Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunny day chasing the clouds away

One of the quintessential icons of this city is the Fremont Solstice Parade. When we want to pat our backs for the quirky and creative qualities we believe makes us singular among the metropolises, we never forget to mention the nude painted bike riders and other features of this tradition. It works, this talking about what makes us so gosh darn adorable. It makes the mainstream media call us the city of the year. No argument here.

For me, summer solstice festival parade day begins with a trip to my friends' house a few blocks from the parade route. They have a longstanding tradition of their own, inviting neighbors and friends to a potluck breakfast before descending Phinney Ave to watch the parade.

Fueled by coffee, quiche, frittata, fresh fruits and crisps, we headed down hill to 36th St. an hour prior to the start of the parade which begins at noon. A neighbor broke out a bag of street chalk. We quickly created an aquarium scene on the street before us complete with rainbow fish, a spiral sun, sea shells, a three-masted schooner and a castle. Meanwhile, another neighbor brought a handheld bubble machine and paced back and forth for a few yards to the immense delight of nearby kids waiting anxiously for the parade to start. Smiles all around on a sunny day.

As the clouds began to part the start of the parade "unofficially" began with the naked painted bike riders and this year may have been a record crowd. I heard there were 400 or more bikers and skaters. The official start of the parade followed quickly thereafter with all manner of banners, bead necklaces thrown out to the crowd numbering in the thousands; then came the bellydancers, marching bands, drag queens, and other assorted musicians, acrobats and costumed creatures. A giant beach ball, about 10 ft around, bounced along the middle of the street and as it did, kids siting on the sidewalk spontaneously dashed to lie down on the street in front the ball to pass it over their heads. No doubt many of them were wearing organic hemp t-shirts and sandals made of recycled plastic bottles.

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