West Michigan Mensa's Float in the Do-Dah Parade

Kalamazoo, Michigan; Saturday, June 7, 2008


Perhaps ten years ago at a Mensa breakfast in Kalamazoo , Barbara Ciuffa shared the secret wish that Mensa could participate in Kalamazoo’s Do-Dah parade. For several months the group brainstormed ideas. At that time Frank Goodrich said we should have a pole with a high I and Q because we are the high IQ society. Regrettably, Frank did not live long enough to see his idea come to fruition, but Barbara endured to see Western Michigan Mensa participating in the annual Kalamazoo Do-Dah Parade the first Saturday of June in 2008 with a high I and Q rising above the float.

Around February of this year, Terry Smith brought the old topic up once again. He broached the topic of the Do-Dah Parade with his usual cutting humor as the conversations around the Kalamazoo table are always lively and full of all types of humor and camaraderie. However, no one, including Barb, really thought we would do this parade until a newcomer, Karen Wellman, from Grand Rapids/Holland/Saugatuck said, “I’ll plan it. I think planning something like that is my kind of fun!”

Project ChairPerson Karen Wellman discussing details of the parade with Sue

So that is how it all began around the Mensa table. The Mensa logo is actually a table symbolic of our gatherings, and it seems appropriate that this is where it began. Terry’s original notes encompassed a 3 day event, but Arlie Bennett, our wise mother Mensan, suggested that we might want to start with just one day. We all agreed. (That’s a feat around the Mensa table.) Immediately, Marcee Schwenter volunteered to create the costumes. Marcee has quite a history as a costume designer, but that’s a whole other story. We were lucky to have her talent and time. Then another volunteer stepped forth at our Mensa table. Sue Nelli's support was invaluable and unflagging. Marcee came up with the idea of wise owl costumes and Sue and Karen worked with Marcee on her assembly line creating owl wings from paperbags and feathers of materials strips along with some pretty wild swimming goggles designed to look like large owl eyes and a beak. The costume was a HOOT. So Marcee made up a saying to go along with our theme, “Whoo, whoo. High IQ.” At one time there was even a little dance to go along with it, but that got lost in the flurry of the day when the parade began.

Our first problem was finding a trailer to build the float on. Karen checked all around but could not find one to rent. Dave Stapel read the piece in Nova about the Do Dah Parade and was able to borrow a 16 foot long trailer from Mike Jones, a friend of his in Muskegon. It wasn't in such good shape so they worked a good chunk of Memorial Day Weekend fixing it up.

The state of our trailer before rehab

Mike & Klaud build new sides for the trailer

Dave catches a little sun while painting the new sides

Mike & Klaud making repairs to the trailer

A coat of new paint

Dave's truck could have fit inside the trailer!

The 16 foot trailer being pulled by Dave's little red Sonoma on the way to Kalamazoo. To pull such a big trailer, Dave installed air shocks on his pickup truck.

We really did create a float in one weekend. Karen gathered many supplies for the float creation, and Dave Stapel from Grand Rapids delivered the trailer, which he had borrowed from a friend in Muskegon. The work crew arrived Saturday at noon just one week prior to the parade. Ed Sichterman and Seth Kramer immediately began wrapping the edge of the trailer in black plastic sheeting which was later covered with silver and gold metallic edging. Arlie’s donation of a super, handgun stapler proved to be invaluable. Next, the same sheeting covered Terry Smith’s blackboard which served as the center prop for the sign which read, “Mensa…the high IQ society. Sara Youngman showed up with her tool kit and encouragement to help put the float together. We sat the furniture on our stage and purchased the final materials needed for the signage which Karen and Sue completed the next day, By Sunday evening at 9PM, the boxes were packed with supplies to be loaded early the Saturday morning of the parade and the 16’ trailer sat in the driveway sparkling in the ending sunlight of a very productive weekend.

We all knew that we were actually making Barbara’s wish a reality. In the process, we had a lot of fun and got to know each other away from the table. We pulled together to present a funny, whimsical float that also brought an educational message to the crowd. Mensa… the high IQ society. We discussed the pros and cons of entering the parade: we didn’t want to brag, and we knew we could face criticism founded in prejudices and jealousies. So there was even a tinge of bravery in what we were about to accomplish. We brought a message to Kalamazoo: Mensa… the high IQ society. Our hope is that this will grow from 17 participants. Our hope is to have a weekend Mensa event with participants from neighboring groups. It’s a great idea, we had fun, we did good.

One of our local Mensa volunteers taking a break in a secret undisclosed location


Last minute preparations on parade day


More photos of our dedicated Mensans

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More photos will be posted shortly!