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Floats, marching bands, drill teams and Seafair royalty, pirates and clowns light up downtown Seattle at the Seafair Torchlight Parade Saturday. A Seattle tradition for 64 years, the parade draws huge, festive crowds that start staking out spots with blankets and chairs early in the morning along the Fourth Avenue route.

Some reserved bleacher seating between Seattle Center and Westlake Park may still be available ($20-$40), and though curb space is usually filled hours before the parade starts at 7:30 p.m., there’s always standing room for latecomers.

Legendary former Seattle SuperSonics player and NBA Hall of Fame inductee Gary Payton will preside as grand marshal at this year’s parade, which is also honoring the 25th anniversary of Seattle’s Sub Pop Records with a float and some parade drill teams and bands performing music by Sub Pop artists.

Perennial parade favorites will all be there — giant helium balloons, horse units including the Ellensburg Rodeo Posse, Latin American Dancing Horses and King County Posse, 24 floats from A (Alaska Airlines) to Z (Zillah Community Float) and 15 marching bands featuring the Navy Band, Pacific Northwest Drumline, Seattle All City Band, Seattle Firefighters and Seattle Police Pipes and Drums and the UW Varsity-Alumni Band.

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Antique fire engines, the Lincoln Towing Toe Truck, a vintage hydroplane and the Seattle Chinatown Dragon Team are among specialty units making their way along the 2.5-mile parade route.

Preview the parade at the Seafair Torchlight Spectacular at Seattle Center with exhibits, autograph sessions with Seafair princesses and floats on display along Mercer Street from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Before the parade, cheer on racers in the Torchlight Run along the route, pirate costumes encouraged, starting at 6:30 p.m. from Seattle Center.

Live coverage of the Torchlight Parade starts at 7 p.m. on KIRO 7 with a pre-parade show, coronation of the 2013 Miss Seafair and the parade; also available live streaming at

Madeline McKenzie:

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