Communicating, planning, checking in — organizing Washington’s biggest children’s parade is a science, say organizers of the Junior Daffodil Parade, a science that has been refined over the event’s 54 years. The main thing? To make the parade fun for the most important people in it: kids.
“Last year we got around 3,000 participants,” says Marva Pelander, a member of the Junior Daffodil Parade organizing committee and a 10-year veteran of the event, which calls itself the biggest children’s parade in the state (based on available numbers). “But we’re not trying to grow. We like to give attention to the people who’ve been in it on a regular basis, some for 40 years.”
Participants include everyone from babes in arms to cute puppies. Regular groups include local school bands, unicyclists, the canine winners of the Magnificent Mutt competition, the Tooth Fairy and Washington Elementary’s elaborately dressed crossing guard, Miss Peggy. The only requirements for entry are that groups must have insurance, be registered, be nonmotorized and incorporate both kids and daffodils.
It’s always an extremely long parade (experienced bystanders come equipped with snacks, drinks, sunscreen, umbrellas and even deck chairs) — another reason Pelander’s not wanting it to grow much more.
Over the years, though, a system has evolved to make the task of organizing 3,000 people a bit smoother, Pelander says. As groups register by email, they’re assigned a section of the staging area by Mason Middle School, and a time by which they should arrive. As long as one member of the group checks in by 9:45 a.m., groups can arrive in their section right up until it’s time for them to move into the parade, eliminating long waits in often-bad weather for very small children. Eighteen section leaders run the eight sections, streamlining the parade and keeping it moving for the viewers. The parade runs rain or shine, and is replayed during the week on TV Tacoma.
Pelander and her colleagues also plan the parade’s order in great detail.
“Everyone would like to be up front, but that can’t happen,” she says. “And you want to consider the age of the participants, and you can’t put animals next to bands. It’s a science.”
One of the groups that Pelander’s particularly looking forward to this year is the Stroller Derby team from Old Town Cooperative Preschool. Once known as the Stroller Derby Dads, the team is making a comeback after a few years’ hiatus and is going beyond dads to “anyone who shows up,” says organizing parent Laurence Sledge.
It’s Sledge’s first time on the team, and he’s not quite sure how many team members he has, nor their exact moves, although he’s stealing some formations from the website of the Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. (Strollers are empty, to allow for more acrobatic moves.)
The first rehearsal is this Saturday.
“If I can talk people into doing it one more time before the event, I’ll be happier,” Sledge says.
But regardless of planning, the most important things at the Junior Daffodil Parade, say organizers, are the fun, community and creativity involved.
“The floats are unbelievable,” says Pelander. “There’s so much creativity.”