MARYSVILLE — The rain came down like a solid wall, washing across State Avenue just as the Kiddies Parade took off from Totem Middle School toward Comeford Park.
While the weather had mostly cleared up by the time of the Grand Parade, it was still enough to cause a little more than a dozen entrants to cancel their appearances. It also caused the parade to start about 20 minutes late.
“A black cloud was rolling toward us on State,” Maryfest president Paul Brown said. “I thought, “Holy crud we are in for it.'”
Parade officials were afraid they might have to cancel the parade for the second time in 85 years because of lightening. But they decided to “ride this out,” Brown said.
The sidewalks remained thronged with onlookers nonetheless, as the families of the Kiddies Parade and nearly 100 entrants in the Grand Parade marched on as planned.
He added that he was impressed with how engaged the crowd was.
“They were huddled together,” Brown said. “They were serious about being there.”
Grand Parade organizers were wrestling with their lineup, while reassuring the public. “Yes, the parade is still going on,” Mark Jensen told a caller to Maryfest offices. Indeed, Jensen estimated that the Grand Parade lost about 14 entrants to the downpour, even as it gained at least three new entrants this year.
The Sunnyside neighborhood debuted its own float this year, and the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team made their first appearance, as did the Washington State Patrol.
“The Chinese Girls Drill Team is one of the premiere outfits in the region, and their performances are always fabulous,” Jensen said. “The State Patrol brought cars, motorcycles and even a SWAT vehicle.”
Jensen noted that parade coordinator Dina Seske-Bittner had even arranged for the State Patrol to fly aircraft overhead, but the low cloud ceiling nixed those plans.
Looking ahead to next year, Jensen was optimistic about recruiting the Seattle Police Motorcycle Drill Team, since they were almost a lock for this year, and he even hopes to bring back the oft-recalled trike races.
Fifteen minutes after the Grand Parade wrapped, the skies over Ebey Slough lit up with a display courtesy of first-time Strawberry Festival participants BFI Entertainment Fireworks.
“I told them we’d need at least a couple of five-inch shells, which is not inexpensive,” Jensen said.
Although BFI had promised a minimum of 13 minutes, albeit probably closer to 15 minutes, for their fireworks display, Jensen praised them for delivering a 20-minute show.
“I think they want to be our permanent fireworks folks,” Jensen said. “I look forward to refining it next year. It was nice, but fifteen minutes is about optimal as far as I’m concerned. That way, they can compact those final five minutes into a huge finale, and shoot everything up at once.”
Prior to the Grand Parade was the Kiddies Parade.
Kelsie Nickerson guided a pair of Shetland ponies, from Precision Farrier Services in Marysville, and nabbed first prize in the pets category for that parade, while Hannah Hall’s 9-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Cooper, took second for his costume as a Strawberry basket.
Malakai Crouse, 4, was one of a number of kids who rode in wagons that had been dressed up like strawberry crates. Tim Crouse, his father, credited Deanna Braaten, a family friend, with inspiring them to take part, and his wife, Denise, with actually doing the work of attaching the recycled wooden pallets to the wagon.
“Malakai’s been excited for days about this. It’s his first time in the Kiddies Parade,” Tim said, before Malakai and the other children riding wagons won first place in the wheels category.
A trio of aspiring Strawberry Festival princesses won first place in the floats category, and the grand prize overall, scoring them a spot in the Grand Parade lineup. Sisters Lily and Jade Carter, aged 4 and 3, wore flowing dresses and rode in a cart proclaiming them to be princesses for 2027 and 2028, respectively, while 5-month-old Addie Maynard napped in a wagon trailing them, with a sign branding her a princess for 2032.
Bonnie Maynard, grandma to Addie, explained that the years were chosen for when each girl would turn 16. From there, it was just a couple of days’ labor to design and build their float. While Addie continued to slumber, Lily and Jade gushed over meeting this year’s Strawberry Festival Royalty, who complimented their outfits.