Rose Bowl Parade 

Segway finds its niche

Thieves used to break into as many as five cars a week in the parking garage at Los Angeles' Union Station. Then the Metropolitan Transportation Authority came up with a simple solution: They put a security officer on a Segway Human Transporter.

"The first day that one of the security officers was on the device was pretty much the last day there was a break-in," said Robin Blair, a transportation planning manager for the MTA, which owns about 19 Segways.

Although the electric, self-balancing Segway scooter never quite caught on with commuters the way its backers had predicted five years ago, the gizmo has found a growing market among law-enforcement agencies, with more than 100 departments around the world now signed on as customers.

The niche market, coupled with a burst of interest from Europeans struggling with gasoline prices much higher than in the U.S., have breathed new life into the Segway.

And Segway Inc. President and Chief Executive James Norrod, hoping to parlay the growth into a payday for the original investors in the scooter, has made grooming the company for an initial public offering in the next few years a top priority. Norrod said he was brought in as CEO last year for just that purpose by Segway's principal investors, Credit Suisse Group and the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, best known for its early investment in Google Inc.

"They thought it was the right time to bring me in to really lead this company through this crucial period and to a liquidity event," said Norrod, who began his career as a sales rep for IBM and went on to head the dial-up network company Telebit Corp. until it was bought by Cisco Systems Inc. in 1996.

Gauging Segway's prospects in an IPO is difficult, since the company will not reveal its yearly revenue or whether it is profitable. Norrod will only say that "tens of thousands" of Segways have been sold around the world and that the company's revenue has been growing by at least 50 percent over each of the last few years.

He said high fuel prices have made many potential customers take another look at the Segway, especially in Europe, where gas can be twice as expensive as it is in the U.S.

"That (high price of gas) has been a driver, a real driver of our business over there," Norrod said.

International sales were only about 5 percent of Segway's business two years ago but by the end of this year could account for as much as 40 percent - much of it from law-enforcement customers and commuters struggling with high gas prices in Europe. The company also recently set up dealerships in Japan and China.

The company says the Segway gets the equivalent of about 450 miles a gallon, based on the amount of gas it would take to create the electricity needed to run it.

For police and security users, many of whom bought the device with grants from the Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies, the fuel efficiency is only an added bonus.

In Los Angeles County, MTA's Blair said officers prize it because it lets them see over crowds and cars and project a more prominent presence at events such as the Rose Bowl parade.

The scooters, which travel as fast as 12.5 mph, also allow an officer on patrol to cover a much greater distance than on foot, and go indoors, onto elevators and other places bigger vehicles can't. Blair said the added efficiency allows a force to cut down on the number of patrol officers on each shift and recoup the Segway's cost in as quickly as a month.

But despite the enthusiasm among law enforcement and robotics researchers, the interest in the Segway is still a far cry from what its supporters had predicted when it was unveiled five years ago.

Its inventor, Dean Kamen, famously predicted in a 2001 Time magazine interview that the Segway "will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy."

After its launch, the Segway found itself on a bumpy road, including a product recall and the departure of three CEOs since 2002. And the device is still expensive, now retailing for between $4,000 and $5,700, depending on the model and accessories package.

The company's critics think that Segway's continued silence regarding its finances is an indication that it is still not profitable, especially given the reported $100 million spent developing it.

I love a parade!

Growing up in Steamboat Springs, parades were a big part of our lives. Most everyone in town was part of the Winter Carnival parade (on skis in diamond hitches) in February and the Fourth of July parade each summer. Being involved in politics, my wife, kids, dogs and I have walked with candidates in Aurora, Denver, Wheat Ridge, Edgewater, Evergreen, Idaho Springs and Golden. We?re going to be in Georgetown’s parade on the Fourth of July this year.

We’ve been to the Holiday Bowl Parade in San Diego and the Liberty Bowl Parade in Memphis. We’ve witnessed the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Philadelphia and the Main Street parades at both Disneyland and Disney World. Weve stood frozen for the Parade of Lights to kick off the holiday season in downtown Denver.

Someday we’ll get to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena. But as spectacular as the major-production parades are, there is something much more special about a small-town parade.

One year when I was in high school, my mother and I got stopped at the town limits trying to drive through Kremmling for the annual town parade. U.S. 40 was closed for 107 floats to make their way through town. I think the population at the time was about 700. We figured some of the people in the parade had to hurry back to the starting line to be on multiple floats and wondered if there was anyone left to watch. Kids in Oak Creek bring pillowcases to the Labor Day Parade, as there is just too much candy to carry away in paper or plastic bags.

Evergreen’s annual parade is this Saturday. It will have a little bit of everything. There will be rodeo royalty. There will be horses. There will be music. There will be a display of the best and latest heavy equipment. There will be a chance to collect all kinds of goodies given away by parade participants in addition to the opportunity to buy all kinds of things you simply cannot live without.

But more than anything, people watching the parade will see their friends and neighbors and vice versa. Parade participants spend a lot of time trying to make sure their entries are fun and creative. My favorite entry in the Evergreen Parade was when the folks at Life Care Center of Evergreen decorated each wheelchair as a covered wagon, and each person dressed as a homesteading pioneer a few years ago.

The parade starts at 10 a.m., but if you want a good spot to put a chair and see everything well, you’ll stake out your area at least an hour before that.

Pulaski band tunes up for Rose Bowl parade

While some of their peers are working summer jobs or enjoying their vacation, the 200-plus members of the Pulaski High School marching band will spend a lot of time fine-tuning their musical repertoire.

In addition to preparing for a season of marching band in the fall, the students and some former students are getting ready to hit the national arena at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

The Red Raiders are one of 19 bands selected to march down a 5.5-mile stretch of downtown Pasadena on New Year's Day, before the Rose Bowl game next year.

In fact, this week the president of the Tournament of Roses will visit to present the band with an official flag, which they will carry on the parade route.

It's an honor only a select number of bands receive each year and will put the band in front of one million parade spectators and at least 400 million TV viewers around the world.

Now the band needs to raise money — so far, the booster club has managed to secure about $45,000 out of the $100,000 they need to make the trip, said Mark Cacciatore, co-president of the booster association.

Primarily, the money has come from fundraisers and donors in the community. But this summer, the goal is to raise at least $40,000, if not more — most of the money goes toward subsidizing the cost of the trip for all the students.

Recently graduated senior Tina Sikorski works a full-time job at a day care in Sobieski, but manages to squeeze in two three-hour practices each week, a one-hour lesson and additional time practicing the clarinet at home.

It's quite a commitment, but she says everyone in the band thinks it is worth it.

"We are all very excited and know in the end it will be worth the energy we're spending in preparing," Sikorski said.

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