Deb Rogers has a conundrum: The “Chair Chick” (her official title) doesn’t know whether to market this year’s Doo Dah Parade as the test run for Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade or as the only parade being staged in Columbus, Ohio this entire year.
In the end, she chooses a direct approach. “Please, somebody watch!” she says.
The COVID-19 pandemic postponed the event for humorists and satirists from its traditional July Fourth spot to this Saturday, Sept. 19. It also provided the perfect theme for the renegade parade: “Pandemic at the Disco.”
Among those who will dress in disco attire will be the parade’s grand marshals—despite the fact that one wasn’t even alive during that era and the other was in her 40s and only ever went square dancing.
Brad Ryan, 39, and his grandma Joy Ryan, 90, are on a mission to visit all the National Parks in the United States. They only have those in Alaska and American Samoa remaining.
“We’re going to have our Studio 54 fantasies fulfilled,” Brad, a veterinarian who is currently seeking to publish a book about his adventures, told (614) Media. “We’ve been in every corner of America, and we’ve done a lot of different things along the way, but we’ve never been grand marshals in a parade.”
“I’ve never even heard of it until Brad popped out with this,” Joy conceded.
However, for both the Ryan family members this weekend is important.
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“To have a sense of levity right now? I mean, honestly, this has been the heaviest year of my life. I think for all of us the world is inside out and upside down,” Brad said. “My Grandma Joy and I got to spend all this time together on the road. We were in close proximity for 40,000 miles, and now it’s been seven months since the last time I hugged her. We need to laugh, we need to smile, and I think we need to find those sources of joy wherever we can right now.”
Joy admits she will be especially glad to see other people.
“I’ve been shut up in my house since—March 17th, Brad put me in there…”
Brad at this point laughed and felt a need to protest. “I did not lock her in!”
“Nobody’s been in my house except the plumber,” Joy continued undeterred.
Though their goal may be to experience some human connection, there will be some limits to that, as Doo Dah parade participants are going to be traveling their route in cars. There will be no marchers this year, and to ensure people watch the event online instead of in-person, the parade will be speeding by at an impressive 15-25 mph clip.
It’s more of a Zippity Doo Dah parade this year.
“We just hope Grandma Joy’s wig stays on,” Brad said.
Added Joy, “I’m going to bring a bandana just in case.”
There is one other advantage of being in cars–Roberts was able to add miles to their route and to reverse it. It seemed an appropriate gesture for 2020, although Roberts gives another reason.
“The [Marching] Fidels threatened to take me to Cuba, never to be seen again, if I made them walk up the Buttles Ave. hill,” she explained.
With everyone being in cars (not to mention the Fidels dropping out of the event after Castro’s death) they are now able to take that hill. They just hope it helps people climb the mountain of challenges that this year has become.
“People need it. They need the humor. They need the art. They need some human contact, too,” Roberts said.
The parade starts at 1 p.m. Saturday.
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