PASADENA, Calif. -- Military music and muscle drew the loudest cheers from the half a million-plus spectators at Wednesday's annual Rose Parade, which catered to children with its floats, marshals and theme.
Revelers in bleachers along the 5.5-mile parade route stood up and cheered when a B-2 stealth bomber and a pair of F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighters flew overhead, trailing a deafening noise that shocked the crowd.
"It was surreal to see all the floats and flowers right up in your face," said Michael Pizarro, 27, of Pasadena.
Florist Pauline Bachand, 59, of Magog, Quebec, described spending a week working as a volunteer on the award-winning FTD float, "Fairytale Fantasy."
"It was the most fulfilling experience, meeting new people and being part of the community," Bachand said. "Then you see this enormous creation, a float towering in front of you, it's simply amazing."
Comedian, actor and writer Bill Cosby received a standing ovation from the crowd when he stood up in a convertible carrying him and fellow grand marshals TV host and author Art Linkletter and children's programming pioneer Fred Rogers.
The theme of the Tournament of Roses was "Children's Dreams, Wishes and Imagination," and its 54 floats featured magical dragons, fairy princesses and an assortment of characters from Strawberry Shortcake to Stuart Little.
Parade officials said a weak economy and the threat of war put a small dent in parade turnout, but police said they didn't have a crowd estimate. Bill Flinn, the parade's chief operating officer, estimated more than half a million spectators lined the streets.
The parade and Rose Bowl generate about $240 million in revenue to Southern California, Flinn said, noting that about 1,200 police officers provided security for the two events.
The 2Y-hour parade's only glitch came when four anti-war protesters ran in front of the Air Force band, police Cmdr. Marilyn Diaz said. Police ordered the protesters to leave and the disturbance did not delay the parade, she said.
Police made 41 arrests, including 20 juveniles, along the route, mostly for being drunk in public, but there were no major problems, Diaz said.
Rose Queen Alexandra Wucetich, a 17-year-old senior from San Marino High School, wrestled with a heavy, glittering crown in appearances before the parade.
"It's actually approximately about 5 pounds, so I took two Advil to alleviate the pain," she told reporters. "I can't really move my head much."
Meanwhile, Brynn Crisp, 19, and Breanne Dimock, 15, both of Simi Valley, looked exhausted but happy as they packed up sleeping bags and chairs after camping out on the sidewalk for a night.
"This is an experience we'll never forget," said Dimock, who attends Royal High School in Simi Valley. "We saw people get arrested, a car crash and numerous fights all in one night. Everyone was drinking and dancing in the street."
In awards passed out before the parade, the Rain Bird Corp. was the sweepstakes winner with its "Water Wonderland."
The first ever Bob Hope Humor Trophy was given to Roto-Rooter Plumbers for "Bathtub Races." The award, in honor of the entertainer who turns 100 later this year, went to the most comical and amusing entry.
Sara Pizarro, 21, of Pasadena stood in front of a Banana Republic store that had its windows boarded up to prevent vandalism.
"I think the businesses should stay open all night," she said, "because the parade definitely brings in a lot of business to Pasadena."
Still, a number of businesses reported decreased sales this year, with some Pasadena hotels reporting rare vacancies on New Year's Eve.
"People are not spending money," said Roxanne Gin, owner of Old Town Restaurant & Bakery, located along the parade route. "A lot of merchants ... say business has been bad."