Samba Olywa to add some rhythm to this year's Lakefair Grand Parade

Contributing writerJuly 18, 2013 


    What: The 56th annual Capital Lakefair — happening again this year without the traditional boating on Capitol Lake — is a five-day celebration filled with music, carnival rides, shows, fireworks and a grand parade.

    When: Noon to 11 p.m. today and Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday

    Where: Capitol Lake, Olympia

    Cost: Admission is free; take money for rides, games, food, etc.

    More information: 360-943-7344 or


    FRIDAY (Senior Day)

    9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 50s-plus entertainment

    3:30-5 p.m. Jackson Memory Band (pop)

    5:30-7 p.m. Unmarked Bills (rock)

    7:30-9 p.m. Hitchkick (rock)

    9:30-11 p.m. Midnight Rambler (Rolling Stones tribute)


    7 a.m.-noon. Olympia Half Marathon and 3K and 8K Fun Runs, Heritage Park; information at

    Noon-1 p.m. Honky Tonk Angels (country dance)

    Noon-4 p.m. Kids Day in Sylvester Park

    1-2 p.m. TangleFoot Cloggers

    2:30-4 p.m. Motor Car (rock)

    5-7 p.m. Lakefair Parade, from Capitol Way and 20th Avenue to Fifth Avenue and Simmons Street

    6-8:30 p.m. South Sound Voice singing competition

    9-11 p.m. Randy Hansen (Jimi Hendrix tribute)


    Noon-1 p.m. Evergreen Country Dancers

    1-3 p.m. Rhythm Fire Kids (music-school students)

    3-5 p.m. Rhythm Fire faculty band (music-school teachers)

    6-7:30 p.m. Koko Jo (rock)

    8-10 p.m. Billy Farmer (rock)

    10 p.m. Fireworks with recorded music

On Saturday afternoon, Samba Olywa will drum and dance through the streets of Olympia as part of the Lakefair Parade. And when it does, it will be a bridging of two of Thurston County’s worlds.

Samba Olywa is one of the highlights of the annual Procession of the Species, the Earth Day anti-parade (with no words and no motorized vehicles except for wheelchairs) that happens every April. The group, dressed as members of some species or other — this year, it was gray wolves — traditionally ends the procession with its irresistible rhythms and high-energy dancing.

But it’s been a dozen years since the merry band marched in the Lakefair Parade, a parade that’s very much in the traditional mold, complete with a color guard, high school marching bands and festival royalty waving from floats and Corvettes.

“(Lakefair is) a little bit of a different parade for us,” said Cliff Moore, Samba Olywa’s gigmeister. (Yes, that’s his actual title.) “We typically do the Procession of the Species and the Fremont Solstice Parade up in Seattle.”

Besides the Samba Olywa folks — who’ll be dressed in relatively sedate samba white — the Lakefair Parade’s 100 entries include a color guard, a band and a unit that will carry flags from each of the 50 states and six U.S. territories, all from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 17th Fires Brigade; a commander and a vice commander from the base; marching bands including the Capital High School band and Seattle’s All-City Band; and drivers from local car clubs Corvettes de Olympia, Mustangs West and the Olympia Regional Horseless Carriage Club of America.

Parade co-chairman Jon Cox, part of Corvettes de Olympia, will chauffeur the 2012 Lakefair queen in his car. “I get to be the lucky one,” he said. “And behind me there will be five more Corvettes that carry the 2012 princesses. The Lakefair Parade is the symbolic last dance for the 2012 court.”

The 2013 court, meanwhile, will ride the Lakefair float.

Along with the vehicles and marchers will come the dancing band of Samba Olywa.

“We felt it was an opportunity to bring samba to a different audience,” Moore said. “Our music is so joyful. People smile; they are happy to see us.”

The samba group’s route back to Lakefair was a bit convoluted. The parade requires participating groups to have $1 million in liability insurance. That’s not a problem for school groups, which have insurance through the school or district, or for entries with cars, which are covered by auto insurance.

But for Samba Olywa, which travels on foot and typically isn’t asked for insurance, it was a hurdle.

The Capitalarians who run Lakefair lessened the insurance requirement somewhat, Cox said, and the group will be looking into further modifications to the requirements for groups that are on foot.

“We don’t want to keep anybody local who would like to be in the parade out of the parade,” Cox said.

Samba Olywa hasn’t considered participating in the Lakefair Parade in recent years because of a commitment to the Vashon Island Strawberry Festival Parade, held the same weekend. Geoff Johns, one of the founders of the group, moved to the island and started a samba group there, and the parade provided the opportunity for the group to reconnect with him.

But Johns died in March, and the group had room in its schedule for a different gig.

“Our dancing and drumming make people feel good,” Moore said. “We thought, ‘Let’s bring it to a new audience and see if we can’t find some more recruits.’ ”

About the joys of a parade, the free spirits and the traditionalists agree:

“When I go down the parade route, I love seeing people smile, and especially little kids,” Cox said. “That’s why I do it.”

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