Show your spirit at Junior Daffodil parade

There are those who are doing it for the first time. And then there are those who’ve been doing it so long they’ve lost count of the years they’ve done it. But whichever end of the spectrum an individual is on, participants agree Tacoma’s annual Junior Daffodil Parade is just as much fun – and an important way to be a part of the community, whether a participant is riding a unicycle, leading a dog or showing off stroller moves.

“The great thing about this parade is that anyone who wants to be in it can be in it, if they have insurance and have registered,” says Lynn Raisl, who’s been the registrar for the 53-year-old parade ever since it moved to the Proctor District 20 years ago. “That’s one of the things that’s made it really popular.”

The result of such inclusivity is a parade that includes babes in arms and cute puppies – and one long enough to prompt experienced bystanders to come equipped with snacks, drinks, sunscreen, umbrellas and even deck chairs.

On the list of participants so far this year are the stroller derby team from Old Town Co-op Preschool; the bucket drum line from Cub Scout Pack 10; marching bands from Mason, Stewart, Truman and Meeker middle schools; the Magnificent Mutt canine winners; dogs from the Pierce County 4-H program; Steve Curran’s karate kids; and the Tooth Fairy, throwing free floss packets. Unicyclists from local elementary schools always put in an appearance, as does the elaborately costumed crossing guard from Washington-Hoyt Elementary School, Miss Peggy.

And this year, there will also be beginner cyclists. Taking part for the first time is Kidical Mass, an offshoot of the cycling activist group Critical Mass that began leading young riders in organized monthly rides last summer.

“We’re getting started early this year with the Daffodil Parade as a way of getting kids thinking about riding bikes,” says organizer Matt Newport.

Not only does Kidical Mass raise awareness by being in the parade, it also gives kids “a way to be in the parade if they’re not part of any organization,” Newport says. As a bonus, the parade’s slow speed is perfect for very young or beginner riders. Cyclists can meet up beforehand and decorate their bikes with flowers in the parade line-up area located behind Mason Middle School. Adults with kids riding in seats or trailers are also welcome. Find out more at kidicalmasstacoma.blogspot.com.

Meanwhile, Arcadia Montessori Preschool is one of three local preschools that have been marching in the parade for about 40 years. Co-director Kyle Shimamoto is the one who coordinates the kids beforehand, after parents have participated in a work party making costumes. This year, it’s vegetables, to match the “Ready, Set, Grow” theme.

“We get around 40 children, which adds up to around 100 with parents, grandparents and siblings,” Shimamoto says.

And while it’s fun to dress up like a carrot and wave to the crowd (even if your raincoat covers everything up), the real benefit to children participating is the sense of community it engenders, says Shimamoto.

“They get a really good sense of participation,” he says. “It’s a way for them to experience being part of the school in the wider community.”

But it’s also just a whole lot of fun.

“Kids love to march and wave,” says Raisl. “And grown-ups love to be supportive. It’s just such a happy thing.”

Junior Daffodil Parade

When: 10 a.m. April 12

Where: North Proctor Street from 28th to 26th streets, then along 26th Street to North Washington Street

Cost: Free

Also: The parade will be replayed on TVTacoma and tvtacoma.com at 8 p.m. April 14; 4 a.m. and 11 p.m. April 15; 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. April 16; 1 and 9 p.m. April 17; 2 and 10 p.m. April 18; 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. April 19; and 1 a.m. and 3 and 8 p.m. April 20.

Information: 253-759-0725, jrdaffodil.com