As if on cue Saturday, the sun came out just as the 83rd Daffodil Grand Floral Parade got underway in downtown Tacoma.
The notoriously rainy event was all blue skies and yellow sun for 2016. Crowds packed streets along its four segments in Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner and Orting.
At the southern end of a long line of spectators on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, Caretha Okbaok had staked out a spot for her family.
The Tacoma native had been an off- and on-again spectator at the parade but has made it a family tradition for the past three years with sons Jakhari, 6, and Maurkice Lovelace, 3.
“It’s a fun thing,” Jakhari said as he bounced with anticipation before the parade began.
Jakhari was excited to see a cousin marching with the Cheetah Track Club. And he couldn’t wait to watch dummies fly out of the Afifi Shriners’ cannon.
More family members joined Okbaok just as the parade began.
The parade’s grand marshals — mixed martial artist Meisha Tate, Olympic gold medal boxer Leo Randolph and Puyallup Tribe of Indians Chairman Bill Sterud — led off the parade riding in convertibles. Sterud’s was a classic cherry red Chevrolet Bel Air.
Daffodil Festival Queen Emily Oliver and her 24 princesses soon followed, waving and shimmying to “Walking on Sunshine.”
The princesses were of particular interest to 5-year-old Kairi Dahnke of Tacoma. She didn’t bother containing her enthusiasm.
“They’re pretty,” Kairi said, or rather screamed. An instant convert to Daffodilianism, she wants to be a princess when she gets older.
“I get to dance all day,” Kairi explained-screamed.
Kairi was at the parade with mother Amber, a little sister, five cousins and a few grandparents.
“I’ve been coming here since I was 5 years old,” Amber, 34, said. “I’ve been here just about every year since. It’s a family tradition, rain or shine. We never miss it.”
The Puyallup Tribe was well represented with a tribal canoe, drummers from Chief Leschi School and a canoe-themed float filled with elders and youngsters. It trailed bubbles.
Parade regulars — Tacoma Rainiers mascot Rhubarb the Reindeer and the Seattle Seafair Pirates — delighted crowds. But they weren’t the only celebrities in attendance.
It’s official now — if it wasn’t already: Kris “The Sonics Guy” Brannon is now enshrined as a community institution. He was riding in a convertible with former Seattle Supersonics player Donald “Slick” Watts and Donald Watts Jr.
“Come on kids, smile,” Brannon urged a group of children. “It’s a parade.”
Sitting on the sidewalk near Union Station was Jasmine Lind of Kent. Lind was surrounded by a dozen family members.
But only Lind could claim royal blood. She was a 1994 Daffodil princess from Mount Tahoma High School.
As a girl, she had watched the parade from the sidewalk as she was doing again on Saturday. During high school, Lind’s mother had other plans for her.
“She’s the one who wanted me to be a princess,” Lind said. “I did it for her.”
But the experience turned out to be rewarding for Lind.
“The parades were awesome. I got to go to the Oregon Rose Parade,” she said.
On Saturday, Lind’s 2-year-old niece Jade Richardson was enthralled with the horses while godson Mekhi Bennett, 6, was smitten with the princesses.
“He likes the pretty girls,” Lind said. Mekhi said nothing at that comment but looked somewhat embarrassed.
There was no shortage of bands in the parade.
The sousaphone line of Puyallup High School’s marching band was literally running circles around the 165-member band. It was no small feat, considering how big the towering tubas are.
Crisp new uniforms showed off the band’s stylized and coordinated moves.
“This is the first year we get to wear the whole (uniform),” said the band’s director, Eric Ryan. “It was pouring down rain last year.”
Purposely uncoordinated were a group of clowns from Astoria, Ore. They biked, drove and walked in outfits so colorfully garish they might have distracted pilots flying overhead.
Two hours later, the floats, bands, horses and other entries had reassembled at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. Even before the parade began, the daffodil queen and her court were dancing, clapping and waving to anyone who walked by.
Princess Faviola Colmenares of Washington High School had a front-row seat on the daffodil-festooned float.
“We’ve had fun today,” Colmenares said. “We told ourselves at the beginning of the year we would have fun, and we are.”
Colmenares began her day at 6:30 a.m. She had no idea when it would end but was looking forward to the final parade segment in Orting.
“We get to pick flowers and throw them at the crowd,” she said.
There was just enough room to squeeze through the crowds packing the sidewalks on Seventh Avenue SW as the parade started.
“I hate it when I wave and my underarm waves back,” one woman told her companion as she vigorously motioned to the princesses nonetheless.
Just up the street more than 50 family members and friends of Lee and Barbara Blakeslee filled their porch and yard. Some were students from Meeker Elementary School.
It was a prime viewing spot for the parade which has only been coming down Seventh Avenue for eight years.
“We used to have to go to Meridian to watch the parade,” Barbara Blakeslee said.
Growing up in Tacoma, Blakeslee and her sister Lynn Goretti were two of the four Goodlake sisters. They are Daffodil Parade veterans.
Blakeslee marched in drill teams in seventh grade through her senior year at Mount Tahoma High School. Goretti was a Daffodil princess and Miss Congenitally 1975.
Goretti brought her crown to the parade on Saturday. The bejeweled tiara was popular with guests as they took turns wearing it. She even demonstrated the princess wave: always to the side, never in front of the face.
The Blakeslees have lived in their 104-year-old house for over 30 years. Inside was a table spread with salads, hot dogs, deviled eggs, chili, cinnamon rolls and other food which they offered to anyone who looked hungry, even a newspaper reporter.
One bowl held sunglasses, a necessity for the sunny day.
Goretti and Blakeslee said the parade has been a part of their lives as long as they can remember. It’s practically a holiday for their family.
“My one niece said ‘This is like Christmas, I don’t miss it,’ ” Goretti said.
“It’s fellowship and friends,” Blakeslee said as grandchildren downed hot dogs and the Sonics Guy waved to the crowds.