We’d heard about Fremont’s annual nude bicycle parade years ago and hadn’t seen it so when Allison and Ted offered to guide us to a good viewing spot on Leary Way we signed up.
Like Ballard, Fremont is on the Lake Washington Ship Canal, but further east and with a different character. Though huge condo and apartment buildings seem to be taking over Ballard, it continues to hang on to its fishing, shipbuilding, and other serious and gritty commercial enterprises. Ballard doesn’t see itself as special or different. It’s just an interesting and satisfying place to live.
Fremont, on the other hand, is special, a self-described center of the universe. Entering Fremont you’re encouraged to set your watch ahead because Fremont is a little ahead of its time.
If Fremont has a motto it might be the pseudo-Latin phrase “De Liberta Quirkas” (Freedom to Be Peculiar). Fremont knows how to smile.
Fremont celebrates with public sculpture, so in the early 90’s it commissioned an enormous VW-bug-crushing troll sculpture to live under the north end of the Aurora Bridge.
Fremont’s statue of Lenin, imported from a Czechoslovakia scrap yard in 1993, still can’t understand what’s happened. Nearby in the sculpture “Waiting for the Interurban,” human-like figures wait patiently for transport that never appears.
We walked downhill from Phinney Ridge with Allison and Ted and found a spot along the north side of Leary Way to stand and eventually sit on the curb to watch the Solstice Parade. Both sides of Leary were crowded with observers, much denser than the Mai 17 Norwegian Constitution Day parade we watched in Ballard the month before.
Auto traffic thinned out, the road cleared, and eventually nude riders began to trickle west on Leary Way heading for the parade start. Virtually all wore body paint, often applied in creative ways, and sometimes sported hats or other paraphernalia. Lots of smiles from the riders and the lookers.
Unlike other Seattle parades, the Fremont Solstice Parade allows no commercial participants, no businesses, no logos, no selling, and all floats must be human powered. The rules both shorten and improve the parade.
Eventually the parade started and masses of riders appeared from the west on Leary Way. The riders kept coming, about fifteen minutes worth. Our friends said the number of riders had been growing over the years but this was the most they’d seen. Lots of cheering from the onlookers as especially interesting examples of the human-body-as-artistic-canvas passed by.
The nude bicyclist’s part of the parade
Someone I talked to said he’d attended every parade, for years, except when his son and girlfriend rode together. Too embarrassing. Does anyone get upset about having a thousand nude people ride bikes and walk by, some staying nude for the whole day? Not that I could see.
Historically mid-summer celebrations have been a time when rules of decorum are suspended and lascivious behavior tolerated, recognition, even celebration, of fecundity and the human body. But there was nothing pornographic or even particularly sexy about this parade. It was thoroughly wholesome.
Colorful paint applied to naked figures makes it hard for brains to process so the effect is different. Body parts bounce up and down and that’s interesting more than stimulating. But there was a buzz, a shared sense of naughtiness, a freedom from what sometimes seems like arbitrary, unnecessary constraint, that rippled through audience and riders as they passed by
Then came a band, floats, and marchers I don’t know how to describe, creative in ways that defy easy categorization.
Dancers and band
Cowgirls shake it
Human powered float and the end of the parade
Food and drink
The parade over, we wandered over to the Ship Canal looking for something to eat. There was plenty.
We found space at table to seat all of us partly occupied by two sisters in town from Bellingham to watch the fun. Some picnickers chose to sit along the Ship Canal to enjoy their late lunch.
Later we followed the crowd toward Gasworks Park on Lake Union. We encountered Santa on the way.
At Gasworks Park a fenced area had been set aside as a beer garden. Entry requirement: being clothed. But it wasn’t enforced.
What a day!
© 2019, johnashenhurst. All rights reserved.