Pink flamingos on stilts, bats on skates, umbrella jellyfish and dandelion-seed hats mean only one thing: It’s Procession of the Species in downtown Olympia.
The annual event took over the streets of downtown for the 19th year Saturday with onlookers lining up for prime seating hours before the event began. Children passed the time with street chalk and bubble-blowing, watching people walk about the streets dressed in costume.
Cheers arose from the crowd and thousands of participants after a long whistle signaled the start of the festivities.
A band of dancing gray wolves, dancing fish, a pair of box turtles and butterflies with wings made of cardboard, fabric and glitter made their way past the waving crowds.
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Jessica Scott of Olympia has been a participant for at least the past six years.
“It’s just so much fun,” Scott said. “If we ever miss a year, we regret it so much — it’s addicting.”
Scott has dressed up for each of the four elements — earth, air, fire and water. This year she paid homage to earth, dressed as a tree spirit, wearing a brown skirt and shirt with multicolored leaves and vines.
Michelle Graves of Lacey and her 4-year-old daughter, Alex, were seated on the side of Legion Way patiently waiting for the festivities to start.
They attended their first Procession of the Species two years ago, and Alex has been anxious to come back ever since.
“What time is it?” Alex asked Graves.
“It’s not time yet, but it’s getting closer,” Graves said. “She’s been talking about it for a week.”
The intersection of Legion Way and Cherry Street was a mix of drums, chants and bells as each group representing the four elements met up before the start of the procession.
There Clay McCray; his wife, Nichole Garden; and their daughters, 3-year-old Juniper and 6-year-old Sequoia, were dressed as hedgehogs waiting their turn to walk down the street.
McCray has either been involved in or a spectator of the procession for the past decade.
“It’s about trying something different,” McCray said. “I’ve sat on the side a few times, but I like being a part of it — I’m not good at just standing around.”