BY JOHN ANTCZAK and CHRISTINE ARMARIO
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Enthusiastic fans determined not to let security fears or frigid temperatures get in the way of enjoying the 127th Rose Parade camped overnight to claim front-row spots for the huge New Year’s celebration on Friday.
Authorities said the parade would be held under unprecedented security, although there were no known threats.
Hundreds began lining the parade route Thursday equipped with portable heaters, blankets and sleeping bags to stay warm as temperatures were expected to dip to the mid-30s. Their numbers were expected to swell to more than 700,000 Friday morning when flower-decked floats, marching bands and equestrian units begin moving through Pasadena before the 102nd Rose Bowl football game.
Geoffrey Hayton, an attorney from Redlands, near the site of the San Bernardino terror attack, said his father began attending the parade in the 1950s and that his family has attended ever since. For the first time this year though, he had a conversation with his wife about the potential dangers of going to the parade.
Ultimately, they decided fear wouldn’t stop them. “Statistically, I feel like we’re pretty safe,” Hayton said.
The massive influx of people into the city, the length of the parade route, and numerous venues ranging from float decorating pavilions to Tournament of Roses headquarters and the Rose Bowl itself have always required a huge deployment of law enforcement, but officials said the 2016 security effort was bigger than ever.
Mark Selby, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles and the federal coordinator for the Rose Parade and security, said the plan involved an “unprecedented volume of resources and technologies.”
Federal authorities planned to use a variety of explosives-detection methods across the city ranging from bomb-sniffing dogs to devices that register even minute amounts of radiation, Selby said.
Multiple tactical teams were also on standby to support local police in the event of an incident.
In addition, Selby said there would be “a surveillance capability unmatched in the city’s history.”
“While a sophisticated network of cameras has been temporarily set up to track any activities at the venues on the ground, Customs and Border Protection aircraft will also be providing protective surveillance from the sky,” he said.
Authorities warned Rose Bowl spectators of a long list of items that would not be allowed inside the stadium, including banners, large beverage containers and drones. Organizers are also instituting a clear-bag policy, requiring people who enter the stadium to use see-through plastic bags or small clutches. Diaper bags will also be allowed for those attending with young children.
The city used automated license-plate readers to gather information in advance of the parade, according to Police Chief Phillip Sanchez, who said his biggest concern was the “lone-wolf, non-state actor.” He urged the public to report any suspicious activity.
Selby noted the Dec. 2 terror attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, but he emphasized that the Rose Parade’s massive security preparations began more than a year ago.
Los Angeles FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said Thursday there were “no known specific or credible threats” to the event.
The theme of this year’s parade is “Know Your Adventure,” inspired by the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016. The grand marshal is filmmaker Ken Burns, who produced the Emmy-award winning series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”
Burns said he has been a fan of the parade since he was a child, though he has never attended in person. “I don’t think I’ve ever missed one on television since the early ’60s,” he told parade organizers.
Among the 44 floats are works in homage to the City of Hope, whose float was built by and will feature athlete cancer survivors. The Los Angeles Lakers will have a float titled “Every Second is an Adventure,” and “The Bachelor” television series will have a float depicting a romantic date on an exotic beach.
Danny Chan, a pastor with the Eagle Rock Seventh-day Adventist Church, said he began staking out a spot for upward of 150 people, mostly families with children from his congregation, on Wednesday night.
He said safety concerns came up during the church’s organizational meetings, but Pasadena officials assured them security would be tight.
On Thursday, Chan said he had already noticed a number of stepped-up measures, including extra patrols and more surveillance cameras.
“I think it’s going to be New Year’s as usual,” he said. “Of course, we have a lot of prayers going out as well, for the safety of everyone.”
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