This spring has been particularly rainy, but no matter the weather Saturday, the sun will be out.
The 23rd Procession of the Species, Olympia’s annual celebration of nature and creativity, will be led by the 8-foot-wide smiling sun that has been part of every procession.
It’s fitting that the glowing orb gets its day in the sun — or rain — this year. It was made by Loralin Toney, the sculptor whose work is on the cover of this year’s Arts Walk map. Toney and a friend created it for the Energy Outreach Center, a defunct nonprofit that promoted alternative energy.
The big-eyed, big-lipped sun will rise 16 feet above the crowd, mounted on a float representing the night sky with sparkling constellations. Surrounding it will be dancers dressed as poppies and sunflowers, and members of the River Ridge High School Band dressed as flames.
“We’re going to be heliotropic flowers,” said Lonnie Johns-Brown who, with friend Mary Clogston, organized the dancers. “The sun is on a pole so we can turn it, and we thought it would be fun to be flowers that turn with the sun.”
Among the 20 or so flower dancers will be state Rep. Beth Doglio and others with connections to the Legislature, including Johns-Brown, the legislative director for the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, and Clogston, who works for the House Democratic Caucus.
The group got involved with Procession last year, refurbishing the zebra float that has appeared in many processions and accompanying it in zebra costumes.
“We had such a good time that we wanted to do it again,” Johns-Brown said.
The sun-worshipping blossoms and fiery musicians will be among about 1,800 people marching, dancing, drumming and rolling down the street Saturday, said Procession founder Eli Sterling.
He predicted there will be 18,000-20,000 spectators, saying he counts the crowds and has found that there are 10 times as many spectators as participants each year.
“It’s startling, but it’s consistent,” he said.
Those numbers are about the same as for last year’s celebration, but Sterling said he has seen more enthusiasm this year among those who made costumes and worked on floats at the Procession Studio on Water Street.
“The energy has been delightful,” he said last week. “We’ve had really positive feedback.”
He attributed some of the enthusiasm to the many peaceful and family-friendly demonstrations that have happened in Olympia, including last week’s March for Science.
“Those types of things have made being out on the streets a second language,” he said. “There’s a great kinship on the streets. We’re seeing a real uptick in school participation.”
Among the participating schools are Hanson, Lincoln and McLane elementary schools; Reeves Middle School and its Alki alternative program; and Olympia Waldorf School.
A class from The Evergreen State College will dress as waves and surround a crab float.
“They designed their own symbols of water, and they will be waves crashing against the shore,” Sterling said. “They’re going to dance with the crab.”
Also moving through the streets will be waving strands of kelp, bright yellow swamp lanterns — less poetically known as swamp cabbage — and a flock of peacocks.
Puppet artist Jerry Berebitsky, who created the 24-foot-tall peacock stick puppet that wowed spectators last year, this year made two more and organized a large group to carry them through the streets.
Procession of the Species
What: The 23rd annual procession 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, Olympia, and ends in Heritage Park.
Admission: Free. Donations to the Thurston County Food Bank are encouraged.
Get involved: If you’d like to participate, stop at the registration table at Legion Way and Cherry Street to pick up a windsock for fish-on-a-stick to carry. Spectators are invited to create chalk art in the streets before the procession.
Note: No motorized vehicles, except wheelchairs. No live animals, except service animals. No words are permitted in the procession. Organizers ask that no candy be thrown.
Information: procession.org, 360-705-1087.