The Daffodil Festival’s Grand Floral Parade returns to its roots on Saturday. “Ready, Set, Grow!” is the theme for the 81st edition of the parade that features white-glove-clad princesses blowing kisses, marching bands loaded with brass and daffodils attached to just about anything possible.
Reflecting the theme, regional gardening guru Ciscoe Morris will be the parade’s grand marshal, and Puyallup seed purveyor and TV host Ed Hume will be the community grand marshal. The parade will contain more than 170 entries, including 30 daffodil-covered floats as well as dancers, classic cars and mounted units.
As in years past, the parade route winds through Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner and Orting.
The Daffodil Festival – and its iconic yellow flower – celebrates youth, service to community and the approach of spring.
One of the floats in Saturday’s parade will hold the royal court of 25 Daffodil princesses led by the Daffodil Festival queen, Marissa Modestowicz of Puyallup’s Emerald Ridge High School. The queen and princesses are selected each year from girls nominated by Pierce County high schools. The Daffodil court was put on hiatus during World War II, but the festival has still crowned 78 queens in its history.
Princesses will serve close to 6,000 hours as Pierce County’s official ambassadors at more than 250 appearances – a dramatic increase over 2013’s numbers. This summer, the group is partnering with the YMCA and local parks and recreation departments to participate in summer camps.
It’s quite a comeback for an event that a few years back looked like it might wither and die. Donations were down and participation was lacking.
That was the year – 2009 – when current president Judy Smith joined the organization. Her daughter Abbie, a Lincoln High School student, was a Daffodil princess.
“My husband and I saw what a wonderful organization it was,” Smith said.
They and the rest of the Daffodilians set out to change both the festival and the way it was perceived by the community.
“(The public) didn’t realize it was more than a parade. We were doing things all year long,” Smith said.
The group put an emphasis on community over self, Smith said. Princesses spent more time providing community service. At Boys and Girls Clubs, they read to kids, mentored them and helped with homework.
“Those kids look forward to the girls coming back,” Smith said.
The Daffodilians have also taken advantage of social networking. “To get the world out that we want to serve the community,” Smith said.
In 2011, the Smiths’ daughter Katie became a princess.
The 2013 parade saw both participants and spectators occasionally dowsed with downpours, but it didn’t seem to dampen spirits.
This year 3,700 kids will march in bands and drill teams. The parade is so long it will still be wrapping up in Puyallup when it starts in Sumner.
In Orting, the town’s population swells on parade day. “We bring in twice the town’s population. You got eight, 10 deep on the parade route. It’s a community wide party,” said executive director Steve James.
The Puyallup Tribe of Indians is sponsoring the parade.
DAFFODIL FESTIVAL Grand Floral Parade
When and where: Saturday, starting at 10:15 a.m. in Tacoma, 12:45 p.m. in Puyallup, 2:30 p.m. in Sumner and 5 p.m. in Orting. In Tacoma, the parade runs down Pacific Avenue, from 12th to 21st streets.
Theme: Ready, Set, Grow!
Entries: More than 170
Catch it on TV: The parade will be televised on KONG-TV (Channel 6) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541 email@example.com