thirty-three were cited for being drunk in public, and nine people faced felony charges, ranging from assaulting a police officer to drunken driving.
The Rose Bowl football game, a New Year's Day fixture in years past, won't take place until Thursday night. Pitting the number one and two teams in the BCS ranking system, the national championship will be on the line when the top-ranked Miami Hurricanes take the field against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
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