135th Rose Parade boasts floral floats, sunny skies as California tradition kicks off the new year

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The West Chester University Golden Rams marching band performs at the 135th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

PASADENA, Calif. – Floral floats, marching bands and equestrian units took to the streets under a sunny California sky as the 135th Rose Parade drew hundreds of thousands of spectators on New Year’s Day.

The Pasadena tradition on Monday featured Broadway legend Audra McDonald as grand marshal and the theme “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language."

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After recent rains and gray skies, there was plenty of sun for the 8 a.m. start of the spectacle with a military flyover of a B-2 stealth bomber.

Among the fanciful floats was Kaiser Permanente's colorful “Symphony of You,” which featured 8,000 roses and received the President Award for most outstanding use and presentation of flowers.

The top prize, the 2024 Sweepstakes Trophy, went to the San Diego Zoo for the 55-foot (16.8-meter) float “It All Started With a Roar," depicting its mascot Rex the Lion and celebrating wildlife conservation.

The scheduled performers included Destiny's Child singer Michelle WIlliams, “The Voice” winner Cassadee Pope and “American Idol” champion Jordin Sparks.

Huge crowds lined the 5.5-mile (8.8-kilometer) parade route. Many camped out on sidewalks overnight, staking out their spots in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve.

The parade was briefly interrupted by about 50 pro-Palestinian protesters carrying a banner demanding a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas. They blocked the route before peacefully dispersing under police orders, said city spokesperson Lisa Derderian.

McDonald was set to toss the coin before the 110th Rose Bowl college football game between Alabama and Michigan.

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