30 years in, parade volunteer still coming up Roses
Adolpho Garcia sits in the driver's seat of a Rose Parade float. “We’re just the unsung heroes,” he says.
December 30th, 2011
08:25 PM ET

30 years in, parade volunteer still coming up Roses

Adolpho Garcia is famous - you just don’t know it yet. During a 10-year span lasting until 2002, he drove floats in the Rose Parade.

“All they see is a float going down and that’s all they see,” the 63-year-old says of parade-goers.

Historically, drivers are hidden inside the float. “We’re just the unsung heroes,” he says.

For the past 23 years, he’s been a volunteer for the Phoenix Decorating Co., which builds floats. On Monday at the Rose Parade in Pasadena the company will showcase 44 floats - half of all those featured in the parade. Garcia provides security for the float builder now, but driving is in his blood.

A Loyola Marymount float ready for the parade.

“The process of driving is: The driver sits in the back, basically blind. You have an observer in front and he’s basically telling you what to do. ‘Left … right … a little faster … slow down.’”Garcia says. “We don’t see anything, so we’re relying on our observer.”

The engines are usually V-8s. Equipped with power steering, they possess the longest drive trains in the world.

The Rose Parade, officially the Tournament of Roses Parade, is an annual New Year’s Day rolling party that features a potpourri of colorful floats, marching bands and thousands of adoring parade-goers. The parade is in its 123rd year. The Rose Bowl, the annual college football game is a little younger, being added in 1902.

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon preview

This year millions will watch the parade then tune into the game, featuring the Wisconsin Badgers against the Oregon Ducks.

What they won't see are the ins and outs of a float.

“Some of them (floats) are 60-70 feet long,” Garcia says. “When you’re 40 feet from the front, the observer’s telling you to do something, and by the time you do it, you make the turn you're still in the back. It’s like driving a semi (truck) blind,” he says.

Maximum speed is a mere 4 miles per hour. But when your’e so low to the ground it seems like you’re really moving, Garcia says. Around the driver is a steering wheel, a cable for the throttle and a foot brake to stop.

iReport: The 123rd Rose Parade

“The thing about a driver is, if you hit somebody it’s not your fault. It’s the observer's fault, because you’re doing what he tells you,” he says.

Opposite sides of the stadium: Family football rivalries

Once Garcia crawls into the float, he’s there four to six hours. “I don’t drink or eat six hours before, he says. “That way I don’t have the feeling.”

With no windows and the engine block next to you, it gets hot inside - up to 150 degrees, Garcia says. “You start out in sweats” he says, “and by the time you get to the end you’re in shorts because it gets warm in there.”

If there are pyrotechnics, the floats may have a separate operator. Sometimes they pose as riders waving to the crowd with one hand and pressing a button to shoot fireworks in the other. In other cases, the driver uses a lever to raise or lower the moving parts on a float.

Phoenix Decorating spokesman Brian Dancel says drivers are held in high esteem.

“When you tell me I’m going to drive 5 1/2 miles down a stretch of very important road in Pasadena I’m going to tell you that you’re crazy,” Dancel says. “To be one of the chosen few (drivers) is an honor.”

With that honor comes hazards — try left-behind horse manure stuck in a hot engine compartment.

“I’ve known drivers that have gotten it all over them, says Garcia. “They run over it and it comes right inside the float.”

The only recognition Garcia gets is by sticking his hand out under the float. Looking through a crack in the door, he can see the fans pointing at his waving hand. He said he once heard from another volunteer that "some lady came running to him and said that they were dragging a body underneath the float - and it was me waving to people.”

“People wonder how it happens that no one sees you in there and all of a sudden, they see you crawl out and they go ‘Wow! Must be neat!’  ‘How do you get to do that?’ ‘Where do you sign up?’ and I tell them well you gotta’ get a license to drive a float!” he says.

“Not true,” he chuckles.

“If you do it once you’ll want to do it again, guarantee it!”

“As long as you’re not scared of confined areas."

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Filed under: California • U.S.
Overheard on CNN.com: Goodbye 2011, hello year-in-review lists
As 2012 nears, we look back at reader comments on 2011 stories, big and small.
December 30th, 2011
06:39 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Goodbye 2011, hello year-in-review lists

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

"My amazing event for 2012, I would have to say it would be: Hearing how our brave Navy Seals took out bin Laden, and knowing there is only one more day of this crappy year."

If you haven't heard, the year is almost over and then it's going to be 2012. We've made our lists, and the comments have been nice. Together, we can figure out who's been naughty, and who's been nice.

Here are some of our favorite comments on the stories and trends that piqued our readers' interest in 2011. FULL POST

Verizon says it's scrapping $2 payment fee
December 30th, 2011
03:25 PM ET

Verizon says it's scrapping $2 payment fee

Verizon Wireless said it will scrap a proposed $2 fee for one-time online or telephone payments, citing "customer feedback."

The fee, which Verizon said would have been a "convenience charge" for customers who make one-time bill payments using a debit or credit card, either online or by telephone, was set to go into effect on January 15.

Verizon had said the fee was designed to "address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill payments."

The plan still would have allowed customers to enroll in a service that would debit their bank accounts or charge their credit cards on a recurring basis for free. Customers also could have avoided the fee by paying at a Verizon store or mailing checks to the company.

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Filed under: Business
Massachusetts man in critical condition in state's first human rabies case in 75 years
Massachusetts public health officials suspect the man contracted rabies from a bat at his residence.
December 30th, 2011
01:59 PM ET

Massachusetts man in critical condition in state's first human rabies case in 75 years

A Massachusetts man is in critical condition after contracting rabies, the state’s first human case of the disease in 75 years, a Public Health Department spokesman confirmed to CNN on Friday.

The Barnstable County man is in his 60s and is not being identified, Health Department spokesman John Jacobs said.

Health officials suspect the man, who is in Cape Cod Hospital, contracted the virus from a bat at his residence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are performing tests to confirm the species, according to a Health Department news release.

The man’s family may have been exposed and are being treated, CNN affiliate WCVB reported.


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Filed under: Animals • U.S.
Baylor, Washington smash offensive records in Alamo Bowl
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III threw for nearly 300 yards Thursday, but the Bears' running game was more eye-popping.
December 30th, 2011
10:40 AM ET

Baylor, Washington smash offensive records in Alamo Bowl

If you ever wanted to see two skillful college football offenses make the presence of two defenses look fairly pointless, Thursday night’s Alamo Bowl was your chance.

No. 15 Baylor and Washington obliterated bowl records - including those for combined points in a regulation bowl game and yards of total offense - in Baylor’s 67-56 come-from-behind victory in San Antonio, Texas.

“I'll say the Valero Alamo Bowl and ESPN got what they were hoping for tonight,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said after the televised matchup. “What a game. ... (Baylor wasn’t) the No. 2 offense in the country just for a fluke.”

Baylor, helped by a typically fine night from Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III, had a FBS bowl record 777 yards of total offense. But the most-eye popping output might have come from Baylor running backs Terrance Ganaway, Tevin Reese and Jarred Salubi, each of whom ran for more than 100 yards, sometimes untouched for dozens of yards at a time.

Ganaway alone ran for 200 yards and five touchdowns. Griffin threw for a touchdown and 295 yards, and ran for 55 more and another touchdown.


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Filed under: College football • Football • Sports • Texas • Washington state
December 30th, 2011
09:19 AM ET

4 killed in Afghanistan roadside bomb attack

Four people were killed in Afghanistan's southern Uruzgan province Friday when a civilian vehicle hit a roadside bomb, according to the country's Interior Ministry.

One person was injured in the incident, which occurred near the provincial capital of Tarin Kowt.

The attack was quickly condemned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. John R. Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

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Filed under: Uncategorized
Gotta Watch: Your 15 minutes are over
Doug Hutchison and Courtney Stodden on their wedding day.
December 30th, 2011
09:01 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Your 15 minutes are over

They say everybody gets their 15 minutes of fame, and boy did these people squeeze every possible second out of theirs. But now their time is up. Relive these popular diva moments from a few of our favorites from this past year.  FULL POST

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Filed under: 2011 Year in Review • Gotta Watch • U.S.
December 30th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

What was your top news story of 2011?

From the Arab Spring to a global economic crisis, from the destruction caused by an earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the killing of Osama bin Laden, 2011 has been defined by historic and dynamic events that will shape the world in the years ahead.

But which one was the top story of the year? We asked you, the readers, to vote and let us know what story was the most important for 2011.

We gave you 20 stories and asked you to list them in order of importance. More than 30,000 of you helped shape the list.

Here's what you decided were the top 10 stories of the year:


December 30th, 2011
07:55 AM ET

NGOs puzzled by Egyptian raids

A day after Egyptian police raided the offices of 10 nongovernmental organizations across the country, the groups remained in the dark about what the authorities were looking for.

"We asked them if there was something specific we could help them find," Julie Hughes, Egypt country director for the National Democratic Institute (NDI), told CNN Friday. "They refused to answer."

Two other U.S.-based agencies, Freedom House and the International Republican Institute (IRI), were also raided.

Police took laptops, desktops, video conferencing equipment, cell phones and other electronics, Hughes said. They also took between 15 and 20 boxes of documents.

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Filed under: Egypt
December 30th, 2011
07:51 AM ET

Turkish PM Erdogan regrets Kurdish civilian airstrike deaths

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that he regrets the deaths of 35 civilians in an airstrike in a Kurdish area on the border with Iraq late Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, he said, "It is an unfortunate outcome. It is a sad outcome."

Pledging a full investigation, he said those killed were smuggling cigarettes and fuel, with almost half of them below the age of 20.

Erdogan said Turkey's military had been monitoring the area because it was in constant use by terrorist groups and that security forces had become suspicious because of the size of the group and number of donkeys used.

The funerals of the victims, who all came from three villages in the Uludere area of Sirnak province, should now have been conducted, he said.

His words came a day after a senior member of a Kurdish separatist group urged Kurds to rise up against Turkish authorities over what he called a massacre.

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Filed under: Iraq • Turkey
December 30th, 2011
07:33 AM ET

Friday's live events

The Iowa caucuses are just four days away, and CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest political news from the Hawkeye State.

Today's programming highlights...

7:30 am ET - Huntsman on the campaign trail - While the other major GOP presidential candidates are in Iowa, Jon Huntsman continues campaigning in New Hampshire.  He addresses a Rotary meeting in Bow, New Hampshire.


Filed under: Elections • Politics • Republican Party
December 30th, 2011
06:46 AM ET

Anti-government protesters rally in Syria

Large-scale anti-government protests and more violence unfolded across Syria Friday, with opposition groups calling on demonstrators to camp out in public squares until President Bashar al-Assad's regime is ousted.

The protests coincide with reports of increased violence against demonstrators by al-Assad's security forces, even as an Arab League fact-finding mission works to determine whether the Syrian government is abiding by a peace agreement to end a brutal crackdown on protesters.

As they have in their nearly 10 months of resistance, Syrian activists and opposition groups used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to urge thousands to evade al-Assad's forces and defy government-imposed curfews.

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Filed under: Syria
December 30th, 2011
04:30 AM ET

Sudanese military aircraft crashes near airport, official says

A Sudanese military aircraft on a reconnaissance mission near El Obeid Airport crashed early Friday, the state-run SUNA news agency reported.

A search is underway for casualties from the crash, military spokesman Sawarmi Hassan Saad told SUNA.

There were no reported injuries on the ground, SUNA said.


Filed under: World
December 30th, 2011
04:24 AM ET

Cyclone pummels eastern Indian coast, kills six

At least six people were killed after a cyclone pummeled India's southeastern coastline Friday, bringing high winds and rain, officials said.

Coastal districts in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and in the territory of Puducherry were on high alert as the cyclone approached.

The deaths were reported in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, where meteorologists reported winds gusting at between 75 and 87 miles per hour.


Filed under: World
December 30th, 2011
04:15 AM ET

Bomb blast kills 2, wounds 3 in Pakistan, official says

A bomb blast killed two people and wounded three on Friday in northwest Pakistan's tribal region, a senior Pakistani government official said.

The bomb was planted on a road near the village of Dara Bazar in the Bajaur Agency, one of the seven districts that make up Pakistan's tribal region, said Islam Zeb, a senior administrator in the district.

The bomb was remotely detonated, Zeb said.

It was was not immediately clear who was targeted in the blast or who was killed.


Filed under: Pakistan • World
December 30th, 2011
03:42 AM ET

'No chance' of 9/11 museum opening on time, New York mayor says

Work on the National September 11 Memorial Museum has been halted over a budgetary dispute, making it impossible to open on time, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
"There's no chance of it being open on time. Work has basically stopped," Bloomberg said during a press conference Thursday.
The museum was scheduled to open on the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The Mayor blamed the holdup on "disagreements" with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is responsible for a portion of project's financing.

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Filed under: U.S. • Uncategorized
December 30th, 2011
02:04 AM ET

Two aid workers killed in Somalia capital

Two aid workers working to provide emergency medical relief in the Somalia capital of Mogadishu have been killed in a shooting at a Medecins Sans Frontieres compound, the agency said in a statement.

The workers were shot Thursday at a compound operated by MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, the non-profit aid agency said.

"The exact circumstances of the shooting are not yet clear. MSF's immediate priority is to take care of those most affected by this tragedy, in particular the families and colleagues of the victims," the statement said.


Filed under: Somalia • World
December 30th, 2011
02:02 AM ET

North Korea says it won't deal with South Korean government

North Korea said Friday that it remained steadfast in its refusal to engage with the current South Korean government, dismissing the prospect of a shift in relations with Seoul after a dynastic succession in Pyongyang.

"We solemnly declare with confidence that the South Korean puppets and foolish politicians around the world should not expect any change" from North Korea, the country's National Defense Commission said in a statement reported by Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The statement came after two days of elaborate ceremonies in Pyongyang that honored Kim Jong Il, who died earlier this month, and underlined the rise of his son and chosen successor, Kim Jong Un, to the position of "supreme leader" of the secretive state.


Filed under: Kim Jong Il • North Korea • Uncategorized • World