reprinted from
The Seattle Times | Sunday | June 20, 1999

It may have been overcast, but the sun still was shining on free-spirited Fremont yesterday, where sidewalks were packed a dozen deep in places for the annual Solstice Parade and Fremont Fair.
photo: Alan Berner / The Seattle Times
The free-wheeling festival this year brought out a giant purple octopus, monsters, devils, angels and belly dancers following the rhythm of a brass band.

And, of course, there were the infamous and crowd-pleasing nude bikers, a regular attraction eagerly awaited by the parade watchers.

"This is not authorized by the organizers," said Steve Lynch, one of the volunteers responsible for safety and order during the event. "But it's just for fun, so no interventions."

"Everybody enjoys each other, and that's the essence of it," said Jay Korn, 48, of Ferndale, Whatcom County, who has been driving down for the parade for many years. "It's so different from any other parade. It's not about making money. Everybody can participate."

Featuring colorful floats, giant puppets and stilt-walkers, the parade was an outpouring of individual inspiration and community creativity - organizers call it a grass-roots event that, for a day at least, enables everyone to become an artist.

No live animals, motor vehicles, written words or logos are permitted, but controversial subject matters and outrageous performances are not discouraged.

Korn, who makes his living producing arts and crafts, said the parade is important because it teaches people about living in the here and now.

"So many people wait to live their lives until they retire," Korn said. 'They spend 90 percent of their lives working hard in order to enjoy 10 percent. That's not my philosophy. I do not need much. I try to enjoy my life all along the way."

The Solstice Parade is held every year on the Saturday nearest the Summer Solstice - which this year is tomorrow. Launched in 1989, the celebration has became the signature of the funky, offbeat neighborhood.

The festival is the brainchild of two former Californians, Barbara Luecke and Peter Toms, who moved to Seattle and missed a similar sun celebration in Santa Barbara.

Melissa Minoff, who has lived in Fremont for five years, laughs that in Seattle, where the sun is scarce, this "pagan ritual to celebrate summer" has a special meaning.

"You can't celebrate winter here," she said with a laugh.

Matt Handle, who came to the festivities to join friends, also had another purpose: His brother is turning 40 soon and he wanted to get a special present for him.

"Not everybody gets to have a couple thousand people sing 'Happy Birthday' for them," he said as he videotaped the huge crowd laughing, singing and clapping their hands. He will send the tape to Japan, where his brother lives.

Why is a tape from Fremont a special present? "It's a very special neighborhood. It's full of people who know how to have fun. It's a community of people who know each other and play with each other. Gravitational attractiveness is what got us all here."

back to Picture of the Day