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"Inspiring Stories" will be the theme as parade honors grand marshal, Olympian and World War II prisoner of war Louis Zamperini posthumously
Al Roker, the weather anchor for NBC's "Today," and Hoda Kotb, co-host of "Today's" fourth hour, will welcome the new year co-hosting NBC's live, high-definition coverage of the 126th Rose Parade from Pasadena, California, Thursday, Jan. 1 (11:30 a.m.), on NBC.
This will be Roker's 18thyear hosting the popular annual event, and the second year for Kotb. NBC has been broadcasting the New Year's Day parade for 88 years, beginning on radio in 1927 and then televising the event beginning in 1954.
"Inspiring Stories" will be the theme for this year's Rose Parade, the most popular New Year's Day celebration in the world. Perfectly capturing this theme is the life of Grand Marshal Louis Zamperini, who will be honored posthumously this year. Zamperini was an Olympian, World War II prisoner of war and true American hero whose life story was documented in the New York Times best-selling book "Unbroken." In December, Universal Pictures will release "Unbroken," a feature adaptation of the book directed by Angelina Jolie.
The parade will feature 40 lavish floats, including a Princess Cruises entry featuring a reunion of the original "Love Boat" cast, a colorful City of Hope float celebrating cancer survivors, a Farmer's Insurance float saluting teachers and a Sierra Madre entry depicting the beloved children's story "The Little Engine That Could."
Kaiser Permanente's float will be a commemorative floral salute to the Special Olympics World Games, Zappos.com will make its parade debut with a festive entry featuring a big pink hippo, and Dole will celebrate the new year with a floral extravaganza called the "Rhythm of Hawaii." The lively event also will feature a Los Angeles float highlighting the many reasons people come to visit the popular southern California destination.
Adding to the fun will be 18 high-stepping equestrian teams, including the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales, and 20 marching bands from as far away as Japan and Denmark. The Salvation Army Band will celebrate the organization's 150th anniversary, and this year's Rose Queen and her court will appear.
The Pasadena Police Department estimates more than 700,000 spectators will line the five-and-a-half mile parade route. Tens of millions of people worldwide watch the telecast every year.