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 Countys 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 its been a dozen years since the merry band marched in the Lakefair Parade, a parade thats 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 Olywas gigmeister. (Yes, thats his actual title.) We typically do the Procession of the Species and the Fremont Solstice Parade up in Seattle.
Besides the Samba Olywa folks wholl be dressed in relatively sedate samba white the Lakefair Parades 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-McChords 17th Fires Brigade; a commander and a vice commander from the base; marching bands including the Capital High School band and Seattles 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 groups route back to Lakefair was a bit convoluted. The parade requires participating groups to have $1 million in liability insurance. Thats 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 isnt 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 dont want to keep anybody local who would like to be in the parade out of the parade, Cox said.
Samba Olywa hasnt 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, Lets bring it to a new audience and see if we cant 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. Thats why I do it.