Saturday’s 24th annual Procession of the Species — Olympia’s do-it-yourself celebration of the planet’s flora, fauna and phenomena — is expected to be wet. And that’s even if it doesn’t rain.
The parade that organizers don’t like to call a parade divides its marchers, dancers, riders and floats into the elements of fire (mostly extinct and mythical animals, technically), air (birds and butterflies, et al), water (aquatic creatures) and earth (pretty much everything else).
Traditionally, earth is the biggest element, but this year, procession founder Eli Sterling noted, water is rising.
“This is a huge year for water,” he said, speculating that there are environmental reasons, from concerns about sea-level rise to news about water pollution.
The number of participants composing the element of water looks to be at least as big this year as the perennially popular earth element, home of such procession stalwarts as the lion and the rhino — and of puppet maker Jerry Berebitsky’s trio of towering giraffe puppets, at least one of which is expected to put in an appearance again this year.
Saturday’s denizens of the deep will include the porpoises and other sea life crafted by Cascadia Research Collective, which provides them with a habitat of blue-fabric water.
This year, the water will also surround Stream Team’s mussel-encrusted pilings, aimed at creating the illusion that downtown is underwater.
Other water-dwellers will include Boston Harbor Elementary School kindergarteners carrying fish made of recycled materials.
Lincoln Options Elementary School students will dress as fish “swimming” around a 24-foot whale shark created and carried by a group of enthusiastic parents.
Evergreen State College students in Cynthia Kennedy and Terry Setter’s Awakening the Dreamer, Pursuing the Dream program will be dancing, drumming and moving a float through the water element, too.
“Our students decided to embody coral reefs, which are dying out,” Kennedy said. “In doing so, they are thinking deeply about creative responses to changes in the ecosystem.”
Then there are groups describing their themes as “frog friends” and “undersea clubhouse.”
While the Procession of the Species has stayed roughly the same size the past few years — with 2,200-2,400 participants and about 20,000 spectators — its sister event, the Luminary Procession, has been growing. It takes place after dark on Friday night.
Last year was the first time part of Capitol Way was closed for the Friday celebration of the human spirit and the beauty of light, which ends at Sylvester Park with a performance by the drummers and dancers of Samba Olywa, the same group that gives the Procession of the Species its grand finale each year.
This spring, the Procession of the Species Studio’s luminary-making workshops drew capacity crowds, Sterling said.
“The luminary has really sparked people’s imaginations,” he said. “We had about 200 luminaries last year, and this year we expect more than that.”
Procession of the Species
What: The 24th annual procession — a parade with no words and no motorized vehicles except wheelchairs — celebrates the natural world and human creativity with music, dance, floats, costumes, masks and more.
When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Begins at Cherry Street and Legion Way in downtown Olympia, and ends in Heritage Park
Admission: Free; donations to the Thurston County Food Bank encouraged
More information: 360-705-1087, procession.org