Snow or sunshine, Dale Price was outside his house every morning, waving at his son on the bus every day of the school year, but he waved with a little more flair than most parents.
Anakin. Legolas. Wonder Woman. Death Eater. Mario. Tinkerbell. Price has taken on many identities over the past year and a half.
An American Fork resident, husband, and dad of three, Price has attracted all sorts of attention. From his wife’s blog to the local newspapers, to appearing on “Good Morning America” and to having an iPhone app dedicated to his costumes, he has created quite a stir in the media —and at home.
On his son’s second day of high school, Price waved goodbye from the front porch of the house. And if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, he did it in costume. That was the beginning of a morning ritual that continued for the 170 days his son went to school.
His dress-up streak started during the 2010 to 2011 school year when the bus changed its route and started driving by the Price’s home.
“My wife came in the house the first day of school and told me the bus is driving by our house,” he said. “We knew our son was on it, so both of us went out there and waved at him as he drove by.”
He said at the end of that first day, their son, Rain, asked his mom to not let that happen again.
“I overheard them from the hallway,” Price said. “So the next morning I woke up and put on a San Diego Chargers jersey and a helmet and went outside. That’s how it all started.”
Price’s wife, Rochelle, said she started documenting her husband’s costumes on the third day of school.
“When he left on the third day and was wearing the Anakin Skywalker helmet, I thought it was pretty funny so I went and took a picture of it,” she said. “When I posted the picture of him leaving all dressed up, everybody had a pretty good laugh at that. After a couple of days, my sisters encouraged me to start a blog.”
Rochelle said by documenting his daily escapades on her blog, “Wave at the Bus”, she encouraged her husband to continue the morning tradition.
“I gave him a little encouragement and he took it in a big way like he does everything else,” she said.
Dale said in the beginning, his costumes were pretty basic.
“Near the end though, about half way through the year they started taking on a life of their own,” he said.
Dale said even though it was hard to come up with a different way to dress each day he made a rule to never repeat a costume.
“Repeating was totally against the rules,” he said. “I could be different costumes of the same thing, like I have two or three different versions of clowns — one is a juggling clown, one is a balloon clown, but they’re all different outfits. My rule is to never reuse them and to make it an original-looking outfit.”
At first, he used old costumes and his kids’ discarded dress-up clothes.
“Any family with kids has a dress-up box with parts and pieces of knights and pirates,” he said. “I used a lot of old Halloween costumes that my kids have worn over the years, especially in the beginning.”
Determined to never repeat, Dale started borrowing costumes from neighbors and friends when the family stockpile got low.
“When I got really desperate, I asked all my neighbors at church if they had any old costumes and they started bringing all sorts of things and lending them to me,” he said. “So they really helped me get through the end of the year.”
Dale said his neighbors and friends are entertained by his actions.
“We’ve received many comments from parents that their kids would ride the bus specifically to see me doing that every day,” he said. “It got them out of the door and got them to school on time.”
Sure, other people’s kids thought Dale was funny, but what about his own children?
Rain Price, a junior at American Fork High School, said the first time his dad dressed up, he was mortified.
“It was shocking,” Rain said. “Especially as a sophomore. It was my first year at high school and so it was the first year I had ever ridden a bus and my first year at that school. It was a whole new experience and my goal was mainly to fit in and to not be noticed for a while. And then I hop on the bus and I see my dad out there waving at me and I was just mortified as a high school student trying to fit in the first day.”
Rochelle said her husband’s behavior was no surprise to her.
“He’s kind of a teaser,” she said. “It really is just typical Dale.”
Dale said he started dressing up as a way to connect with his teenage son.
“In the beginning, it was to connect with him [Rain],” he said. “He was at that age where parents and kids really start to drift apart and so it was a way to sort of be a part of his life right then as he was going to high school. I did it to show him I supported him. I’d wake up at the same time and go out there in the cold and in the snow if it would make his day a little bit brighter.”
Dale said he wanted to teach his son the importance of humor.
“I want to teach him to not take himself so seriously and to remember to laugh at yourself, because life is really hard without that,” he said.
Rain said after months and months, he finally accepted his dad and his costumes.
“Although it still never settles in when I see my dad in a shell bra or a short skirt,” he said. “I can never get used to that.”
Despite his dad’s shocking and slightly embarrassing behavior, he knows his intentions are good.
“It’s his way of showing his love,” Rain said. “He doesn’t have a reason to punish me, especially like that. So the only reason I can think of is it’s his unique way of showing his love for me.”
Rain said all the ups and downs of the waving at the bus adventure has strengthened his relationship with his dad.
“It has only helped,” he said. “We are a lot closer from it. We were flown to New York to be on ‘Good Morning America’ and through that we were able to come closer. And him waving at me and supporting me every morning, it’s done nothing but help our relationship.”
Dale said although he started dressing up to connect with his teenage son, his adventure brought the whole family closer together.
“I may have gone out there in the costumes, but it was an entire family type of activity,” he said. “Rain was on the bus, my wife is the one who posts pictures and who got the whole blog started. I have a 7 year old, and he likes helping me get ready with the costumes. It has given us something to do together, to look forward to together.”
Rochelle said she likes what the morning ritual has done for her family.
“I thought it was a cool way to make sure everyone is up and at ‘em in the morning when our son leaves,”she said.
It took some time, but eventually, Rain accepted his dad’s behavior.
“He was fine with it about halfway through the year and we would critique things together,” Dale said. “I would ask what he thought and he’d say, ‘Oh dad, that was really cool, that was fun.’ Then I’d ask him about another one and he’d say, ‘Dad, don’t wear a miniskirt again.'”
Dale’s favorite costumes were the ones that took a little more effort.
“I really like the toilet one because it was an elaborate set up,” he said. “It wasn’t just throw something on and run out the door. I also like the headsman one, where I’m a guy who chops people’s heads off, but I don’t know if that goes over real well with some people.”
Rain said although he does have a couple of favorite costumes, his “least favorites” list is a lot longer.
“He has dressed up like Ariel, The Little Mermaid and too many things that he shouldn’t be able to fit into, but he somehow manages it,” he said. “Those always top my list of memorable ones.”
Because the bus route changed again this school year, Dale Price cut back his performances to once a week.
“Now we do it every Monday,” he said. “The bus doesn’t come down our street like it did anymore and to get on it, he [Rain] has to walk much farther to an earlier stop. He’s willing to walk farther one day a week so I can keep doing it.”
Dale Price said it’s a lot easier to come up with something to wear now that he has a week to do it.
“Still, that’s like 36-37 costumes – that’s a lot,” he said. “But it’s a lot better than 170.”