To some, it may be just a turn of the season. But in Seattle, the arrival of the summer solstice is something to celebrate.
And celebrate we do. All week, the papier-mâché has been flying inside the Fremont Art Council’s Powerhouse, the public art studio in Fremont. Walk in the door — anyone is welcome — and a wacky, weird, wonderful scene unfolds, as celebrants in Saturday’s 26th annual solstice parade in Fremont have their hands busy making floats.
A giant cardboard microphone was in the works on a recent evening, and a lovely oversized papier-mâché chicken, carrot, and pea. Overhead, giant puppets, the work of parades past, kept watch over the work.
Summer is our time to shine, as the sun reaches its highest point in our sky for the year Saturday, and we revel in a daylight pigout of 15 hours, 59 minutes, and 20 seconds. The season officially arrives in Seattle at 3:51 that morning; the forecast calls for mostly sunny with temperatures topping 70.
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The flip side of our dark days of winter, summer is our time to get up with the birds for a whole second day packed into one.
After all, sun is something to savor around here. The Western Regional Climate Center reports that Seattle enjoys only 58 clear days on average a year. Compare that with 116 in Walla Walla, 86 in Spokane, or 109 in Yakima. Not to mention 211 in Phoenix, or 147 in Los Angeles.
But who’s counting when the sun is out. It’s too glorious to care, as the Olympics and Mount Rainier shine snowy and resplendent above and beyond Puget Sound.
“It’s like New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one; it’s the return of the sun,” Mike Weisman said of the solstice, as he cut out cardboard for the giant microphone on his float. “That’s a big deal around here, it’s part of what makes Seattle unique. It’s something we can all identify with. It’s a process-free zone.”
Surely that is saying something in Seattle.
As Weisman worked, Josie Presley was in the schoolyard up the hill rehearsing her belly-dance number for the parade. The sound of a drum thrummed into the street, where streamers and pinwheels decorated a chain-link fence separating floats being built from the street.
For Presley, the solstice marks the start of a season of fun and freedom, perfectly expressed with the joy of dance. “It’s a great day to welcome the sun, the warmth, the wonderful summer and all the light we get to have.”
David Marine, one of the studio managers, turned out in white coveralls and a waxed mustache to ready his float, one of about 20 in the parade, along with 18 bands from all over the country.
Pretty soon, donated Indian food arrived, sending curry scents through the studio and upstairs into the costume loft. Many artists would be up late pouring on the last-minute effort.
“People will come in right off the street and get right into it,” Marine said.
A project of the Fremont Arts Council, the parade is just one of its several seasonal fetes throughout the year, said Ricky Gene Powell, development director for the council. “What we are really making here is community,” he said, as Peter Toms, parade co-founder, slapped white paint on the wooden platform for his float.
The solstice “connects us with our planet and our environment,” Toms said.
“We spend a lot of time in front of our screens and in our houses. This is a reconnection. The seasons go on, with us or without us. It gives me a sense of scale of my role in the planet.”
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org