(Nick Ut ~ Associated Press)
PASADENA, Calif. -- A giant blossoming rose, a pickup truck that morphed into a spacecraft, and a Chinese dragon undulating in the breeze brought cheers from thousands of spectators as those floats and others rolled by Tuesday in the Rose Parade.
Those who spent New Year's Eve camped curbside were joined at dawn by giddy visitors arriving by car, bus and train. The city estimates more than a million people visit Pasadena during the parade and Rose Bowl game festivities.
Gail Paulson was drawn to the parade route, although she is blind.
"There's a lot a blind person can appreciate at this parade. There's electricity in the air, the smell of the flowers, the clomping of the horses," Paulson, 64, of Oxnard, said as her guide dog, Alton, led her to a seat.
The 119th edition of the Tournament of Roses began as sunshine bathed the 5 1/2-mile parade route. This year's theme was "Passport to the World's Celebrations."
One of the biggest crowd pleasers was American Honda's "Passport to the Future." It featured a pickup truck that changed in a cloud of smoke into a spaceship.
"It was awesome -- what it looked like after it transformed. It looked like it was a rocket ship," said Noah Herndon, 10, from Glendale.
Some 1,200 law enforcement officers were assigned to the parade to deal with any disruptions. Twenty-three people were arrested, many during the night for drunk-in-public violations, police said.
Two groups were protesting at the parade. Dozens of war protesters led by "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan staked out spots across from television cameras, hoisting signs reading "Impeachment is Patriotic." The protesters were booed by parade watchers sitting in the grandstand.
"This is not the occasion for this," said Mary Feichtel, 63, of Florida.
One protester was arrested for holding up a sign and obstructing others' view of the parade, Pasadena Police Department Lt. Keith Jones said.
After the parade finished, a group of more than 100 war protesters marched down the route. Sheehan spoke to a gathering of protesters at Pasadena City Hall.
"We are all here for accountability," Sheehan said. "You didn't ruin anybody's parade, they got to see the truth."
Members of the Chinese Falun Gong spiritual movement protested a float honoring the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Demonstrators wanted people to turn their backs on the float as it rolled along the route, though few appeared to join in the protest.
"I don't know enough about it to turn my back," said Marcia Thoop, 55, of Arcadia as she watched the float, adorned with Olympic mascots and flanked by plate-twirling acrobats, drive by.
Many in the crowd had come from Illinois to watch the afternoon Rose Bowl football game between No. 6 Southern California and No. 13 Illinois.
Illinois native Jenny Sweer, 43, cuddled up in a sleeping bag in a beach chair waiting for the parade to begin.
"I'm cold and tired. I didn't get much sleep. It's a good year to be here because we're from Illinois," Sweer said.