by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
PASADENA, CA. — At 4 a.m., New Year’s Day, FilAms Jack Pimentel, 19, and Laarni Cordero, 16, woke up for a new experience.
While some kids their age were still in bed or barely getting home from their New Year’s festivities, Pimentel and Cordero were preparing to be part of the 119th Anniversary of the Rose Parade.
They were part of the Lions Clubs International Tournament of Roses that celebrated the New Year commemorating the United Nations.
Pimentel and Cordero are two of the 30 young Leos statewide carrying the flags of the countries that make up the United Nations.
“This is the first time that we’ve invited the young Leos to be part of the float,” said Mahendra Amarasuriya, the President of the International Association of Lions Club, one of the world’s largest volunteer service organizations.
The 2008 Tournament of Roses Parade featured 46 floats, 22 marching bands, and 19 Rose equestrians.
As the Lions group converged at the Double Tree Hotel in Montebello, excitement filled the chilly morning air.
“Oh yeah, I’m excited,” said Pimentel. “This is definitely an honor.”
Pimentel and Cordero sat in front of the bus resting for what would be a seven mile walk in front of millions of people in Pasadena and televised worldwide.
“I just hope I don’t trip,” said Cordero.
At 5:30 a.m., cars lined the entrance of the once empty parking lot beside the Rose Bowl. Parking was an adventure. Those who didn’t want to pay $30 parking rate, tried their luck circling the local neighborhood. Those fortunate enough to find parking in the nearby neighborhoods walked in pitch-black streets a good two to three miles away from the parade route. People were seen carrying blankets, seat warmers, and wear thick jackets to weather the chilly morning air.
Rose Parade Officials said people started camping on the parade route as early as New Year’s Eve afternoon.
“But this really start getting crazy until 6:30 or 7 a.m.” said Tom Fuelling, a Rose Parade Volunteer.
Tom O’Hara, Bob Spears, and a group of 20 friends were part of the Foothill Flyers Running Club. Every New Year’s morning, the group meets at the entrance of the Arroyo Seco Bridge known as the gateway into central Pasadena. The group runs three miles to preview the floats on the parade route on Orange Grove and heads back to the bridge to watch the fighter jets fly over.
“It’s become an annual tradition. We’ve been doing this probably for the past six to eight years,” said O’Hara. “But the club itself has done this for 20 years.”
“There is nothing like this in the world,” said Spears. “We run to the parade route, look at the floats, take pictures and run back just in time. We have the best view.”
“Afterwards, we all eat breakfast. We’re an eating club with a running problem,” O’Hara added.
Groups of weary eyed people wearing hooded sweaters inside their sleeping bags, or covered in warm thick blankets littered the sidewalks of Orange Grove Blvd. Some had slept perched up on their lawn chairs.
Ben Silva arrived at 11 p.m. the night before. He came to the event, along with a small number of El Salvadoreans, to show their national pride. This year the Rose Parade featured a 230-member youth marching band Nuestros Ángeles de El Salvador.
“We’re all here for them,” he said, flanked by a few compatriots waving the blue-white-blue flag of El Salvador. “This is our chance to see them live.”
Filipino Daryl Famisaran, the field director for the Socio-economic Uplift Legacy Anthropological and Development Services (SULADS), traveled from Mindanao, Philippines. Famisaran, the National Awardee for Bayaning Pilipino Award, said he specifically wanted to see the bands and hear the music.
Famisaran arrived at 5 a.m. with friends Jocelyn Sonsona, and Dolly and Mike Sarsoza. Their small group perched up four lawn chairs just at the start of the parade route on Del Mar and Orange Grove.
“The last time I came here was 17 years ago with my kids,” said Dolly Sarsoza. “This is worth waking up early for.”
The parade filled with gallantry also had its share of detractors.
Protesters of human rights in China, anti-communist and anti-war activists peppered the streets. Mascots of President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary Condelezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld were seen in prison uniforms forming a chain gang. Some anti-war activists carried banners that read “Impeach Bush and Cheney.”
Meanwhile, protesters filled the corner of Ellis St. and Orange Grove where the Chinese Beijing 2008 Olympic float wait for the parade for begin. Some wore “Free Tibet” t-shirts, waved the Tibetan flag, and carried banners “In China, Human Rights is a Dirty Word.”
The President of the Los Angeles Friends of Tibet Tseten Phanuchares said that China has no business parading around in the New Year celebration.
“The situation in Tibet is getting worse,” she said. “China has a bad human rights record and should not be allowed to be in such a prestigious American tradition.”
Another protestor George Lee, who handed out leaflets to those passing by accused the Chinese government of organ harvesting.
“You know how long it takes for someone to get an organ in China?” he said. “One week. Here [in the US], it takes at least five years.”
Local Pasadena resident Annaliese Trejo praised the 2008 Olympic-themed Chinese float “One World, One Dream” as it passed by.
“I understand the protest but not here. Not on New Year’s,” said Trejo. “This is a day of peace and to celebrate the wonderful diversity of the US. The Rose Parade is a great way to start the year.”