New Year's Party Begins As Rose Parade Fans Grab Sidewalk Seats

Thousands of spectators toting sleeping bags and folding chairs staked out front-row, sidewalk seats Monday for one of the nation's biggest New Year's celebrations.

Early arrivals for Tuesday's 119th Rose Parade set up camp in warm Southern California sunshine, while an army of volunteers put the finishing touches on the 46 floats that will roll down the 5.5-mile parade route.

"Everyone is going on adrenaline," said Larry Palmer, a spokesman for Phoenix Decorating Co., which built, designed and decorated 19 of the floats.

"Occasionally there are little snags. Sometimes flowers run short. But this year we were very lucky. Everything looks gorgeous," he said.

Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse will serve as grand marshal of the floral extravaganza.

With a theme of "Passport to the World's Celebrations," it also features 21 marching bands and 18 equestrian units.

Later Tuesday, No. 6 Southern California plays No. 13 Illinois in the 94th Rose Bowl game.

Police kept a close eye Monday on the gathering crowd, with about 1,200 officers from various agencies watching for alcohol and other problems.

"We have a duty called 'couch patrol,"' Pasadena police spokeswoman Janet Pope Givens said.

"People come with couches and arm chairs, which are not allowed. Officers have to move them."

Police also intended to monitor human rights advocates who have said they'll protest a float honoring the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and anti-war activists, including "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan, who plan to rally for peace.

"We ramp up and amp up for this operation, probably since this turn of the century, when the millennium threatened to wreck havoc," Givens said.

The weather was mostly expected to cooperate with parade organizers.

Forecasters predicted no rain and an overnight low of 46.

Tuesday's high was expected to reach 74.

However, with dry winds whipping much of Southern California, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning through Tuesday, indicating conditions were conducive to brush fires.

Winds gusts were expected to hit 30 mph in Pasadena.

Parade highlights include Honda's snazzy yellow and orange "Passport to the Future" float, which features a flower-covered pickup truck that will transform into a futuristic aircraft.

Also featured will be the city of Anaheim's float, dubbed "The World's Celebration Destination!" with twisting roads featuring vehicles with moving wheels, and Western Asset's four-part float of circus train cars, including one car showcasing a lion with fur made with wheat.