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Flocking south

Gaggles of Duck fans revel in the warmth of the Rose Bowl's pageantry
by: L.E. BASKOW, Debby Branford (left) and her husband Steve laugh with friends Margie and Marv Staggs while recalling past bowl games they've attended. The couples were some of the first to arrive earlier Monday by RV and parked at Brookside Park just south of the Rose Bowl.

LOS ANGELES - Oregon beat Oregon State in the Civil War game on Dec. 3, earning the right to play in the Rose Bowl, and Marv Staggs called his buddy Steve Branford.

'Let's go,' Staggs said.

A vacation was on, as Staggs and Branford and their wives planned another recreational vehicle trip together - to Pasadena, Calif., for their favorite team's fifth Rose Bowl appearance ever and its first since 1994-95. The Ducks play Ohio State at 2 p.m. Friday.

Their Holiday Rambler beasts pulled into Brookside Park, a couple football field lengths south of Rose Bowl Stadium, as soon as the gates opened Monday, first come, first served. The RVs were two of the first nine to arrive at the park, which should be absolutely slammed full of campers and tailgaters for Friday's Rose Bowl game and Tournament of Roses Parade.

'It'll be chaos,' Branford says.

But, his wife Margie adds, 'We want to make sure we take in everything.'

Cost: $100 per day without water and electricity hookups, plus a flat $30 for a separate car, still not bad considering their spot.

'You could stay at a Best Western (motel) for cheaper,' Debby Branford says. 'Location is what you're paying for.'

The Staggs, from Salem, and the Branfords, from Springfield, descended on Southern California with thousands of other Duck fans this week. Whether it be along the parade route in Old Pasadena or Yankee Doodles sports bar in Santa Monica or Disneyland in Anaheim, Duck fans made their way through the L.A. area wearing their proud green and yellow.

As the Branfords and Staggs sat in lawn chairs and sipping libations in the shade, another RV pulled up, and a man emerged, smiling. 'Got down to Las Vegas, and thought we better come watch a team win,' joked Jeff Wall of Monroe, an Oregon State fan fresh off watching the Beavers lose to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.

'There were some 20 to 30 UO fans at Vegas, and I yelled at them, 'Hey, you're at the wrong game!' '

The Duck fans laughed.

Another vacation?

Of course, it's all good and fun when you can camp and party and anticipate watching the Rose Bowl. The Branfords and Staggs camped at a football game once before, ironically for the the 1994 Civil War in Corvallis, when the Ducks beat the Beavers to make the '95 Rose Bowl.

'It was a miserable night,' Debby Branford says. 'We had a Class C RV with about 14 UO students in it next to us and it (partying and carousing) went on all night long. … A couple times, Beaver fans came by and shot off shotguns into the air, yelling '(Expletive) Ducks!' '

But the Branfords and Staggs did not hesitate to plan to camp out at the Rose Bowl, especially given the plush nature of their big recreational vehicles.

'Another vacation?' Debby Branford says. 'This is a moment in history.'

'We always go on vacation with them,' Margie Staggs adds. 'And you never know if (a Rose Bowl) is going to happen again.'

Things have not all been smiles, laughs, cheers, hors d'oeuvres, mixers and alcohol this season. The Ducks lost to Boise State to open the season, and running back LeGarrette Blount punched an opposing player, and somehow the big Branford Oregon Ducks flag ended up underneath their Rambler by the next morning as the couples camped in Klamath Falls.

'It might have been the rum,' joked Steve Branford, of the possible cause of frustration. 'But (the flag's) been washed and dried and flown again.'

Organic floats

The Oregon band and UO cheerleaders will be in the Rose Parade, which starts at 8 a.m. Friday. Floats are being built at locations around the L.A. area, including some in tents adjacent to the Rose Bowl.

Scores of people worked on the West Covina Rose Float Foundation entry, honoring the 'Tuskegee Airmen - A Cut Above,' the black fighter pilot heroes of World War II.

Up close, a float is a thing to behold. All floats are made of organic material. The Tuskegee float features two WWII 'Redtail' fighter planes and a towering bald eagle. Dried split peas and coconut cover much of the float. The feathers of the eagle are made of magnolia leaves and hulls of cocoa beans; its claws of scaled pine cones. Large portraits of Tuskegee Airmen are made of poppy seed, rapeseed, sesame seed and hulled sesame.

The float will also feature 16 surviving Tuskegee Airmen.

A helping hand

On Thursday morning, the presidents of both the University of Oregon and the Ohio State University will join student leaders, staff and alumni to sort food at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

About 250 people, from Oregon and Ohio, are expected to work at the center for a couple of hours. The food bank last year distributed 39 million pounds of food to hungry people in Los Angeles County.

The project is part of a community service effort by both universities. It's also the 11th year that Ohio State staff and students have offered to help in a bowl game's host community. The university invited Oregon's staff and students to join in this year.

UO President Richard Lariviere will join OSU President E. Gordon Gee and UO Dean of Students Paul Shang, Associated Students of UO President Emma Kallaway and other Oregon staff at the food bank center, where they will sort food and pack boxes to be distributed to people in need.

'Mick was crowdin' me'

The UO players have enjoyed Disneyland, practice, press conferences, and Lawry's The Prime Rib.

At Disneyland, the day after Christmas, coach Chip Kelly and captains Jeremiah Masoli, Jordan Holmes, Will Tukuafu and Walter Thurmond, along with Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and captains, appeared at the official Rose Bowl introduction at Disneyland. Oregon and Ohio State fans also gathered, with Duck fans clearly more vocal.

Upon his introduction, Kelly had some good-natured words for the icon of joy and happiness upon shaking the three-fingered/one-thumbed right hand of ol' Mickey Mouse. Conspicuously absent from the festivities was one Donald Duck (the inspiration, of course, for the UO mascot).

'I'm a Duck fan, sorry Mickey,' Kelly said. 'If you can get your boy Donald up here, we'd be able to get fired up.'

Kelly expanded on the ribbing upon interrogation:

'I'm a Donald Duck fan, more than Mickey Mouse. Maybe it goes with the territory. … Mick was crowdin' me a little bit. … I could have taken Mickey, he's not as big as I thought he was in real life. He does have homefield advantage, and maybe Goofy and Pluto would have come over the wall, but I had Willie (Tukuafu) backin' me. I felt confident we had strength in numbers.'