Published : Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | 6:24 AM
Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade has selected the Altadena pizza parlor proprietor who orchestrated a boat rescue of his grandparents amid the Woolsey Fire to lead this Sunday’s festivities as Grand Marshal.
In a nod to his bravery and innovative problem solving, the nonprofit Light Bringer Project, which is organizing the 41st Doo Dah Parade, wanted to honor Jamie Woolner, Light Bringer Project President Tom Coston said.
“We like to highlight a community hero and somebody has given a lot to the community and celebrate that. It’s maybe the one little serious life of Doo Dah that exists,” Coston said. “…the people who were the unsung heroes. They don’t get a lot of attention, and they really should. And this parade being a people’s parade, you know, it’s a chance for us to really salute their good deeds that they give us during the year.”
Woolner owns Pizza of Venice on Fair Oaks Avenue in Altadena. When the flames of the devastating Woolsey Fire descended on the neighborhood of his grandparents, who are 87 and 90 years old, he said he just had to get to them.
With roads into the area closed or impassable, Woolner hatched a plan to use a boat to reach his grandparents on Saturday.
Helped by Anthony Perez of Marina del Rey-based Nautical Tech Services, Woolner said he was soon diving from a yacht into the water off of Paradise Coast and swimming toward shore.
Woolner and his associates persuaded the grandparents to leave their endangered home, and also managed to snuff out flames burning near fuel drums at a construction site before leaving, he said. And all while barefoot and shirtless after the swim to reach the neighborhood.
“We were barefoot, stepping on thorns and embers getting burned on our feet, and it was hot,” he said.
The group then spotted burning brush near 55-gallon barrels of diesel fuel.
“We realized we really needed to put out that fire, because if the construction site caught and those barrels got hit by the fire, I can only imagine the devastation that it would have cost to the area,” he said.
They waived down a small boat, which helped take the elderly passengers from shore to the anchored yacht, according to the LAist.
“I feel really honored, actually. I’m super excited,” Woolner said. “It’s really nice to be thought of as a person worthy to be highlighted in the community, and I’m very happy that this story ended as well as it did, because I know that there are a lot of people whose stories did not have happy endings.”
“There’s a lot of heroes out there who are risking a lot more than I did, and so I feel very fortunate.”
Woolner will lead a strong contingent of lunacy at Sunday’s Doo Dah Parade, Coston said.
“We probably have about 90 different entry groups, about 1500 marchers,” he threatened. “We’re expecting several thousand people up to come watch. We imagine that there will be a tortilla or two in the air.”
Interest seems to have been increasing lately, according to Coston.
“We’re getting a lot of new entries and people that are coming into the parade that had never been in it. Usually they come to it because they’d go to a Doo Dah and they say, ‘I could do that,’” he said.
“And then they come up with whatever routine or whatever it is that’s funny in their living room. They bring it out to the street and sometimes it’s funny on the streets, sometimes nobody knows what they’re doing, but it’s still interesting,” Coston said.
“Because that’s the whole point, you know. It’s a stage for people to do whatever they want. If they want to be political pundits… or they want to be a performance artist or whatever.”
One new entry is titled, “Rocket Boy,” Light Bringer Managing Director Patty Hurley said. “So we’re curious what that will be.”
“I got a call from the ‘Clown Doctors of Outer Space.’ I have no idea who’s showing up. But it sounds like something that haunts the back of a lot of people’s nightmares.” Coston added.
“We have ‘Mr Claw.’ We have no idea what that is,” he said.
“He’s a robot,” Hurley interjected.
“Oh really? Oh yeah, of course. He’s a robot,” Coston said.
The always irreverent and twisted stream of consciousness brought to life that calls itself the Doo Dah Parade will strut its one-of-a-kind brand of artistically inspired insanity in East Pasadena starting at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Decent, serious-minded folks will want to avoid the area of Colorado Boulevard, between Altadena Drive and San Gabriel Boulevard.
For those unable to avoid the path of the unrepentant nonsense, a word to the wise: The ballistic properties of corn tortillas are far superior to those of flour tortillas.
More information is available online at pasadenadoodahparade.info.
“What we can do together, no one of us can do alone.”
Leigh Adams sits on her story tree and looks up at the branches. They extend this way and that, and intertwine like arms hugging. Her purple hair catches the light, as she points at the bark, "See the smiling faces?" she asks me.
Leigh has been the Artist-in-Residence and an Interpretive Horticulturalist at the Arboretum for the past ten years. She is a mosaic artist, activist, water harvester, educator, storyteller, longtime Altadena resident and all-around lovely soul. I feel very luck to have spent an afternoon talking and strolling with her through the gardens of the Arboretum--Leigh's home away from home.
"Magic realism is a huge part of my life," said Leigh, as we walked the grounds. This magic can be found in Leigh's spirit. She buzzes with a warm electricity that brings you in and leaves you feeling open. It can also be found in her gardens. They are fertile and inviting places, places where you can set aside your daily burdens and daydream.
One of which is the Crescent Farm at the Arboretum. The farm is Leigh's brainchild; it has continued to grow and be enhanced by the help of the community and the consistent TLC of John Latsko, an Interpretive Horticulturalist at the Arboretum and, as Leigh puts it, "the best garden husband I could ask for."
At the entrance to the Crescent Farm, stands a mosaic mural that children like to trace with their fingers. Artists from Skid Row were commissioned to create it. For many years, Leigh has taught for and worked closely with Piece by Piece, a nonprofit organization that provides free mosaic art workshops to low income and formerly homeless populations.
Leigh incorporates mosaic into all of her gardens and continues to host free mosaic workshops, as well as gardening workshops at the Crescent Farm. Participants learn the process behind habitat gardening--working with the land instead of against it--and water harvesting, or water optimization, a key part of Leigh's gardening practice.
Water harvesting captures rainwater and water runoff, and uses it in lieu of unnatural irrigation systems. Leigh has helped to expand the public's knowledge of water harvesting, and is at the helm of the urban sustainable agriculture movement because of it.
"If you master the process, you can have any product you want," Leigh said about her work in the garden, the studio, and the classroom. For decades, her work as a teaching artist has taken her into schools through out Los Angeles and Pasadena. She stresses the power of collaboration to her students and "do[ing] what you believe in and see[ing] what comes of it."
Leigh's upcoming project will be working with Metabolic Studios to implement water-cleansing processes for the LA River. She is exploring the possibilities of ancient weaving with willow, a natural cleanser that belongs in the river. We look forward to seeing the ripples she creates!
More information about the fabulous Leigh Adams can be found on her website.
5/19 & 20 LitFest Pasadena in the Playhouse District - Free
5/20 2-4pm Expressing Feeling Through Art - Art Center South Campus - about EFTA
6/16 & 6/17 Pasadena Chalk Festival - The Paseo - Free
11/18 11-3pm 41st Occasional Pasadena Doo Dah Parade