Tradition takes center stage at Olympia’s Lakefair parade

Dancers from Johansen Olympia Dance Center fill Capitol Way during the Lakefair Grand Parade in Olympia on Saturday.
Dancers from Johansen Olympia Dance Center fill Capitol Way during the Lakefair Grand Parade in Olympia on Saturday. Staff photographer

Ever since the Moreno family moved from Eastern Washington to their house on Capitol Way in Olympia more than 30 years ago, Michael Moreno has told his children and grandchildren that the Capital Lakefair Grand Parade is for them.

The annual tradition of watching the parade, which practically runs through the Morenos’ front yard, brings about 50 people — family and friends from all over the state — together like a big family reunion.

Now Michael’s 4-year-old granddaughter, Naiya Moreno, thinks the parade is for her birthday, which is actually July 20, since that’s when the family has always gathered to celebrate with her.

When asked if the family would ever want to move, Michael Moreno has a standard response: “Where else can you live where they throw a parade for you every year?”

They said they don’t mind the crazy people in the yard because the crazy people are their relatives.

Naiya’s mom and Michael’s daughter, Michelle Moreno, said, “The parade never gets old and we feel blessed to be here.”

Michael said, “The whole thing is beautiful. It’s nice to see people enjoying themselves. Beautiful friends, beautiful food, beautiful family.”

Saturday’s parade included more than 100 entries, including the traditional floats, marching bands, dance teams, antique cars and festival royalty from around the region. Crew members from the USS Olympia submarine were special guests and rode in antique cars. A group from the Ellensburg Rodeo entertained kids from their horses.

This year’s Grand Marshal was Robert Selene, one of the five original Capital Lakefair founders.

All last week, chairs and ropes had been placed to reserve spots for spectators along the Capitol Way route. On Saturday, sidewalks were jammed with onlookers, despite the 90-degree heat.

Amidst all the bright colors of the parade festivities, some friendly faces in bright yellow vests were around to help.

Jane Craig and her husband, Terry, who live in west Olympia, have been volunteering with the Olympia Police Department for six years, directing traffic together on Lakefair’s parade day.

They always work at the intersection of Washington Street and Capitol Boulevard, right by the freeway overpass, standing in the sun from 1 p.m. to about 6:30 p.m.

Despite the heat, they were happy to help.

Not everyone is friendly to the approximately 50 volunteers, but Jane said, “They’re usually really good when we’re directing traffic for parades and things.”

She said traffic would be less chaotic if more people decided to bike or take the bus.

But what makes it all worth it? Jane said it’s the community atmosphere.

“I love to watch the children, still wide-eyed and amazed at all the floats,” she said.

Lakefair concludes Sunday with fireworks at approximately 10 p.m. and carnivals rides until midnight.