Pasadena was on the verge of bursting into bloom today as the Air Force F-16 Thunderbirds roared overhead, bomb-sniffing dogs walked the streets and hundreds of float-builders readied their flowered creations for the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade.
For the first time, two men will be married on a parade float, watched by many of the 700,000 people in attendance and a U.S. television audience -- Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards will be hosting on KTLA -- of about 40 million. Worldwide, the once quaint, horse-drawn parade is broadcast in about 200 countries.
Forecasters say it will be in the 50s when the parade steps off at 8 a.m. and in the 70s by the time No. 5 Stanford takes on No. 4 Michigan State in the 100th Rose Bowl game. Kickoff is set for 2:10 p.m.
Vin Scully, the voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers for the past 63 years, will be the parade's grand marshal and toss the kickoff coin. In the first Rose Bowl, in 1902, Stanford lost to Michigan, 49-0.
Protesters against gay marriage have triggered a call to boycott the parade. And activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plan to demonstrate against SeaWorld and its float entry, The Sea of Surprise, which includes killer whales -- mammals that PETA says should be set free.
Pasadena police are old hands at handling protesters, and their ranks swell to about 1,200 officers this time of year. Still, they are urging people to report unattended bags. No alcohol is allowed along the parade route.
At noon today, parade-goers were to begin staking out sidewalks lining the 5 1/2-mile route down Colorado Boulevard. Forty-eight floats, 20 marching bands and 16 equestrian units are expected to participate. The theme is "Dreams Come True."
"All eyes will be on Pasadena that day," police Chief Phillip Sanchez said at a news conference Monday.
Randy Thomasson, the head of a Sacramento-based pro-family group calling for a boycott of the parade and its sponsors, because two men will be married aboard the AIDS Healthcare Foundation float.
Thomasson said "parents and grandparents" were appalled at what he called a "political stunt forced upon children who are watching."
Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, brushed off the criticism, saying that same-sex marriages were nothing to hide from children and "first and foremost, it's the law of the land in California."
"We're not going to be stopped by the haters and, Number Two, there's no asterisk alongside these marriages," he said, adding same-sex marriages are now legal in 18 states.
Danny Leclair, 42, originally from Canada, and Aubrey Loots, 45 and a native of South Africa, will exchange vows aboard the float. Together, they own Studio DNA Salons, a chain of three hair salons.
AHF officials said the couple will be joined on the float by Sharon Raphael and Mina Meyer, a lesbian couple who have been together for 42 years and were married in California in 2008. --City News Service