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The Greatest Showoffs On Earth!
Flu, flies and funny hats helped '09 Doo Dah Parade march into new era
By Dennis Fiely
August 2009 Issue

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Strangest case of swine flu yet! Photo/Kaizaad Kotwal

Disorganizers are basking in the afterglow of last month’s 26th annual Doo Dah Parade staged after months of hard planning and drinking at their Short North Tavern headquarters. “I think this was our best parade ever,” said travel agent Deb Roberts, otherwise known as Mz. Doo Dah, Doo Dah Queen and Chair Chick.

Parade-watchers lined High Street two and three deep, packed the bars and hosted catered parties along the parade route. Mz. Doo Dah counted visitors from a dozen states and one foreign country (Germany). “We’re international, baby,” she said.

Founder Gregory Carr cited a harmonic convergence for this year’s outpouring. “The weather was beautiful and the date just happened to fall on a Gallery Hop Saturday,” he said. As a consequence, the parade turned out to be “the greatest event in the history of Western civilization,” Carr proclaimed.

Through an amplified megaphone, Carr and unofficial starter Joe Theibert greeted the crowd with clever one-liners such as, “Welcome to the 2009 Doo Dah Parade,” as they sat in their golf cart escorting a motley crew of marchers.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Flies (PETF) spoofed President Obama’s cruel and unusual nationally televised fly swat; a man modeled a regal robe made entirely out of Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey wrappers; and a hospital-gowned Swine Flu Brigade sprouted pig snouts from their exposure to the virus.

In an historic Doo Dah first, a REAL CUBAN GUY led The Marching Fidels. Best-costumed robotic alien Optimus Prime from The Transformers joined Batman to tickle the fancy of youngsters, although Batman seemed more interested in French-kissing female bystanders. In an act of restitution, Bernie Madoff smothered the masses with chocolate “gold coins.”

The entrants abided by Theibert’s annual forewarning “not to do anything that would embarrass your families, like appearing naked.”

The politics were surprisingly tame. The Swing Voters simply sashaying to music defined brazen in ’09. Blame it on Obama whose election left the left wanting for an easy target. It didn’t have Bush to kick around anymore (although a few shoes were tossed in his direction by a group commemorating an Iraqi press conference incident). “The satire wasn’t as sarcastic as it was in the past, it didn’t have an edge,” Carr conceded. “Had McCain and Palin been elected, I think the tone would have been different.”

The parade, in fact, tipped a funny hat to government service by showcasing the City’s Snow Warriors and Refuse Wranglers as this year’s Less Than Grand Marshals. To mark the occasion, the honorees parked their trucks to ride in style in a Cadillac. “They are the true unsung heroes of Columbus,” Roberts said.

Doo Dah celebrates freedom with lunacy, but this year’s parade flirted with legitimacy. It received a grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council, ranking it right up there with Ballet Met and Opera Columbus in terms of high culture. The IRS bestowed its blessing in May when it awarded not-for-profit status to the disorganizers, rendering parade donations tax-deductible. But Mz. Doo Dah vowed that the parade would retain its air of spontaneity and irreverence. “There is not going to be any change in ambience,” she said. “That is sacred!”

Nevertheless, Roberts anticipates a more secure future with its 501(c)3 designation. The first parade in 1983 cost $272.00, Carr said. Now the cost runs close to $20,000 for permits, insurance, security, cleanup, promotion and materials. Roberts noted that the tax exemption already has paid off with an in-kind donation from Columbus Fireproof for storage. “Now we have someplace to keep our rubber chickens and American flags made in China,” she said.

© 2009 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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