Camptown Racers Sing This Song

Pasadena, California
The Doo Dah Parade

Senor Groucho performs a public sax act behind a trike

Senor Groucho performs a public sax act behind a trike

What if you lived in Pasadena, California and woke one Sunday morning on New Year’s Day to take in the annual tradition of the Tournament of Roses Parade only to find out that it wasn’t being held? This isn’t unusual, since the parade is never held on Sunday when New Year’s Day falls there (it is held January 2nd). In 1978, that exact situation occurred, and several friends who were regulars at a now-defunct bar called Chromo’s took advantage of the situation to present what would amount to the anti-Rose Parade, the Doo Dah Parade. Although the Rose Parade is something everyone should do once in a lifetime (and probably only once), there’s only so much flowers, happiness and joy you can take while nursing a Gran Patrón Platinum hangover. Sometimes you just want Rickey Rat instead of Mickey Mouse, and when that happens, the Doo Dah Parade is your ticket to paradise. For the Doo Dah, there’s no need to do the overnight street camping required for a good free seat at the Rose Parade, but you also don’t need to worry about getting covered in eggs, tortillas, shaving cream and Silly String (if only I were making this up). Of course, this year it appears you need to be good at dodging tortillas and marshmallows. The worst that could happen is getting dragged into the action on the street or getting hit with a meat projectile (more on this later).

A new entry - Flying Baby Sky Jousting

A new entry - Flying Baby Sky Jousting

Before you plan your New Year’s Day festivities around the Doo Dah, understand this: it isn’t always held on New Year’s Day (unlike its similar cousin, Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade). In the past it has been held in November and late January; in 2010 it was held on May 1st. The parade used to start at Pasadena’s Memorial Park (on the corner of Raymond Avenue and Walnut Street), but like the date that it’s held on, the location also appears to be a moving target. Since the parade doesn’t appear to have the national appeal of its rose-colored sister, overnight camping is not required. Try to jockey a position near the start of the parade where you get the best chance of seeing the action before batteries wear out, flimsy costumes and floats self destruct and flame jugglers run out of fuel (which of course does not detract from the insanity).

Crazed robot Boo Boo Kitty

Crazed robot Boo Boo Kitty

By now I’m sure you’re wondering what differentiates the Doo Dah from the Rose Parade; to illustrate this, let’s talk about some of the regular participants. The Doo Dah has its share of individual entries: clowns, pirates, Abe Lincoln, male ballerinas in tutus, an adult male diaper-clad Cupid, Fester Adams (complete with bubble machine and mouth-illuminated light bulbs), etc. In past years, group participants included The Bastard Sons of Lee Marvin (complete with a wheeled coffin containing a cigar smoking “Lee Marvin” skeleton); the ever-popular annual favorite Men of Leisure Drill Team (who carry pillows and do formations ending with them dropping to the ground and napping); Ferret Freedom (featuring a rideable giant ferret float); and many more. Some have to be seen to be believed – The Claude Rains Memorial Invisible Man Marching Drill Team featured a clothed, bandaged Invisible Man carrying the center of a huge banner with the gloves of 20 “invisible” men carrying the ends. My favorite, formerly an annual parade staple was The Barbeque and Hibachi Marching Drill Team, a full-out assault on the senses. The procession is usually preceded by a piloted motorized hot dog, followed by backyard grill chefs wheeling grills down Raymond Avenue while they cook. The drill team itself follows – attire usually includes empty Kingsford charcoal bags worn as chef’s hats and colorful aprons. Smoking hibachi and Weber kettle grills hang from their neck like marching toms as they grill up hot dogs while doing parade formations. As soon as the dogs are done, they are handed to roving hot dog fusiliers who stuff them into bazooka-like devices and fire the foil-wrapped wieners into the crowd. I personally witnessed some of the hot dog cannons overshooting their targets and dropping their payload on awnings and low rooftops. If the crows and Pasadena parrots don’t get them, it makes for a fragrant few weeks. Sadly, the troop did not make a showing in the 2010 parade.

The popular motorized couch

The popular motorized couch

The parade is somewhat kid friendly, but there is a risqué air to it. If you sit close to the street, there is an excellent chance you will be accosted by some of the participants and possibly dragged out to the street to participate as well. I like to think of it as if the participants of the Rose Parade couldn’t make it so the committee went to South Congress Avenue in Austin, Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, L.A.’s Venice Beach and Greenwich Village in NYC to recruit fill-ins. Similar Doo Dah parades in Ocean City, New Jersey and Columbus, Ohio have been inspired by the Pasadena original, and also are held on different days, but share the joyful insanity. The bottom line is: you will be entertained. You may even walk away with your dignity intact. If you ask Clark Griswold (the original trippy tripper), he’ll tell you you’re “gonna have so much fun you’ll need plastic surgery to remove your smiles. You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’…” Actually, he’ll phrase it slightly different, but I’ll leave that for you to look up.

The Doo Dah Parade
Pasadena, California (check the website for location)

GALLERY: See images fromthe 2008 Pasadena, California Doo Dah Parade

GALLERY: See images from the 2010 Padadena, California Doo Dah Parade

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One Response to Camptown Racers Sing This Song

  1. Jules says:

    Whoa looks awesome. And yeah, you definately PG’d Clark’s rant!

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