Pasadena has played yearly host to the most-watched parade in America every New Year’s Day since 1890, but another procession weeks before the Rose Parade arouses just as much passion in local residents.
The Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade rolled through East Pasadena Sunday, bringing zany satire to the Crown City, as it has done for 40 years.
The Grand Marshall this year was local activist Marty Coleman, while LGBTQ performer Imani Pheonix served as Queen of the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade. With over 90 participants marching, the parade carried itself with a slight political tone, as satirists and earnest demonstrators alike marched in favor of human rights, against government surveillance and drunk driving, and everything between.
The Doo Dah Parade was conceived by founders Peter Apanel and Ted Wright in 1978 as an “anti-Rose Parade,” according to Parade Organizer Patricia Hurley. While the Rose Parade features corporate sponsors, and has been called “America’s New Year Celebration,” the Doo Dah Parade instead showcases local personalities, and often mocks the commercial atmosphere of the Rose Parade.
The Doo Dah Parade has even spawned a few copy-cats, in Columbus, Ohio, Ocean City, New Jersey, and Kalamazoo, Michigan. With a stage like this, it’s little wonder that many participants used the opportunity to demonstrate for a political cause.
Terry De Wolfe, with activist org Health Care for All, said that the parade provided a perfect opportunity to draw attention to Senate Bill 562. Sponsored by State Sens. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), the bill would have established a single-payer healthcare system in California. However, it was shelved by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) earlier this year.
Health Care for All has marched at the Doo Dah Parade for two years now, and De Wolfe said they’ll keep coming back to raise awareness for single-payer health care systems.
Hurley, who has worked the parade for 20 years, said that the parade has always had a slight political slant. One of the participants in the first parade was anti-war satirist General Hershy Bar.
But Hurley has also noted an uptick in participation since the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
“We had almost twice the audience this year [as opposed to previous years],” Hurley said. “I think people are so in need of laughter, and a chance to think about something else.”
However, not every participant in the parade is pushing a political angle. At first blush, the Flying Baby Homerun Border Crossing float might seem like a pointed criticism of Trump’s Mexican border wall proposal, but Nathan Cambridge, High Priest of Beanpole, the God of Pointless Behavior, said this is not the case.
His organization, the Flying Baby Circus, has participated in the parade for the past 10 years, and each year they launch babies (or rather, baby doll toys) into the air in a different manner. This year, they did it with baseball bats, and tried to clear a fence which Cambridge said was meant to represent the border between East and West Berlin.
“There’s really no point to it,” Cambridge said with a laugh. “It’s really all about the babies.”
But Hurley says that no matter the whether or not there’s a point, the Doo Dah Parade will continue to give Pasadena “one day of reversal,” where residents and visitors alike can let their freak flag fly.