Typically when crowning a queen, poise and grace are considered paramount. But when crowning the queen of the Pasadena Doodah Parade- judges are looking for contestants with a certain chutzpah.
In 1978, some friends gathered in then Old Town Pasadena at local dive Chromo's and began to plan a parade in response to the Tournament of Roses. Organizer Tom Coston was among the initial founders and says the parade wasn't to mock the Tournament but rather to give a voice to the thriving artist community in Pasadena, "They wanted to go out and share their creative side and do something fun and silly, not take themselves too seriously. [We] never imagined there would be another DooDah parade. It caught fire. It got a lot of attention."
Since it's inception, Doodah has inspired dozens of sister parades across the country. Tom continues to say the parade exists to give people a break from their usual routines, "Someday called it once 'a right of reversal'. Everybody at some point in the year should do the opposite thing from what they would normally do. Like in the old days they used to say 'let your freak flag fly'."
In 1995, the Lightbringer Project inherited the parade. The nonprofit provides art classes and education for the Pasadena community, to keep the wacky alternative side of the city alive. Another popular event run by the org is the Pasadena Chalk Festival, the largest street painting festival in the world.
We attended the annual Doodah Queen Competition on October 22nd at American Legion Post 280 in Pasadena. We what discovered is there are really no rules to the competition besides the 3-minute limit to audition. Men, women, and dogs auditioned for the chance at royalty.
City council member and longtime judge of the queen tryouts Ann Erdman told us that auditions are not an opportunity to shock the audience, "The person should bring something interesting into the game other than exposing a breast- been there, done that, seen it. Just something that is unique and new that will capture the public’s heart."
A contestant by the stage name "Hillary" audition wearing a fuzzy rainbow pantsuit and Hillary Clinton mask. During their three minutes, "Hillary" danced around the stage holding up signs with politically charged messages.
This year's Doodah queen is Ruby Chard, also known as local landscaper Meg Cole. Meg was a close friend of Snotty Scotty, lead singer of the official Doodah parade band Snotty Scotty & the Hankies. Snotty Scotty, or John Scott Finnell, passed away this year and his absence was felt throughout the evening by contestants, organizers, and loyal fans.
After accepting her crown Meg tells us, "We miss Snotty Scotty. I wanted to be queen for Snotty Scotty!"
Here is a video of the latest Doodah Queen elect and Snotty Scotty outside Chromo's from 1979.
Off-Ramp encourages listeners to check out this year's Doodah parade for a much needed dose of color, music, and irreverence. And while you are there, raise a glass to art, freedom, and Snotty Scotty.
The parade steps off on November 20th, at 11am along Colorado Blvd here in Pasadena.