Off the Cuff: Laura Dahle, Big Parade organizer

In anticipation of more warm weather and signs of spring, the Review sat down with Laura Dahle to discuss her role in The Big Parade, scheduled this year for May 4.

Rosemary Boeglin, News Editor

When did you first become involved in the Big Parade?

In the beginning, when it started in 2002, I was participating and then I became full time when I wasn’t working as much, and now I’m retired; so it’s been around for about 10 years.

What inspired you to work on the Parade?

The giant elephant [sculpture]; it’s so amazing, so ominous and so spiritual, I guess you would say.

So, how exactly did you get involved then?

I just like puppets that come alive, you know. It’s like I’ve always been involved. There’s this other parade in Cleveland called the Parade of the Circle, another amazing community production … but we like to keep it grassroots-y.

[The Big Parade] is awesome because people get involved, like the fracking groups or OSCA groups. … I love that. We’re trying to get more people involved in helping us do this box. [Referencing a giant Rubik’s Cube structure that she worked on throughout the interview.]

What did you do before you worked on the Big Parade?

I worked in the beauty industry. More avant-garde beauty salon, hair industry. My husband moved here because his family was here. We’re from the West Coast area.

How does your experience working in the avant-garde beauty industry relate to your work on the floats for the Parade?

Oh God … Stop! [Points at tape recorder; continues.] Aesthetics, you know. My mother was a piano teacher and my brothers were all artistically inclined, it’s just kind of in my blood and I enjoy it. But I don’t like the part where I can’t figure out how to do things.

Zach Moser, who started the Big Parade, said he intended it to serve as an experiment in the human need for creative expression, and that it challenged or explored theory related to organizing. Is this still the purpose of the Big Parade?

In a sense you try to do things for yourself and try to create things. We supply a great space for people to come and build things, but we also like to encourage that you do it yourself too. That you figure it out, work it out, conceptualize it and sometimes that takes time, and sometimes it’s a little stressful when you have homework to do. But then … it’s the last two weeks. It’s wild. … Something about working at the last minute really helps. You don’t worry about a beginning, middle and an end. It’s just like ‘Oh, here it is!’ You just do it.

So you help the students conceptualize their float and execute it?

Actually the parade helps people to learn skills of all kinds, like organization, management, learning how to run a drill.

So when you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Oh God … see, my father used to make fun little toys for us. We used to just love the things that he would come up with; they were very inventive. And I kind of took that on. You know, he’d sit at the table and putter. So I’d pick up some putter … And I was making little parades when I was like six years old because I used to baby-sit these kids and there’d be a little parade.

So what challenges do you face in trying to plan the parade?

The biggest thing is when we [ finish], we have to clean this all up. Commencement’s right around the corner and if you don’t do it within that week window, with reading period and exams coming up and pressure [on students] that [they] need to go and find a job.

Yeah, there’s obstacles that come up but every year it gets easier. We try to keep it going all year round; I try to encourage them to start their things as early as possible because then they don’t have to worry about it when it comes to the end.

Economically, there’s been a challenge to do arts in the community because of stressful times or whatever. And you don’t want to put it all on the way the world is, because you just buck up and you do it if you really like to do it.

I do like that people do come together, and the hardest part is that there’s so much going on in this town. There’s a lot of activity.

Other than the parade, what else do you spend your time doing?

God, you’re asking awful questions. We like to go to Black River. We like the dinners there. We like it when there are good cooks there because my husband used to cook in San Francisco as a chef. We like when we can get together with friends. Oberlin’s a place where there’s really a lot to do here.

What types of things are you referring to?

You could just go to the airport and go to New York, you could go to Dillon in Akron; there’s culture all around, even though Cleveland has that bad rep. And it was nice to have the film festival here. I think that was great to see Calvin and Hobbes; I totally relate to Calvin and Hobbes.

I want to be left alone, so you have to go now so I can work! … No, I’m just kidding.

Okay; well, I’m sorry you think I asked awful questions.

No, no, no, no. I’m just not one for interviews. You wouldn’t want to be interviewed, now would you?