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Keeping a Rosy Outlook

Tournament spectators camping out in Pasadena take the wet weather in stride while hoping a predicted storm won't rain on their parade.

January 02, 2006|Anna Gorman and Lynn Doan | Times Staff Writers

Their arms loaded with umbrellas and raincoats, Dallan Gould and his family arrived Sunday for the annual Rose Parade camp-out -- prepared for the worst. But they still held out hope for sunny weather.

"The skies are going to part," Gould, 41, said optimistically from his spot at the start of the route in Pasadena. "The sun is going to shine."

He and other hardy fans descended on the parade route Sunday to stake out front-row seats for this morning's 8 a.m. parade -- undeterred by forecasts of heavy rain and wind. Shortly after noon -- the earliest that camping was permitted -- dozens of families had marked their spots along the 5 1/2 mile route with folding chairs, air mattresses, sleeping bags, tarps and blankets.

No tents are allowed.

If the rain falls as predicted, it will mark the first time in 51 years that the bands and elaborate flower-encrusted floats get drenched. In the parade's 116-year history, there have been only nine rainy days, a string of luck some longtime parade organizers attribute to the tradition of not holding the New Year's Day parade on a Sunday in order to avoid interfering with church services.

That rule meant pushing the parade back a day this year, coinciding with forecasts by the National Weather Service of up to 5 inches of rain before the storm passes tonight.

But some who camped out Sunday disregarded the reports.

"Every year they tell us it's going to rain," said Alice Van Zandt of Los Angeles, who played cards with her three sons Sunday afternoon on Colorado Boulevard. "Every year it doesn't."

Van Zandt was so confident that the parade's good weather fortune would hold, her family came without umbrellas or jackets. Her rationale? It had already rained Saturday, she said.

Just then, a raindrop fell on her cheek. She wiped it off and shook her head. Her husband, Mike, pointed to a store awning behind them.

"There is our umbrella," he said, laughing.

Dana Milbery, 36, decided to bring her family from Yorba Linda to watch the parade live for the first time because her son, Joshua, turns 13 today.

"For his birthday, he gets to be homeless and sleep on the street," Milbery joked.

Joshua rolled his eyes and leaned back on a sleeping bag.

Milbery had brought along a propane grill and heater, a teakettle and warm blankets to help them get through the night. They also brought a portable DVD player and movies, including "March of the Penguins" and "The Polar Express." But if they got too wet, Milbery said, there was always another option.

"The car is two blocks up the street," she said.

As light sprinkles became a steady rain about 2 p.m., vendor Chalon Perrell yelled to passersby along Fair Oaks Avenue, "Umbrellas? Need an umbrella? Two for $15!"

Parade campers exhausted the supply of rain gear at Rite Aid on Colorado.

"Umbrellas, raincoats, everything is gone," said Jed Javier, 39, a sales associate at the store.

Late Sunday afternoon, the streets soaked and rain still falling, some fans packed up their gear and headed to nearby hotels. Others sought shelter under storefront overhangs and in parking garages.

Sharlene Delmonico, 35, and daughter Courtney, 13, helped a friend, Michelle Armenta, 36, make a sleeping bag out of tarp.

"Someone told us you've got to camp out, but you may never want to do it again," Armenta said. "We weren't about to put up all this rain gear, but we changed our minds two minutes before it really started coming down."

Alan and Barbara Sukau had traveled from Lakefield, Minn., expecting sunny California skies. When the rain began pouring on their row of chairs, the couple ran across the street to buy trash bags as seat covers.

"We got out of the cold weather only to come into the raining weather here," said Alan Sukau, 71, holding up an umbrella borrowed from a friend.

Pasadena police officers said there were fewer campers Sunday than in previous years. Police spokeswoman Ronnie Nanning said campers with RVs and motor homes have the best deal, because they can stake out viewing spots along the parade route but retreat to their vehicles for hot chocolate and warmth.

"It's the people who are out there camping who are really dampened by this -- no pun intended," she said.

Despite the rain, Tournament of Roses officials said they believed the weather would not significantly reduce out-of-town tourists' spending in the days surrounding the parade and Wednesday's college football championship game between USC and Texas.

Much of the more than $150 million spent each year by tourists goes toward food, hotels and rental cars, "things minimally impacted by rain," said the organization's chief executive, Mitch Dorger.

The spending figure doesn't include tickets to the parade or game, he said.

Restaurants along the parade route in Old Town Pasadena were packed Sunday, despite intermittent drizzle and gray skies. "It's a football day and we're really busy," said Jeff Larson, manager of Hooters on Colorado Boulevard. "We're expecting a great night."

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