Procession of the Species takes over Olympia

It’s that time of year again, when animals take over downtown Olympia and parade through the streets.

It’s a tradition that has spanned more than two decades. Thousands lined the streets Sunday to laugh and cheer as brightly colored, human-powered animals paraded past in the annual Procession of the Species.

The old favorites were all there: the smiling sun, the zebra, the lion, the rhino and the ever-popular 20-foot giraffe.

Giraffe enthusiasts bid farewell to the giant puppet this year. Creator Jerry Berebitsky of Olympia said it will be dismantled after the event. It has appeared in three Processions.

“It’s time to take it apart and make room for something new,” Berebitsky said. “But I’ve had several people ask me to keep it.”

So far, Berebitsky is keeping mum about what he’ll make for next year — he wants it to be a surprise. But he has done some research regarding a giant dragonfly with a 16-foot wingspan.

Mother-son duo Laura Killian and Killian Brasto of Tumwater were two of the people moving the giraffe along this year. And they’re no strangers to working with Berebitsky’s creations.

“My son got involved when Jerry had the pink elephant,” Laura Killian said. “Then we did the giant spider and now the giraffe. It’s a lot of fun, so it’s hard to say no.”

By all accounts, this year’s event brought the same light-hearted energy as in years past — despite worries that the tradition might be in decline. Event founder and organizer Eli Sterling told The Olympian that between 50 and 75 groups typically pre-register for the event. This year, only 10 did.

This could be because of changes to event planning. For financial reasons, the event’s organizers closed the community art studio, leaving Sterling with just an office and a small storage space.

“People do wait till the last minute, and registrations will certainly increase,” Sterling said last week. “But that’s a significant drop.

But the event did still draw newcomers, including Steve Hughes of Eatonville and Sally Adams of Montesano.

Together, they created a giant, silver fish crafted from an old tricycle, scraps of metal and sheets of cardboard. The fish had a working mechanical mouth and tail courtesy of Hughes, and shining black-and-silver scales painted by Adams.

Adams rode the contraption along the procession route.

“If this thing just makes it to the end, I’ll be happy,” Adams said.