There's no place like Doo Dah
World's wackiest parade gets comfy in its new East Pasadena home
By Carl Kozlowski 04/26/2012
Take hundreds of the Pasadena area’s most eccentric and fun-loving residents riding dozens of uniquely whimsical floats of their own creation, add a parade queen who calls herself Patrizzia Intergalactica and mix in freshly retired and fun-loving former city public information officer Ann Erdman as grand marshal, and you’ve got the recipe for fun at this Saturday’s 35th Occasional Doo Dah Parade.
Now all that’s missing is for fans to line up by the thousands along the East Pasadena parade route in pursuit of the laughs and libations that make this the Crown City’s most unusual day of the year.
According to Tom Coston, who organizes the parade each year with Patricia Hurley under the aegis of the Light Bringer Project, the parade’s move from Old Pasadena to the city’s long-neglected east side in 2010 has paid off on several levels. After an intentional pull-back in promotion the last two years, he has been revving up his promotional machine and expects this year to see a growth spurt that, in years to come, should restore the parade to its glory days of 40,000 attendees.
“I think there was a really high energy at the Doo Dah Queen tryouts,” says Coston of the April 1 contest. “People seem really excited, and the energy is really building for the event out there. I think that moving to a lesser-known neighborhood gave it a more local feel. Everyone’s in real arm’s length of each other and feels connected and less stagy. It’s just everybody having fun.”
Coston notes that he down-scaled his promotional efforts for the parade after the move in 2010, because “we didn’t want to overwhelm the area and made sure there was parking, so it didn’t hurt the businesses along the route.” Now that neighborhood merchants have come to terms with the good-natured madness, however, Coston believes there’s no way to keep attendance low, since “you can’t turn people away from a public event.”
Answering emailed questions from her vacation stop in Lebanon, Mo., former city PIO Ann Erdman offered her thoughts on the upcoming pageantry. This is hardly her first time in the Pasadena spotlight, having previously ridden on a float in this year’s Rose Parade. But her grand marshal status at the Doo Dah has given her something to think about.
“What I most look forward to is being at the true heart of the iconic event,” writes Erdman with her trademark good cheer. “This has been my year for parades: riding on a float in the Rose Parade and now serving as grand marshal of the Doo Dah Parade. Tom Coston says that’s unprecedented. He would know, I suppose!””
Asked for her own favorite memories of the Doo Dah Parade, Erdman notes that she rode on “the Doo Dah pace car for several years” — a vehicle that ranged from “a 14-foot-tall high chair to a motorized Radio Flyer red wagon to giant flower cart.” And she points out that Coston and Hurley always put her in a costume that was kept a complete surprise until her arrival.
“One year, they provided an Elvis suit with all the full regalia, including the wig and sunglasses, and I rode atop the back seat of a vintage Cadillac Eldorado convertible,” writes Erdman. “After the parade, Patty couldn’t find her keys for the office so I could change back to normal clothes, so we went to dinner at Russell’s [restaurant] with me still dressed as The King! I finally called it quits with the pace car, though, because I never got to see the parade. For the past four years or so, I’ve sat with Tom at the reviewing stand, which really is a couple of decorated tables with a lot of booze and candy.” n
The 35th Occasional Doo Dah Parade will start at 11 a.m. Saturday and run along Colorado Boulevard between Altadena Drive and San Gabriel Boulevard in Pasadena. Admission is free. Call (626)590-7596 or visit pasadenadoodahparade.info.