While visiting his brother-in-law in Frederick, Maryland, Greg Dixon was killing time. 

Dixon and his wife, Megan, accompanied by friends Jeff and Vicki Lammers, milled about in a multi-floor antique shop cluttered with dust-covered junk-treasure and antiques. 

Dixon’s fingers fluttered through a long, skinny box of postcards one at a time, searching for something that would catch his eye. He paused. Carefully, he removed a postcard labeled, 



The black and white creased photograph displayed four men in full view. Two of them stood front and center smiling, shirtless. Their outfits drew Dixon’s as his eyes danced over the image. What they were up to became clear to him. The four men all proudly displayed their stomachs, decorated with silly faces. Two of the men in back donned extremely oversized hats that engulfed their heads, shoulders, arms and chests. Their legs were dressed up to be the torso of the people which they had painted on themselves.

Courtesy of Greg Dixon

In pure excitement, Dixon rushed through the antique store to find Lammers. He showed him the photograph. They both knew that the idea of these men was something worth their time and effort.

However, it was not until 1997 — nearly 20 years after Dixon found the post card in the late 1970s — when Dixon and Lammers began to put their project to the test. They toiled away in Dixon’s home for several evenings, seeing if they could create the oversized hats.

Greg Dixon and Jeff Lammers began the ABDO-men tradition at the Granville Fourth of July parade more than 20 years ago. Credit: Andrew Theophilus

“We were laughing so hard. We knew we had a good thing,” said Dixon.

With their design realized, Dixon and Lammers went door-to-door in Granville, Ohio carrying the original 1972 photograph of what Dixon called “the ABDO-men.” 

“We had several people in town that we thought would make good ABDO-men,” Dixon said. “And so we would come to their door and we’d hold up the postcard and say, ‘July Fourth, Granville. You in?’ It was always like, ‘oh, hell yes!’”

For their first parade in 1997, Dixon and Lammers amassed nine ABDO-men.

“People had never seen us before and it was like a wave. We were trying to get down to where the parade forms and people would look at us with really puzzled faces,” Dixon said. “Then they start to smile and they just burst out laughing when they realize what they were looking at.”

Since 1997, Dixon has only missed marching in the annual Granville Fourth of July parade once. 

Images courtesy of Greg Dixon

The ABDO-men have dressed in different themes and as various characters and celebrities since their beginning, and have marched in the parade as Buckeye football players, a bride and groom, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Statue of Liberty. 

This year, the ABDO-men plan to incorporate a few minions and possibly Mickey and Minnie Mouse into their annual march. However, only time will tell what one can spot in the 2024 Granville parade.

“It gets more laid back every year,” Dixon said about his organization of the ABDO-men. 

Images courtesy of Greg Dixon

Preparations for the parade march begin around 8:30 a.m. at Jerry and Lisa Miller’s house. 

“He cleans out his garage once a year for us. And so we get dressed there and that often involves some bloody marys,” Dixon said.

During the parade, Dixon says that he can always hear people shouting his name. 

“The trouble is when you’re under a hat you can hear somebody yelling at you. I don’t know whether it’s from the left or from right or from behind you. So you’re kind of going around, but I’ll usually tip my hat back to shake your hand or something,” Dixon said. 

Dixon has plenty of free time now that he has retired from being a postmaster and uses that time to keep cranking out hats for both new members and growing children. With years of practice, he can whip them together in about an hour.

After an unfortunate rainy parade several years ago, Dixon has switched his hats from corrugated cardboard to corrugated plastic, helping the ABDO-men stay dry throughout their journey of smiles.

I asked Dixon how he feels when he suits up to be one of the ABDO-men now.

He told me, “I suppose there’s still some excitement now. It’s just pretty normal. It’s like, this is fun. You know, it’s going to be fun. And you hope everybody else has fun and it’s just a pretty good feeling.” 

Andrew Theophilus writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is supported by generous donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.