PASADENA, Calif. – Heavy rain pounded the Rose Parade on Monday for the first time in a half-century, with die-hard fans fighting to steady their umbrellas and parade participants proudly marching as if it were sunny and warm.
A powerful storm hit Southern California late Sunday, and by the time the parade started Monday morning about 4 inches of water gushed down both sides of Colorado Boulevard, the parade route.
Several hundred people had camped out overnight, but crowds were thin. Front-row spots were open, as many who stayed pinned themselves against buildings and huddled around gas heaters while temperatures hovered in the 50s.
"We're freezing out here, but it's totally worth it," said Maria Gonzalez, 40, who shivered and hugged her husband under an awning. "This is the most beautiful parade in the world."
The weather prompted Rose Queen Camille Clark and many band members and horse riders to don plastic ponchos.
"They are going to be a little wet on the bottom," said Clark, who turned 18 Monday. "It's still magical. It's my birthday. It's a wonderful day for me."
Many participants braved the 5.5-mile route in their original costumes — sometimes just short skirts and sleeveless T-shirts.
The college marching bands from Southern California and Texas, which will face each other Wednesday in the national championship game, drew loud applause as fans from opposing schools yelled promises of victory on the football field.
The last soggy Rose Parade was in 1955. The Tournament of Roses is traditionally held on New Year's morning, but a never-on-Sunday rule pushed the 117th parade to Monday.
Retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was grand marshal of this year's parade, titled "It's Magical." (Another Supreme Court Justice — Earl Warren — served as grand marshal the last time rain fell on the parade.)
Organizers prepared for the weather. Hundreds of plastic ponchos for volunteers and parade participants were on hand, horses were fitted with skid-resistant shoes, and float-builders covered with plastic the electronic equipment that moves the floats.
The glue that holds decorations to the floats is waterproof, and the floats are made to withstand 50 mph winds.
Magician Lance Burton appeared on a float featuring a genie and his magic carpet, prompting some in the crowd to shout, "Stop the rain! Stop the rain!"