"It's all perspective:" thousands gather for annual Doo Dah satire parade

·4 min read

A convoy of ghostbusters. Cars covered top to bottom in wine corks or figurines. A troupe of Betty White impersonators.

Thousands of spectators and participants gathered Monday in the Short North for the annual Doo Dah Parade, which offers an eclectic and irreverent satire experience "at its worst."

The parade is not your average Independence Day celebration — marchers arrive as superheroes, political advocates, satirists, and other "bohemian frolickers," as organizers describe them. The parade loops around the Short North and ends at Goodale Park, which is also the staging area, for a block party.

Chip Johnson, of Blacklick, asks "what chip shortage?" as his Ford Bronco was covered in bags of Lay's potato chips. Johnson ordered the SUV back in August 2021, but a microchip shortage meant the vehicle sat in a lot all winter and he didn't actually receive it until three weeks before the parade.

Dressed as Uncle Sam, Keith Dufrane of Grandview rides his monowheel along 2nd Avenue during the Doo Dah Parade on Monday. The parade is steeped in satire and is a Columbus Independence Day tradition.
Dressed as Uncle Sam, Keith Dufrane of Grandview rides his monowheel along 2nd Avenue during the Doo Dah Parade on Monday. The parade is steeped in satire and is a Columbus Independence Day tradition.

"There are obviously chips," Johnson said, gesturing to the potato chips covering his car. "There are plenty of chips."

Other displays poked fun at high gas prices, including a car that was "pulled" by two bicycles and a man in a hockey mask demanding spectators hand over their oil to him.

Paula the dog barks as ladies from TD Wellness proclaim that "A woman's place is in the gym," during the Doo Dah Parade through the Short North and Victorian Village on Monday. The parade is steeped in satire and is a Columbus Independence Day tradition.
Paula the dog barks as ladies from TD Wellness proclaim that "A woman's place is in the gym," during the Doo Dah Parade through the Short North and Victorian Village on Monday. The parade is steeped in satire and is a Columbus Independence Day tradition.

Even the spectators get creative. Many along the route dressed in costume or held signs.

Michael Lord, 41, of Short North, and the guests at his W. 2nd Street house watched the parade in style, lounging on the sidewalk in an inflatable pool. Every year, Lord said, he and his friends gather for poolside parade watching.

"It's the only way to watch the parade," said friend Brian Hoppe, also of Short North. "Sitting in the pool and watching the best parade in the country."

The parade, in its 39th year, has no formal registration and no rules to speak of (save for restrictions on political advertising).

Last year, a major theme among participants was the COVID-19 pandemic. "Mz Doo Dah" and parade "disorganizer" Deb Roberts said this year, people are ready to address other issues, such as the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to repeal Roe v. Wade.

“People beat on the plague enough last year," said. "They are ready to move on and get to real serious politics about our bodies and how they're taking our rights away.

One car, which was cheered by spectators along the route, carried an effigy of a judge behind it on a rope, with a message on the top of the car saying the recent decision decision was "a drag" on human rights.

Tom House, 70, the designer of the display, said that it was clear "people in the parade agreed with the sentiment."

"They're trying to drag women back into the 1950s — let's drag them into 2022," House said.

Teresa Dendy, 59, of downtown Columbus, was taking her "toaster car" in the parade, with toast on top and a message that promised "Ride Available for out-of-state Camping," which she said was a euphemism for abortion access.

"I like people to smile and have fun, and I hope the toast on top of my car does that, but I want them to think about current issues," Dendy said. "Because (the court ruling) is very important and the first step at removing civil liberties in our nation.

Frank Juodvalkis, 79, of the East Side said attending the Doo Dah parade was a tradition for him. He said he was looking forward to commentary on the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I bet you can guess my political leanings," Juodvalkis said. "Pick someone, make fun of someone, you know — satire."

He said he has attended for many years, including marching in the parade one year with others as mock conspiracy theorists. He said in recent years, he thinks the parade has veered away from satire, becoming more "politically correct."

Liz Maldon, of Columbus, said while she had not attended the parade since the pandemic, she was excited to attend again because "it's different and not your typical parade, and it's kind of patriotic.

"I think it's gotten a little political," Maldon said. "It should represent both sides, sometimes it skews one way then the next time they skew another way."

Roberts said that each Doo Dah parade allows people to express themselves on the issues that are important that year, constantly bringing new material and commentary to the parade.

“I think every year there is stuff that makes people upset about politics, the trend changes so the heat of political satire will still be there,” Roberts said. “It’s about current affairs, there can't be anybody that agrees with all the current affairs in life.”

Roberts added that the humor of the parade is about perspective.

"It's not all the same, there's so many different kinds of humor,” Roberts said. “What's not funny to you might be hilarious to the guys sitting next to you — it's all perspective.”

Cole Behrens is a reporter at The Columbus Dispatch covering public safety and breaking news. You can reach him at CBehrens@dispatch.com or find him on Twitter at 

@Colebehr_report

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Doo Dah parade enters 39th year of irreverent satire