More than 100,000 people crowded Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego for Wednesday's Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade, a prelude to Wednesday evening's 34th annual Holiday Bowl college football game.
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Retired Vice Adm. Edward Martin, a longtime naval aviator who was a prisoner for six years during the Vietnam War, served as grand marshal as the parade celebrated 100 years of naval aviation.
The parade is billed as the largest exhibition of giant character balloons in the western United States. Balloons ranged from Woody of "Toy Story" to a giant astronaut to the American flag.
Visitors were also treated to a flyover by a Coast Guard helicopter, cannon fire from the tall ship Californian and high school marching bands from Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wisconsin.
The morning started with the Amtrak Big Bay Family Festival and Bumble Bee Foods 5K run downtown. The annual Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals, where eight of the fastest dachshunds from across the West race on a 56-foot track, was won by "Penny Lane" of Los Alamitos, whose owner collected $1,000.
Paula and Steven Scott flew all the way from Texas to not only watch their Texas Longhorns play in the Holiday Bowl Wednesday night, but they also took the opportunity to enjoy all that America's Finest City has to offer.
"Oh, it's gorgeous. We went whale watching yesterday and it was just like this," Paula Scott said. "[Texas] is colder than here and wet when we left."
Volunteers, dressed up to match the balloons they were holding, also got in the spirit.
"This is the Ninja Turtle outfit," said volunteer, Ruby Diaz. "This is our shell [and] these are the goggles that they wear."
Some of the youngest parade goers couldn't pick just one balloon, when asked which one was their favorite.
"My favorite balloon is all of them," said Adriana Revelle.
The opening kickoff for the football game between California and Texas is set for 5:06 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium, with expected attendance of as many as 60,000 fans. Attendees are encouraged to carpool or take public transit to the game, and to arrive at least two hours before the opening kickoff.
Bowl officials expect the stadium's 14,000-vehicle parking lot to be filled one to two hours before the game. Alternate parking sites include San Diego State University, the Mission City Corporate Center, the Marriott Mission Valley hotel and the Town and County Hotel.
Special enhanced Green Line service began at 8:10 a.m. from Old Town, operating between the Convention Center area and Santee and through Old Town, Mission Valley and Qualcomm Stadium. Trains depart every 15 minutes until at least one hour after the game.
Blue Line trains will continue past their terminus at Old Town beginning at 11:25 a.m. and operate through to Qualcomm Stadium, providing service from South Bay communities, along with downtown hotels. Blue Line trains will depart every 15 minutes from the South Bay and downtown.
Fans going to the game are urged to board trolleys headed for the stadium before 2 p.m.
The Holiday Bowl sold out each year from 2003-2007, but since then has only sold out in 2009.
The drop in ticket sales results from the Holiday Bowl now getting lower selections of Pacific-12 and Big 12 conference teams and the long-running economic doldrums, according to Bruce Binkowski, the game's executive director.
"Match-up is critical, but so is the availability of money for people to spend," Binkowski said.
Each school received about 11,000 tickets to sell. California fans bought up nearly all of theirs, but Texas backers only purchased around half, he said. The rest will be donated to the Marine Corps, Navy, YMCA and Star/PAL, Binkowski said.
Both teams are 7-5. The Bears won three of their last four games while the Longhorns lost three of their last four.
The teams have one common opponent, UCLA. Texas defeated the Bruins, 49-20, while California lost to UCLA, 31-14.
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