May 6, 2012 in City

LaLa’s legacy fits Bloomsday to a T

Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

LaLa Gerber stands with a T-shirt-clad running figure among David Govedare’s running statues in Riverfront Park. Every year Gerber dresses the statues in finisher T-shirts from past years, sometimes with Govedare’s assistance.
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I started working for St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores in 1995.

A year later, St. Vincent opened a branch at Howard and Riverside, and I was transferred there to create window displays.

I was downtown during the lead-up to Bloomsday and got caught up in the excitement. Because of my experience dressing lifeless objects, I thought it would be cool to dress the runner statues in Riverfront Park in T-shirts from previous Bloomsdays. That way, people walking past might see a shirt that recalled a memory.

So I got permission to save all the donated Bloomsday shirts. And in 1997, a friend and I went to Riverfront Park and dressed the runners. Afterward we hurried off, worried our efforts might be considered vandalism.

Later that day, I went back to show my sister, and it was amazing! People were walking through the sculpture like it was a museum, admiring the T-shirts and talking about Bloomsdays they’d run, the shirts they still had, or ones they’d lost. I felt proud.

So I did it again the next year – a little less worried about being arrested. This time, people driving by honked and yelled “great job” and “keep it up.”

The tradition has continued every year. When all the St. Vincent stores closed in 2006, I bought the remaining Bloomsday T-shirts.

It’s still an amazing feeling. People tell me they come to see the shirts every year, and bring their kids.

I plan to do it as long as I have T-shirts. I’m down to one box, but I have a Facebook page asking people to donate their unwanted shirts, and every so often I get a bagful.

LaLa Gerber

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