Once again, the Fremont Solstice parade has arrived and left.
This year, the threat of rain may have kept the audience smaller than previously.
Not in short supply were the body-paint bicyclists (and more-or-less clothed bicyclists, and just plain nude bicyclists, and walkers, and skateboarders).
Much as the Seafair hydro races have become, to many fans, the sideshow to their own intermission act (the Blue Angels), the Solstice Parade has become, to many, merely the footnote to its unofficial and unorganized prelude.
As the annual corps of paint people and their pals has grown, the parade itself has shrank. This year’s edition barely ran 45 minutes.
There were the usual ethnic and pseudo-ethnic dance troupes.
There were the usual floats and dancers celebrating summer, environmentalism, nature, and wholesome “quirkiness.”
There was a tribute to Prince with a purple-boat float.
The main “political” statement at the parade was made by homeless advocates. They depicted Mayor Ed Murray with a broom, trying to literally “sweep” away a bunch of street people and car-dwellers; while marchers carried signs (conforming to the parade’s traditional rule against written words) exhorting people to call Murray to support housing and denounce sweeps of encampments.
I’d hoped to, but didn’t, see anything in the parade expressing solidarity with the Orlando victims and families, and forthrightly expressing LGBTQ solidarity. Apparently that happened too soon for parade volunteers to build moving artwork and costumes.
The bike brigade did include several folk proudly sporting rainbow-flag paint. These two held barbells labeled LOVE.
While other “alt” gatherings around town, such as Pride and Hempfest, remain big, Solstice this year seemed to be in decline.
Is it that Seattle’s finally getting done, after all these decades, with the cultural aesthetic of baby-boomer mellow? Or is it that Solstice has no specific, single “cause” behind it?
Parade organizers do plan to do something about it, starting next year.
They want the bicyclists to register as official participants, subject to official event rules. They don’t specifically say they’ll order the bikers to cover up, but they’ll assert the right to make such decrees.
If Solstice does have a “cause,” it’s celebrating an extended family, a virtual “tribe,” built around creativity, joy, and personal freedom.
If its leaders try to rein in the event’s most basic (and most popular) expression of such freedom, its decline could get worse.
POSTSCRIPT: The Fremont Solstice Fair is much larger than the parade itself. There’s the big street fair. There’s the HONK! Fest West, a festival of alternative “street bands.” There’s the display of art cars. And there’s the live music, which this year was even more impressive than in past years. Even if the parade declines in interest, the rest of the fair still goes strong.