Hog wild for Fremont festivities: This year's Solstice Parade bigger than ever
Seattle Times staff reporter
Tomorrow's Fremont Solstice Parade will be the biggest ever, with nearly twice as many floats and ensembles as last year and a new parade route that ends in Gas Works Park with a puppet show and pageant.
The parade kicks off the annual Fremont Fair, a two-day event that will feature 400 booths, a number of bands — including the Posies and Young Fresh Fellows — and a display of art cars. Tomorrow night there will be a huge block party with DJs and reggae music.
Parade co-founder Peter Toms said there will be 54 ensembles in the parade this year, compared with 28 last year. Along with the normal craziness — wrong-way clowns, samba and marimba bands and naked bike riders — this year the parade is getting more of an international influence.
Master puppeteer Tomas Luna of Oaxaca, Mexico, has helped people create giant papier-mâché dancing skeletons. And three people from Taiwan who read about Fremont in a Chinese book have arrived this year with lion-head puppets.
"It's a huge outpouring of creative energy," Toms said. "It's just unreal. I'm very happy to be in the center of the whirlwind."
The parade, which started in 1989, is an eclectic celebration of the solstice, an ancient pagan holiday which marks the longest day of the year and the first day of summer. In Fremont, the parade is also a countercultural burst of creativity and community with just three rules — no printed words, no motors and no animals. Among the ensembles this year are two samba bands — one with 100 members, the gay Rainbow City Marching Band, a float of fertility goddesses pushed by sperm, a children's group of sunflowers, another children's group of sea creatures, a 20-foot whale and lots and lots of puppets.
As has been the tradition, a number of unauthorized naked bicycle riders start the parade. Last year there were 50 — most in body paint.
With at least 50,000 people expected to line the parade route, there's been a lot of temptation to spread a message, but parade organizers are adamant about no advertising of any sort.
Last year, a group of youthful Christians included a man carrying a huge banner. He was heckled loudly by the crowd, incensed that he was breaking the rules.
Toms said he welcomes the crowd reaction and even encouraged spectators to bring tomatoes to show their distaste for any performer or float.
The two-hour procession, just under a mile, will end at Gas Works Park in Wallingford, where there will be a pageant and a 30-minute show featuring giant puppets playing the sun, the moon and its different phases, and several signs of the horoscope.
Bobbi Nodell can be reached at 206-464-2342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.