- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2004


The new year marched in yesterday with Mummers parading as Martha Stewart and a shackled Saddam Hussein in Philadelphia and water-squirting elephants and a bubble-blowing octopus entertaining the hundreds of thousands of people who lined the route of the Rose Parade.

Others marched to their own drummers and took part in a different New Year’s Day tradition: jumping into bone-chillingly cold water for a quick “polar bear” swim.

But some people had to put their celebrations on hold as a snowstorm hit the West Coast, shutting down a 90-mile stretch of Interstate 5 in Northern California and knocking out power for thousands of people.

About 12,000 elaborately costumed men and women strutted through Philadelphia in the annual Mummers Parade, where many of the string bands strum “Oh Dem Golden Slippers.”

This year’s party along Broad Street featured people dressed like Philadelphia Flyers hockey players and a shackled Saddam.

“The crowd was very welcoming to us and it felt great,” said Peter Broomall, head of the Broomall String Band.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators gathered on the streets of Pasadena, Calif., to cheer marching bands and fantastical floats during the 115th annual Tournament of Roses parade.

“I’ve never been to a big parade before, so it’s kind of exciting,” said 12-year-old Sydney Brouillette of Lafayette, Ind. Her favorite float was a sunken ship covered with sea animals, including a giant octopus that waved its arms and blew bubbles.

The Grand Marshal’s Trophy went to the “Springtime Symphony” float, which had eight waterfalls and giant animated woodpeckers, owls and other creatures.

The 23 marching bands, 49 floats and 25 equestrian groups were led by Grand Marshal John Williams, the conductor who composed the music for “Star Wars” and many other popular films.

While many parade-goers had huddled and shivered in the overnight cold to reserve prime viewing spots, hundreds of others stripped to swimsuits and pretended they were polar bears, including hundreds who took quick dips into Lake Michigan at Milwaukee and Lake Minnetonka outside Minneapolis.

About 500 swimmers braved Boston Harbor — water temperature 42 degrees Fahrenheit — then dashed back to hot showers and saunas as about 1,500 bundled-up spectators cheered them on for the 100th consecutive New Year Polar Plunge.

“It’s the biggest adrenaline rush you’ll ever get,” Dennis Guilfoyle, 32, of Dedham, Mass., said later as he and his friends warmed up in a pub.

Most of the celebrating was over in New York City, where an estimated 750,000 people had gathered in Times Square for the annual New Year’s Eve festivities.

The revelers were ushered away from Times Square as quickly as possible so sanitation workers could clean up the estimated 28 tons of party hats, noisemakers, confetti, paper streamers and other trash. By daylight, the streets were clean and reopened to traffic.

The holiday was a washout for many along the West Coast, where rain drenched the San Francisco and Napa Valley areas, and wind knocked out power to about 100,000 homes and businesses.

The storm caused whiteout conditions in Northern California, closing a 90-mile section of Interstate 5 between Redding and Yreka for several hours in the morning. It was the third time this week that snow closed the highway.

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