Photo gallery: Jane Goodall chosen as grand marshal of the 2013 Rose Parade
PASADENA - Greeting the crowd with a hooting "hello" call more familiar to the chimpanzees of Gombe than Tournament of Roses top-dogs, Dame Jane Goodall was introduced Wednesday as grand marshal of the 2013 Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game.
The renowned primatologist called it an "amazing honor" that came as a surprise.
"I was a little startled to be asked," Goodall said, after being introduced on the steps of Tournament House by TofR President Sally Bixby. "As you must know, for many years I lived and worked with chimpanzees in Africa, and it's a bit different from Pasadena."
Goodall later admitted that when Bixby asked her to be grand marshal she'd never heard of the Rose Parade, let alone seen one, and has never attended a football game in her life.
She recalled telling Bixby, "I don't know what you're talking about."
But, the 78-year-old said, taking on the high-profile role will help to spread her message: "We are not in this world alone."
"New Year for me is a symbol of many things," Goodall said. "An opportunity for new beginnings, an opportunity for new dreams, an opportunity to live a better life and make a better world."
Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a U.N. Messenger of Peace, is an "inspirational" figure who exemplifies the parade theme of "Oh, the Places You'll Go," Bixby said.
"She was our first choice, and we are thrilled to get her," Bixby said. "She travels a lot... and we had to find out so far ahead if it was possible to have her and to fit in her schedule."
It's been 53 years since the then-26-year-old Goodall traveled to Tanzania and started her seminal field study of the Gombe chimps, including their use of tools, meat-eating, and war-like behaviors, that catapulted her to world-wide prominence.
For years, Goodall has used her fame to draw attention to endangered species - particularly chimpanzees - sustainability, ecology and the effects of climate change.
A group of schoolchildren from North Hollywood, members of her "Roots & Shoots" youth program, now in 120 countries, attended the event - two of them providing Goodall with an escort to the lectern.
Also present was "Mr. H," the stuffed toy chimp that was a birthday gift 19 years ago from former U.S. Marine, and Greg Hahn. Hahn, she said, inspired her with his ability to live life fully after losing his sight.
Mr. H is "very famous," Goodall said, especially among children, and the well-travelled toy - "He's been to 52 countries" - will join her in the parade along with three other guests she hasn't yet chosen, and a shelter dog whose Rose Parade fame she hopes will spur adoption.
For the first time in many years, city officials, including Mayor Bill Bogaard, City Manager Michael Beck, Police Chief Phillip Sanchez and Fire Chief Calvin Wells were invited to the ceremony and to meet Goodall at a private Tournament House reception before the announcement.
Bogaard called her a "tremendously accomplished woman and a superb choice" for grand marshal.
In line with her message of sustainability, Goodall said she wanted to walk or ride a horse along the parade route, but will have to settle for a horse- drawn vehicle.
Her wave, she said, will be her own.
"I know how the queen does it," she said, referring not to the Rose Queen but Queen Elizabeth II, who named her Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2004. "But I have my own style."
The 124th Rose Parade will set off at 8a.m., Jan.1, 2013, followed by the 99th Rose Bowl Game.
626-578-6300, ext. 4482
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Greg Hahn's occupation.