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Daffodil Marine Parade 2015: A boat-load of flowers

Tides, fire codes, cold-storage daffodils: It’s all part of the business of organizing the annual Daffodil Festival Marine Parade. Running Sunday — the day after the main Daffodil Parade this year — the 63rd Marine Parade will be bigger than ever. There will be 180 flower-decorated boats saluting the daffodil royalty at the Tacoma Yacht Club at Point Defiance before sailing along the waterfront and down the Thea Foss Waterway.

“Last year we had 145 boats, but this year there’s a lot more interest,” says Linda Dent, marketing chairwoman of the Marine Parade committee at the Tacoma Yacht Club, which organizes both the parade (part of the official Daffodil Parade festivities) and the member weekend that surrounds it.

The Yacht Club invites members of the “Grand Fourteen” original yacht clubs in Puget Sound, as well as all of the other smaller clubs around the region, to the activities it is hosting all weekend long. Each club may enter two boats in the parade: one flag boat (with marine flags in correct order) and a boat decorated according to the festival’s theme: this year, “Shine Your Light.”

Of course, the decorations are kept a deep, dark secret until parade day — “Boats get judged, and we don’t want people to know what our decorations are,” says Dent.

One thing is organized well in advance: daffodils. Dent estimates that it takes 50 flowers per square foot of vessel, and so to compensate for a warm spring the festival’s Puyallup Valley supplier has thousands of flowers in cold storage ready for all the parades. Boat owners receive their flowers the day before the parade, just in time to decorate (and bloom, if necessary).

Sheer space is another factor that’s planned in advance: The Marine Parade numbers are limited by the fire codes governing the yacht club basin.

“We’re about at our limit this year,” Dent says. The club also stations dinghies at the head of the Thea Foss Waterway to assist boats in the turnaround at the end of the parade.

And then there are the tides to consider. Too low a tide and boats can’t get into the basin or turn around at the end; too high and taller sailing boats can’t fit under the 11th Street bridge.

“Last year they had to raise the bridge,” remembers Dent.

Luckily, the timing this year means the parade will begin on a mid-tide, with low tide not until around 5 p.m.

One thing stays the same, though: the decoration competition. Boats are judged in various classes on originality, creativity with daffodils, neatness, color and adherence to the theme.

“People spend all weekend decorating,” says Dent, adding that with this year’s theme she expects to see a lot of references to the yacht club’s lighthouse logo. “Trophies are pretty coveted at the yacht club.”

Dent herself, though, will be hosting one of the parade’s special boats: the Wounded Warrior vessel. On board her 49-foot marine trawler “Home Run” will be 20 veterans from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Washington National Guard. Her boat will be one of the first out of the basin and will pause by the Navy vessels near the grain silo to be saluted by the other boats as they pass.

Viewers are encouraged to watch from the waterfront; there are plenty of restaurants in case of wet weather, says Dent. One good place this year is near the Foss Waterway Seaport at 705 Dock St., which is hosting a “Books and Boats” event in conjunction with the Pierce County Reads program.

“The important part is the daffodils, the participants and the fun,” she says.

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