Two decades ago, while a young reporter for the Pasadena Star-News, I convincingly debunked the official claim that a million people show up in person to see the Rose Parade. It took about five minutes of simple arithmetic to show that it was impossible*, and my colleagues and I then attempted to estimate the real crowd size by doing actual crowd counts.
From some random newspaper:
Pasadena, Calif., police estimated that more than a million spectators came out for the Rose Parade….
From the Star-News:
Hours after seeing off the turbulent, historic year that was 2008, hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the streets of Pasadena on Thursday…. (emphasis added)
* the simple calculation
- Parade route 5.5 miles long, or approximately 30,000 feet.
- Imagine a line of people standing shoulder to shoulder, each occupying 1.5 feet (people generally don’t stand that close, it’s a bounding scenario). A single line of people down one side of the parade route, then, is 20,000 people. Down both sides of the route, 40,000 people.
- 200,000 people in grandstands, leaves 800,000 people standing along the streets and sidewalks.
- To get to 800,000 people, the crowd needs to be 20 rows deep.
- The typical Rose Parade crowd (I reviewed a lot of photos to confirm this) is rarely more than 5 to 7 rows deep, and is always more loosely packed than my 1.5 feet constraint.
- Tweek the variables however you want (people in buildings, etc.). There’s simply no way to get to a million people.