A cloudy but warm Saturday drew what may have been a record crowd for Fremont's annual Solstice Parade.

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There they were again in all their paint and panache — the naked cyclists who’ve gone from bit parts in the annual Fremont Solstice Parade to big players.

What may be a record crowd of spectators gathered under cloudy but warm skies along the streets of Fremont — armed with cameras and lawn chairs, backpacks and coolers, some bringing buckets and even a stepladder to stand on to get a better view.

“Oh, wow!” said Leslie Zenz, parade director, as she checked out the crowds at Gas Works Park, where the parade ended. The turnout was bigger than in the past few years, she said. “The good weather has really helped.”

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The Solstice Parade, always the third Saturday of June, celebrates the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, which will occur Wednesday.

Along with the nude cyclists, the parade featured everything from belly dancers and all manner of musical bands to a dragon that seemed to stretch on forever, made entirely of recycled plastic bags and water bottles.

There was a guy dressed up like an ostrich, a woman in a giant homemade butterfly costume, and lines of willing participants who lay down in the street as a spectacularly large red balloon rolled over them.

“It’s beautiful. It’s artistic. It’s wonderful,” said spectator James Wilkis, who’d snagged a particularly good curbside spot to watch it all pass by.

The festival began 24 years ago as a community parade that was occasionally was crashed by nude streakers.

Nude cyclists joined in during the 1990s, and nudists continued to be an uninvited annoyance for parade organizers until 2001, when the city of Seattle considered revoking the event permit of the sponsoring group, the Fremont Arts Council.

That year the city threatened to arrest anyone parading around sans clothing. But more naked cyclists than ever turned out, and the city relented.

The cyclists have been a fixture since. This year, they paraded for well over an hour, slowly pedaling along the route.

“Slower! Slower!” someone in the crowd shouted.

“I can’t believe the City Council lets them do this,” another said.

Two of the riders — naked except for frilly net skirts (black for him, purple for her) and matching body paint — were having an unabashedly good time.

“We got drunk last night and decided to do this,” said Alex Shanis, a software engineer.

“You only live once,” added his friend, Chelsea Wright, a University of Washington student.

For Mariana Noble and Rick Fawthrop of Fremont, the nude cyclists are what they come to see. “It’s really free-spirited and creative,” she said.

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @BartleyNews.

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