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Seattle's Fremont Fair

Updated on January 4, 2014

The Fair and Solstice Parade at Seattle's 'Center of the Universe'

A crazy thing happens in Seattle during the Summer Solstice every year. Thousands of people gather in the Fremont neighborhood to watch a parade that includes political floats, naked bicyclists, and giant puppets on stilts. Buskers perform among craft vendors and crowds. Bands get exposure on four or five different stages. Politics gets combined with music, dance and food, and some people wear nothing but body paint without getting arrested. Just as importantly, this event is also produced to raise funds for the poverty-fighting efforts of the Fremont Public Association, now known as Solid Ground.

It's wild, insane, massively fun, and usually very hot weatherwise. It's the Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade, and it's just around the corner. Paint your face as creatively as possible, and come join us.

UPDATE (SATURDAY, JANUARY 4, 2014): Happy New Year, everyone! The upcoming Fremont Fair/Solstice Parade is now scheduled for June 20-22, 2014. Hopefully I can be there for most of it (if not dragged abroad by my Mom on a tour of Morocco or something), and do more busking as well...

The above photo of the 2008 Fremont Solstice Parade is borrowed with thanks from Ceolas at Flickr.com. I'll try to avoid posting closeups of the Solstice Parade's notorious "Naked Cyclists", in order to keep this lens G-rated...

Some of the Music You'll Hear at the Fair - Yes, some of the performers DO appear fully clothed...

The Year I Joined the Fremont Solstice Parade

I was the Green Gypsy with the avocado rattle.

The photo shown here is courtesy of stevevoght's Flickr set from the 2008 Fremont Solstice Parade.

My friend, photographer Shannon Kringen, also known locally as the Goddess Kring, takes part in the Fremont Solstice Parade every year, wearing mostly body paint. In 2002, she invited me to march with her. I really didn't have an appropriate costume to portray a character (and I definitely wanted to wear something besides body paint); but somehow I cobbled together an outfit in a timely fashion, composed of a black floral-print top and skirt, scarves, jewelry and a green bellydance veil that I purchased in one of the two Middle Eastern shops that sit right across the street from each other on First Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle. I also brought along an avocado-shaped rattle to add percussive effect, and a bottle of water to keep myself from collapsing in the heat. For some reason, it's almost always beastly hot on the day of the Solstice Parade.

I didn't have too much of an idea of what sort of character I was showing up as in this parade; but I sort of made the "Green Gypsy" up from scratch as I went along the parade route. I danced in a vaguely Middle Eastern/bellydance fashion (I'd taken classes in bellydance several years before). I used the avocado-shaped rattle as a sort of charm or "blessing" instrument, shaking and sweeping it up and down in front of spectators as I pranced past them. I improvised interactions with Shannon off and on, sweeping the green veil over my head and pretending to be somewhat "inhibited" in contrast to her quite-revealing persona. I mimicked what I had observed of veil taqsim movements by professional bellydancers, though I hadn't stayed with the classes long enough to be formally instructed in that aspect of Middle Eastern dance. I danced at the head of dance troupes behind me in the parade; neither Shannon nor I stayed in the same position in the parade in which we'd begun. And, of course, I couldn't resist chasing and making comical grabbing gestures at any naked bicyclists who happened to zip past me. In short, I essentially improvised a parade character with little if any advance planning; developed this persona as I went along, interacted with as many spectators as I could, via improvised dance and street theater (in which I had very little prior experience); and a tremendous time doing all this, in spite of the heat and humidity.

It was, indeed, a long, hot journey through Fremont. What kept me and the other paraders going was all the high, happy energy--the energy from within the parade itself; but even more strongly, the energy from the crowd watching us all along the Parade route. The crowd's applause, encouraging shouts, smiles, laughter and joyous mood provided the energy that most sustained me, and kept me dancing, twirling, and waving veils and scarves all the way to Gasworks Park. I could not have made it all that way, in that weather, on my own stamina alone. Once I reached the park, however, I became more aware of being hot, tired and dehydrated; and I began eating large quantities of complimentary grapes, watermelon, and anything else I could find with a bit of fluid in it, as my water bottle was completely empty by then. Still, the collective mood remained upbeat throughout the rest of the weekend, as I listened to bands on stages the rest of that day, and did my own street performing the next.

The only trouble is, vow as I might, I never did design and create a proper Solstice Parade costume for subsequent years, including this one. Maybe my old Middle Eastern dance teacher has a used one that I could tweak a bit, before next year's Parade...

At this Summer Solstice Parade... - ...the crowd comes with camcorders. Keep that in mind...

A new collection of parade vids, clips of Art Cars, and some stage performances from Fremont Fairs of 2012-2013.

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You'll connect with your readers. If you type a sentence here about why you love this video.

You'll connect with your readers. If you type a sentence here about why you love this video.

You'll connect with your readers. If you type a sentence here about why you love this video.

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We've Got Your Solstice Parade Prep Items Here! - A few things relating to Seattle, Fremont, Trolls and Personal Adornment.

Here's a variety pack of stuff that might be useful to Fremont Fairgoers next time around...

So, Where Is This Place Anyway..?? - Here's a rough pinpoint of Seattle's Fremont neighborhood...

A
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fremont avenue and 34th seattle wa

get directions

Feedback on the Fremont Fair... - Been to Fremont for the Fair and Solstice Parade? Lived to tell about it? Share the love here!

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    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      9 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Sounds like fun. Great job on this lens. I hope you will add it to the plexo on my new Festivals lens. Thank you.

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