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          Front Page




Aliens Cruise to Grand Award

By Zsombor Peter
Journal Staff Writer
    New Mexico's entry in this year's Rose Bowl Parade may have drawn jeers at home for its other-worldly theme.
    But in Pasadena, Calif., where the giant float cruised down Colorado Boulevard on New Year's morning, the judges liked what they saw.

[+] Click to enlarge

[+] Click to enlarge
AP Photos by Nick Ut

Grand Marshal's Trophy for excellence in creative concept and design, State of New Mexico's "Passport to Our World and Beyond," makes it's way down Colorado Blvd. during the 119th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., Tuesday, Jan 1, 2008.


    Featuring a 24-foot-tall stand-in for the New Mexico Space Port and a trio of saucer-eyed aliens sailing through a starscape of rockets and planets in their open-air space ship, the state's float flew away with the parade's Grand Marshal trophy for "most creative concept and design."
    "It's a neat award for our state," said Betty Watson, who arrived in Pasadena on Wednesday to orchestrate a team of 38 volunteers. "It's one of the big ones."
    "It was sort of one of the favorites because it was so creative," said state Tourism Secretary Michael Cerletti The award, he added, was "the icing on the cake."
    With millions of eyes trained on the New Year's Day staple each year, the New Mexico Tourism Department considered it a prime opportunity to draw more visitors to the Land of Enchantment.
    More than 40 million Americans tuned in when New Mexico entered its first float two years ago, according to parade organizers. Broadcasters also beamed the event around the globe to 150 other countries.
    A full-page, four-color ad in a major magazine can run up to $90,000, Cerletti said.
    The parade, he said, is "just another way of advertising."
    The float cost upward of $180,000, at least $75,000 of it covered by sponsors. Cerletti did not have exact figures.
    "We'll see whether it translates to more inquiries," he said, and, ultimately, visits.
    At least two broadcasters cut off coverage of the parade before New Mexico's float passed the cameras. Cerletti, however, said he heard from New Mexicans who did catch the float's appearance on TV.
    After New Mexico's 2006 showing at the parade, the Tourism Department reported receiving 28 percent more visitor inquiries that January than the January before, including a 16 percent spike from Southern California within the first week. For the first two months of 2006, the number of hits to the department's Web site rose 42 percent over 2005.
    That year, the state's float featured an adobe-style building, dancers, and a wagon carrying Gov. Bill Richardson and his wife Barbara.
    The Tourism Department bet on a futuristic turn this time around.
    Journal readers were not impressed. Some 750 of them responded to the paper's online poll; 62 percent marked the "Surely you must be joking" box.
    They called it everything from "obnoxious" to "ugly" and "insulting."
    Watson heard none of it in Pasadena. Walking about the parade grounds the day before, she said, the New Mexico delegation's float-themed T-shirts drew only praise and admiration.
    "No one has ever had a negative remark to make," she said.
    Watson hopes to return to Pasadena with a new float in 2008.