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Blue skies, cool temperatures greet Rose Parade spectators; Relentless rains give way to sun

After a holiday season of relentless rain in Southern California, the 122nd Rose Parade was bathed Saturday in abundant sunshine.

Clear blue skies and chilly temperatures greeted hundreds of thousands of spectators who lined Colorado Boulevard to gawk at the New Year's Day showcase of flowery floats, marching bands and equestrians.

Many who staked out prime viewing spots on the sidewalks had to brave temperatures that dipped into the low 40s overnight. They shivered under blankets and huddled around fire pits to stay warm.

"It was cold but well worth it," said Mark Tarango, as he rolled up his sleeping bag at the start of the 5 1/2 -mile parade route.

Tarango and his wife drove from Bakersfield, about two hours away, on Friday so that their three children could witness the spectacle for the first time.

"You get to appreciate it more in person. You miss the details, the smells, the festive atmosphere when you watch it on television," he said.

Liz Mauser of Crystal, Minn., said she and her friends stayed warm by dancing on the street at the stroke of midnight.

Overnight, paramedics treated 17 people for minor medical issues -- twice as many as a year ago -- and firefighters had to put out several bonfires that were considered hazardous, Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said. She attributed the higher number of incidents to the cold weather.

Police arrested 45 people, most of on public drunkenness charges, police spokeswoman Janet Pope Givens said.

Die-hard fans who didn't camp out overnight got up before dawn to stroll up and down Orange Grove Boulevard to get a close-up view of the floats before the parade began. Despite the lack of lighting, they said they preferred to see the flowers while they're still fresh and appreciate the fine details of each float.

Gerilyn Freedman of Woodland Hills said that for the last 10 years she has skipped the New Year's Eve countdown so she could get up early to admire the floats before the throngs arrive.

"I feel like a kid the night before. I get so excited about the parade that I can't wait to get up," Freedman said.

In all, 22 bands performed and 47 floats dazzled the crowd. Some floats had whimsical themes featuring dogs boogie-boarding and jumping into a pool, some shot fireworks and ribbons, and some marked anniversaries happening in 2011. A towering float featuring Pac-Man hoisting a birthday cake celebrated the video game's 30th anniversary this year, another float marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by honoring its victims.

The parade was slowed by a minor glitch when a float celebrating California's historic missions broke down at the start, causing a gap in the lineup. A tow truck was called in to pull the float down the parade route.

Food Network star Paula Deen sat in the lead car as the grand marshal. The 63-year-old chef and cookbook author from Savannah, Ga., also tossed the coin before the 97th annual Rose Bowl game between Texas Christian University and Wisconsin.