June 21, 2012
What a glorious summer solstice! Today Seattle saw sunny skies all day, no rain, and temps in the 70’s! And in Seattle there is no better celebration of the beginning of summer than the Fremont Solstice Festival, which took place last weekend.
If you missed out, you had better mark your calendar for next year! For first timers, making it to the parade at noon is a must-do (at least once in your life). While the parade is largely the same every year, it is quite the spectacle. The most well known participants are the hundreds of naked cyclists that open the parade wearing only body paint or going completely in the buff. It’s a hilarious sight and I love how creative some people get with their body paint attire and bike decorations. My favorites this year included the bandage girl from the fifth element, a flapper, a cowgirl complete with fringe vest, boots, and daisy dukes and a Parisian guy with a beret, striped shirt, and baguettes affixed to his bicycle.
Once the cyclists have cleared out, next come the belly dancers, hula hoopers, drag queens, pirates and usually some carnival dancers. Throughout there is music, dancing, a few bands, and crazy costumes and floats all handmade by the Fremont community. My personal favorite is the group who always makes everything – costumes and usually a huge, traveling installation – completely out of what we all think of as trash. They reuse these materials – disposable bottles, bags, paper, etc – to make creative outfits, like a copycat Ms. Liberty Statue with a crown made of old automotive oil bottles, to raise awareness about waste and sustainability. One phrase continually comes to mind through the entire affair, “Only in Seattle….”
Despite the early on nudity, this is a family-friendly event with lots of kids participating in and watching the parade. After the last float rides by, the big crowds descend on a few block area of Fremont’s center (come see the rest of the festival on Sunday for a more mellow experience). The bulk of the attractions are on 34th and 35th Streets. Another unique sideshow for first timers is the “crazy car show” on 35th Street with all kinds of oddly decorated, altered, and enhanced vehicles. I particularly enjoyed the toaster car this year.
Nearby you can take a fun glide down the old fashioned “Giant Slide” on a burlap sack. There’s also a range of vendors selling clothing, jewelry, “waterpipes,” art, décor, and other unique items. Many local businesses, particularly those related to sustainable or natural practices like Bastyr Medical Center or PCC also have booths here. Visitors can walk through the streets and peruse the wares, trade information, and get freebies and special discounts.
And of course there is tons of food, a few beer gardens to relax and imbibe in, and several music stages with local artists performing from late morning until 7pm or so. For every random reggae band there are also a few gems. I was really happy to catch the Local Strangers’ performance by chance. They are a really amazing acoustic singer/songwriter duo.
All of Fremont is bustling this weekend with bars expanding their outdoor areas to accommodate the crowds and bringing fun, upbeat music and performers. By the end of the day, partiers are looking a little ragged and are generally extremely inebriated – but mostly to a humorous level. I was definitely one of the soberest people at the Braxmatics performance at White Rabbit on Saturday. Fortunately, the event continues to be a peaceful one, attracting a diverse mix of people from aging hippies to young hipsters, families to funksters, all who come out, rain or shine, to celebrate something that is so essential and in a way sacred to Seattle – the coming of summer – finally!