The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has its giant inflatable Underdog balloon, the Rose Parade in Pasadena has its royal court, Mardis Gras has its beads and … well, you know.
In Davenport, the Bix run has a stalwart entrant that delights crowds and celebrates the community’s relationship with Chiropractic. The Palmer Spine has been a mainstay of the seven-mile run for nearly twenty years. Twenty-five hearty volunteers wear the giant vertebrae (7 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar and one sacrum) and others walk along to help out.
It’s a traditional entry that traces its roots back to the 1950’s when young Palmer students would participate in local parades and other events. But in all the years the 54-foot spine has served as the backbone of the Bix 7 costumed contingent, no one has had the nerve to conduct a one-on-one interview with it.
Until now …
Mississippi Valley Health News Online sat down with the spine – or at least the brains behind the spine, Julie Johnson, D.C. (officially referred to as the “Queen of the Spine”) – to learn more about it.
MVHNews: I can’t help but notice you’re a little “large-boned.” If you were a spine in an actual human body, how big would you be?
PCC Spine: “I am 54 feet from my atlas (the first bone at the top) to my sacrum (the tailbone) without factoring in the vital disc spaces between each of my vertebrae. With my discs, that provide the cushion I need for the best function and mobility, I would estimate my stature to be approximately 65 feet.
So if you add the appropriate height for head and legs, the body with my spine in it would be about 120 feet tall! While it’s true that as we age disc space can decrease between vertebrae due to degeneration, I’ve had excellent chiropractic care here at Palmer College.”
MVHNews: But as an athletic spine, things are bound to happen, right? When you’re on the course, do segments ever get out of line? And if they do, do the offending students have to serve detention or something?
PCC Spine: “I’m afraid it does happen every once in a while. These Palmer students get so excited about the opportunity to show people how incredible chiropractic care is that they sometimes get a little bit out of alignment.
I’ve tried several ways to impress upon them that we all need to keep it together, especially during such an important event. It never fails that at least one student will just go rogue and run around a bit. It hurts a little, but for the sake of chiropractic I’m willing to manage the pain.
The threat of detentions or extra classes don’t really make a difference; I just point out that next year we need to stay in better alignment!”
MVHNews: You only need one sacrum each year. What makes him/her so special?
PCC Spine: “The sacrum is the foundation, so of course it must be filled by someone who really understands what it means to be sturdy and strong. I look for broad shoulders because it’s the sacrum that has to bear the weight of all the other segments of the spine.
It’s easy to crack under that kind of pressure so this person has to have a sense of humor that doesn’t quit. Fun-haters are definitely not allowed!”
MVHNews: How do you select the other spine segments?
PCC Spine: “I make the most of each BIX and because I have such fun it’s no problem at all to recruit the number of assistants I need to make my annual appearance possible. There really isn’t a specific selection process that I go through each year. I simply rely on fate to bring the right people to me so that I can be brought to life.
I hate to do it, but I end up turning people away each year that just want to be a part of such an awesome event.”
MVHNews: How do kids react to you?
PCC Spine: “Children just get it.
They’re open to learning about everything and when I tell them that I help them grow big and strong and provide the stable backbone they need for everything they’ll do in life they just accept it. I tell them that I provide the structure that allows them to function and have a good quality of life.
They like to do things such as riding their bikes or playing with friends and they seem to understand right away that without me they wouldn’t be able to anything like that.”
As the coordinator for clinic marketing and community relations, Dr. Johnson manages all of the Palmer Clinic community outreach events and teaches part-time as a faculty instructor. She is a life-long resident of the Quad Cities and a 2000 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic.
Be sure to say “hi” to the Queen when the Palmer Spine passes by this weekend at the Quad-City Times Bix 7.