Image: Realtors' float in Rose Parade
Mark J. Terrill  /  AP
Despite the housing crash, the National Association of Realtors had its first-ever float in the Rose Parade Thursday. The theme: "Celebrating the Dream of Home Ownership for 100 Years."
updated 1/1/2009 2:55:53 PM ET 2009-01-01T19:55:53

Thousands of revelers packed the streets on New Year's Day to watch the Rose Parade with its dancers swinging, bands marching and a 49-foot robot tipping a top hat.

Parade-goers were wowed by the robot named Asimo on a float sponsored by Honda Motor Co. when fireworks and streamers shot out of his hat. This year's theme was "Hats Off to Entertainment."

"That was something," said Peggy Tesh, 82, who came to the parade with her family from North Carolina.

The recession didn't keep the crowds away as they were greeted with sunshine and a temperature in the low 50s.

And the housing crisis didn't deter the National Association of Realtors, which entered its first float in the Rose Parade. It was one of 46 entries — some from major companies with sagging stock prices such as Honda and Macy's — in the floral extravaganza that has marched on through the Great Depression and world wars for 120 years.

Home 'dream' hides nightmare
The realtors' float — planned more than a year ago, before the flood of foreclosures and the credit crunch that has made mortgages hard to come by — was dubbed "Celebrating the Dream of Homeownership for 100 Years." It showcased a Victorian-style house covered with corn husks, coconut flakes, sesame seeds, roses and orchids.

That long-term planning also applied to some parade-watchers such as Gail and George Braun, who came from Pasadena, Md., to attend the parade and to pull for Penn State against USC in the Rose Bowl game later Thursday.

"The stock market has impacted us, but we planned this back in March," George Braun said. "If it was planned last month, we might not be doing this."

"It's been a dream to come through here," Gail Braun said. "I just love the flowers."

For the second straight year, the irrigation firm Rain Bird won the prestigious Sweepstakes Trophy for most beautiful float for its Safari-themed entry, "Entertaining Expedition," which featured flowing water, a giant moving elephant and three giraffes.

Cloris Leachman presided
This year's grand marshal was 82-year-old actress and recent "Dancing with the Stars" contestant Cloris Leachman.

The parade also featured 21 marching bands and 18 equestrian units along the 5 1/2-mile route.

Pasadena police estimated more than a million people would attend the parade and the annual Rose Bowl game that follows it, plus various other Tournament of Roses festivities.

Police Lt. Randell Taylor said thousands of parade watchers had staked out viewing spots as early as Wednesday night.

Police arrested 36 people along the parade route, mostly for public intoxication. One man was arrested for throwing beer bottles into the crowd; he was subdued by bystanders until police arrested him for assault with a deadly weapon, Taylor said.

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