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THE 1998 TOURNAMENT OF ROSES

Rose Parade Viewers Have Floral Fun

Event: Comedian Carol Burnett presides over gorgeous goofiness in 109th annual Pasadena spectacle.

January 02, 1998|HENRY WEINSTEIN and DAVID FERRELL | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

There were hippos playing Old Maid, rabbits rolling on in-line skates and dinosaurs decked out in net stockings, dancing to the rhythms of a rolling rock band.

"Hav'n Fun," the theme of the 109th Rose Parade, was well in evidence on a New Year's Day marked by highs in the 70s and skies so clear the San Gabriel Mountains looked like cardboard backdrops lining the five-mile trek through Pasadena.

Spectator David Bond, 12, of Alhambra sprayed his 4-year-old brother Michael with Silly String and thrilled at the passing extravaganza of floral whales, whirling ersatz carnival rides and other motorized floats, decorated entirely with roses, mums, seaweed, coffee grounds, corn husks and other forms of vegetation. "They get better all the time," he said.

Ed Kight of Spokane, Wash., a lifelong Washington State fan, strutted the parade route with his daughter Jamie, hoisting a "Go Cougs" sign. He had good reason to be ecstatic: His Cougars were making their first appearance in the Rose Bowl in 67 years.

Aaron Cheskis, 22, of North Carolina trained a camera on his girlfriend as she marched by, playing the clarinet in the University of Michigan band.

"He needs to take good pictures . . . or he's dead meat," a friend, 19-year-old Jennifer McGivern, declared bluntly. They were part of a group of a dozen Michigan students who had spent close to $1,000 apiece to fly out for the parade and Rose Bowl game.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Nicole Plott, 19, who spent all her Christmas money to come west from the small freezing Michigan city of Midland.

The parade--featuring 54 floats, 26 equestrian teams and 22 marching bands--suffered the usual glitches: Five floats broke down and had to be towed because of blown radiator hoses and engine problems. A towering, macarena-dancing caterpillar--the featured attraction on the crowd-pleasing Sunkist Growers float--lost one of its hands, but rolled along with 11 others still in place.

Two marching drummers staggered to the sidelines with charley horses. So did a trumpet player. Incredibly enough, four spectators were briefly overcome by the winter heat, according to a parade spokesman.

Charlotte Kolender of Boca Raton, Fla., one of the gazillion tourists lining Colorado Boulevard, arrived with her lawn chair at noon Wednesday to stake out a curbside vantage point. During an otherwise peaceful night of waiting, she said, she, her husband and several friends watched a number of young people run through the streets, marking up cars with aerosol cans of shaving cream. Some displayed creativity, if not good sense, by wrapping the cream in tortillas and hurling the result at car windows.

Pasadena police reported 74 arrests during the night and one serious incident: a stabbing that occurred shortly before 1 a.m. at Fair Oaks Avenue and Colorado, where two groups of teenagers got into a fight. The 16-year-old victim, whose name was not released, was hospitalized in stable condition Thursday with three stab wounds in the upper chest, said Police Lt. Dave Richter. A 16-year-old suspect was arrested but had not yet been charged, Richter said.

The parade crowd was peaceful and well-behaved, however; there were no disturbances.

Children's faces lighted up when the Sierra Madre float, a fanciful toy train fashioned of yellow mums and dried cranberry powder, began spewing red, orange and blue balloons from its smokestack. The float emitted real smoke at one point on the route, but that appeared to be caused by mechanical trouble.

The Lutheran Laymen's League celebrated El Nino with a depiction of Noah's ark. Arco saluted the Saturday matinee horror flick with a green, bald, pointy-eared monster that exhaled smoke and clutched the body of a real human stuntman. The Building Industry Assn. of Southern California presented the homes of the Three Little Pigs, structures of straw, sticks and brick that were all safe from the Big Bad Wolf, who sat dourly with his muzzle tied shut.

Four-year-old Cecily Meyer was most fascinated by Sparkletts' "Parlor Games": two lady hippopotamuses playing cards. "That's my favorite," she said to her mother, Tracey, who flew them in from Texas for the spectacle.

"I love it," Tracey said. "Everything is just amazing--the music, the way the [animated characters] move, the fact that someone thought enough to be able to create these fantastic floats." She last attended the parade 20 years ago and was glad she came again. "I am definitely not disappointed. It's as great as I remember it."

When the "Reptile Wonderland" float appeared, Cliff Manuel, 72, of Laguna Hills turned to his sidewalk companion and muttered with a certain sense of cynicism: "I think there's a lizard coming up."

When it was pointed out to him that the float was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, he cracked: "That's why they raised my stamp [price]."

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