PASADENA, Calif. — After a run of celebrity grand marshals, a real American hero led the Rose Parade on Friday.
Onlookers stood and cheered as Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III rode down Colorado Boulevard in a vintage 1928 Pierce Arrow with his wife, Lorrie, and two daughters as part of the annual armada of flower-draped floats, marching bands and prancing horses.
Sullenberger said he did not hesitate when asked to serve as grand marshal because his family has watched the parade when he was growing up in Texas.
“It’s really an American institution, a celebration of American values,” he said after the parade. “I think people see those in me, and I’m glad.”
Parade-goer Hilda Roy held a hand-painted, fluorescent sign that read, “We (heart) you Sully!” She waved and screamed the name of the man who landed a stricken jetliner on New York’s Hudson River and was thrilled when Sullenberger waved back.
“We come every year, but when we found out he was grand marshal, we were really excited,” Roy, 48, said. “He’s a real hero, not just a celebrity, and a real person, too.”
The selection of Sullenberger as grand marshal was a change from the crowd-pleasing show biz types who’ve led the parade in recent years. Last year, “Dancing With the Stars” favorite and 1970s sitcom star Cloris Leachman was grand marshal. The year before, it was celebrity chef Emerile Lagasse.
Sullenberger was chosen to embody the theme of the 2010 parade, “A Cut Above the Rest.”