They may say "no" to drugs, but thousands of participants are expected to say "yes" to a parade Saturday along Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach, followed by a rally at the Queen Mary.
Organizers say they expect a variety of groups, from marching sailors to pirouetting ballet dancers, in the first-ever "DARE to Say No to Drugs" parade and rally starting at 10 a.m. at the old Pike amusement park site at the foot of Pine Avenue.
"It's free, it's fun and it's family," said City Councilman Ray Grabinski, who helped with the six months of planning that went into the event. "I think you'll see some real good feelings come out of this."
The Long Beach activities are part of the California State Red Ribbon Campaign, which is promoting alcohol and drug awareness with a number of events throughout Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 25 to 31. The campaign is being sponsored by Californians for Drug Free Youth, a statewide parent-community organization, and the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.
Grabinski said he hopes that 15,000 to 20,000 people turn out in Long Beach to either join in the march or watch from the sidelines. The idea was hatched by Navy Rear Adm. John Higginson, commander of naval ships home-ported in Long Beach, who was familiar with the success of a similar event in San Diego.
The rally will show young people that they have support for the decision not to use dangerous drugs, Grabinski said. When children see the thousands of youths and adults taking part, he said, they will be persuaded to avoid experimentation with drugs.
Grabinski said the parade and rally celebrate the success of the DARE program, which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. Under the program, Long Beach police officers teach sixth graders how to stay away from drugs.
Parade organizer Virginia M. Kortz, her telephone jangling as she tried to juggle all the arrangements and keep tabs on about 200 volunteers, said the parade is an attempt to send a clear message to children.
"We want to say to kids, 'We support your drug-free choice,' " she said.
The parade will feature six floats, said Kortz, a police coordinator. Music will be provided by six high school marching bands, two military marching bands and the California State University, Long Beach, marching band. In addition, legions of youth groups and schoolchildren are expected to participate. The Navy is sending a detachment of marching sailors from the frigate Ford, she said.
The parade route turns west onto Ocean Boulevard at Pine Avenue, then turns south onto Queen's Way. The rally will start about noon in the Queen Mary parking lot.
Free parking is available in several lots, including the Union Bank and Arco Center on Oceangate, the Chestnut Avenue city parking structure, Home Savings on Ocean Boulevard and Allright Parking lots on Promenade North, and on Pacific Avenue at 3rd and 4th streets.
A free shuttle bus will pick up parade watchers at selected points on 3rd Street and Magnolia Avenue, then return them from the Queen Mary after the rally, Kortz said.
On Monday, Catholic Bishop Carl Fisher of the San Pedro Region handed out red ribbons to students at St. Pancratius Elementary School in Lakewood to kick off the Red Ribbon Campaign in the Southeast/Long Beach area.
The ABC Unified School District I CAN Committee will open its activities at 1 p.m. Sunday with school officials and civic leaders on the steps of the school district offices, 16700 Norwalk Blvd., Cerritos.
The Los Angeles and Norwalk-La Mirada unified school districts, Bellflower PTA and St. Joseph Catholic High School in Lakewood will launch their activities Monday. Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School will have a chemical abuse speaker and a balloon launch, also on Monday.
In Downey, the police robot will be wearing a red ribbon as it travels with community relations officer Tim Oberlies in presenting safety programs to elementary schoolchildren.
Further information may be obtained by calling Betty Lou Ormonde, representative of the South Los Angeles County Red Ribbon Campaign, at (213) 860-1031.