“Fun in the Sun” is the official theme for Saturday’s Daffodil Parade — but the thousands that flock to the 83rd annual parade through Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner and Orting will probably have fun regardless of the weather. From familiar favorites like the white-gloved princesses and community floats to new surprise guests, the tradition celebrates the South Sound community, organizers say.
“That’s what makes it different,” says executive director Steve James. “It’s a celebration of community. And it’s different in each of the four cities.”
This year, James is lining up around 165 floats for the event and 400,000 daffodils — cut earlier this spring and preserved in cold storage against warmer weather — decorating floats and participants alike. There also will be the usual dancers, classic cars, mounted units, marching bands and Girl Scouts.
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That’s what makes it different. It’s a celebration of community.”
Steve James, Daffodil Festival executive director
As James points out, the 24 princesses are always the highlight, riding their own float along with this year’s Daffodil Festival queen, Emily Oliver, a senior at Spanaway Lake High School. The queen and princesses are selected each year from girls nominated by Pierce County high schools.
But this year, James has lined up some other special guests for a quasi sports theme.
The grand marshal will be Miesha Tate, a one-time wrestler who is now a champion mixed martial arts fighter who just won the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight title. The Tacoma native took up wrestling as a student at Franklin Pierce High School, winning the state championships and going on to a professional career. She’s also a model, is a playable character in the video game EA Sports UFC, and will be in the feature film “Fight Valley.”
400,000 Daffodils adorn the Daffodil Parade units.
“It’s pretty neat to have her,” James says.
Complementing Tate as community grand marshal will be Leo Randolph, who won a gold medal as a flyweight boxer in the 1976 Olympics. He set the record as the youngest Olympic gold medalist. Now a driver with Pierce Transit, Randolph lives in Tacoma.
“It’s a way of honoring his work,” says James.
The parade will also have floats from the Mariners, the Seahawks (including some Seagals), and even the Sonics, with Chris Brannon as Tacoma icon “The Sonics Guy” riding in a big yellow convertible.
Asked if the parade was getting bigger, James replies with a big no.
165 Floats in this year’s parade.
“To do a parade in one city is a big logistical concept that would blow most people’s minds away,” he explains. “To do four parades in one day over four cities is even more challenging.”
But one thing he’s confident of is the weather. The forecast early in the week called for partly cloudy skies with a high in the low 60s for Saturday.
“With the theme ‘Fun in the Sun,’ we think that entitles us to a sunny day,” he says with a laugh. “It’s looking good right now.”
83rd Annual Daffodil Parade
Start times: 10:15 a.m. Tacoma; 12:45 p.m. Puyallup; 2:30 p.m. Sumner; 5 p.m. Orting.
Junior Daffodil Parade
What: Billed as the largest children’s parade in the state, the Junior Daffodil Parade is now in its 55th year, with school and community groups winding their way through the Proctor shops accompanied by unicyclists, bands and the Tooth Fairy. Get there early for a good watching spot. Watch it afterward on TV Tacoma.
When: 10 a.m. April 16.
Where: Parade runs along North Proctor Street from North 28th, then down North 26th Street to Washington Street, finishing outside the Wheelock library.
Daffodil Marine Festival and Parade
What: A get-together of boat clubs from around Puget Sound, the Marine Festival features a parade of vessels from the Tacoma Yacht Club into the Foss Waterway, all decorated creatively with daffodils according to the theme of the main parade (“Fun in the Sun”). Trophies are awarded.
When: April 15-17; parade begins 11:30 a.m. April 17; awards ceremony 2:30 p.m. April 17.
Where: Boats depart Tacoma Yacht Club at Point Defiance and sail along the waterfront to near the Museum of Glass on the Thea Foss Waterway. Good places to watch include the Ruston Way waterfront park and the promenade parallel to Dock Street.
Daffodil 5K Challenge
What: You can run or walk along the 5K race course in the four parade communities, including part of the Daffodil Parade route.
When: Saturday. Tacoma race starts at 8:45 a.m., Puyallup at 11:15 a.m., Sumner at 1 p.m. and Orting at 3:30 p.m.
Registration: $45 for an individual race the day of the event, $95 for all four races. The team relay, one person running each leg, is $150. Registration will be open two hours before the start in each community.
Note: All participants must be off the course one hour after the start of the race. No pets are allowed on the course at any time.