The 36th Occasional Doo Dah Parade could be the best one yet
By Carl Kozlowski 04/25/2013
For nearly four decades, Pasadena has been the home of not only one of the world’s biggest celebrations — the Rose Parade — but also one of its wackiest, with the Doo Dah Parade bringing out the strangest and funniest characters and floats found anywhere on the planet. And Saturday might offer the best Doo Dah in all of its many years of lampooning the venerable hometown floral spectacle, with ambitious participants traveling from such places as Long Beach and La Jolla to join author and nationally known KPCC favorite Sandra Tsing Loh, who will be in the parade for the first time this year.
Host of “The Loh Down on Science” show on KPCC, Loh will be leading a special float while surrounded by a team of scientists from Caltech and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“The Doo Dah Parade is such a Pasadena institution that we thought it was perfect to take part,” says Loh. “We’re assembling a white 1957 Cadillac convertible to take our team around the route as we wear lab coats, shooting marshmallows from a cannon, tossing out candy at the crowd. All that’s left to figure out is whether we’ll be blasting the ‘Star Trek’ theme, which the guys want, or my preference of Thomas Dolby’s ‘She Blinded Me with Science.’”
The parade started in the late 1970s and had been held in Old Pasadena until a few years ago, when the event was moved to Pasadena’s east side, running along Colorado Boulevard between Altadena Drive and San Gabriel Boulevard.
“It’s been growing each year in our new location, and it’s our fourth year there so we hardly hear anyone mention the old location anymore,” says Patty Hurley of the nonprofit arts group the Light Bringer Project, headed by Tom Coston, which produces the Doo Dah and the annual Chalk Fest.
“People come out of the woodwork, calling from all over just to do it,” Hurley said. “I’ve heard several people say it’s a bucket-list thing, so the parade is still attracting the right people, because they realize it’s just fun and no way to fail.”
Indeed, this year’s edition of the 36th Occasional Doo Dah Parade will feature the Arrow Sign Spinners, composed of “guys who won many competitions and consider it an art” as they dance and spin their way along the parade route. Also participating are an interactive David Bowie tribute float called Suffer Jet-Set Planet, a giant dragon float that will have an actual pizza-cooking oven embedded inside of it and the Flying Baby Hammer, which involves a combination of baby dolls, zip-lines and hammers that has to be seen to be believed.
Sadly, this year marks the final appearance of the popular and gargantuan Boo Boo Kitty float, which consists of a pickup covered in fur-like fabric, with a giant cat head atop its roof that turns back and forth while meowing loudly and spraying people with water. Hurley notes that Doo Dah organizers hope to give the elaborate float a special award to commemorate its years of service, but have not yet determined the prize.
Many of the floats have food-based themes, as evidenced not only by the pizza-making dragon float but also the Barbecue & Hibachi Marching Grill Team, a long-time favorite group in the parade which marches along the parade route while cooking hot dogs. Once cooked, the hot dogs are wrapped in foil by the team’s Condiment Girls, loaded into a cannon called the Bratzooka and shot into the appreciative crowd.
But perhaps the most elaborate parade entry of all is the Moveable Feast, which astounded parade watchers last year and is making its second appearance in this weekend’s edition. It consists of a dining room table with a chandelier hanging over it and a full spread of food and mimosas, enjoyed by eight people as they pedal a special bicycle-style contraption that enables their feast to roll throughout the parade route.
“There’s actually a group of people who build these kinetic sculptures, a bunch of guys in Humboldt County that have this crazy race every year over Memorial Day,” explains Moveable Feast participant Daniel Busby. “That said, I’ve never seen the race, but I did meet these guys from that race who brought another Moveable Feast to Burning Man and stole their designs and made my own. Everyone has to pedal because, with eight people, it weighs 2,000 pounds, so no one can be slacking.”
This year’s grand Doo Dah Queen is Susann Edmonds of Altadena, who performed a song and dance while dressed as a naughty pirate with slaves in order to win the title. Another honoree is Pasadena Star-News editor Frank Girardot, who won the title of Thorny Rose for being a colorfully controversial local personality.
This year’s grand marshal is Alan Zorthian, who is being honored for preserving the Zorthian Ranch, the legendary local landmark established by his grandfather, artist Jirayr “Jerry” Zorthian, as a bohemian enclave in the hills of Altadena.
In the end, only someone as deeply involved as Hurley can truly do the parade justice.
“The parade is as unique as ever. Doing it every year doesn’t mean it doesn’t have fresh ideas,” says Hurley. “You’re always amazed at what you saw. Sometimes the floats come back, and sometimes you never see them again.”
The 36th Occasional Doo Dah Parade takes place at 11 a.m. Saturday along Colorado Boulevard, between Altadena Drive and San Gabriel Boulevard. Admission is free. For more information, call (626) 590-7596 or visit doodahparadepasadena.info.