It wouldn’t have been a Tulip Parade without some wind and rain.
Fortunately, there was much more in the forecast here on Saturday – at least in terms of colorful entries that lightened even the gloomiest outlook.
As has been the case each April since the late 1980s, La Conner didn’t let drizzly, gusty conditions blow an opportunity to put its best foot forward.
It did so again with the 33rd annual Kiwanis Not-So-Impromptu Parade, part of the nationally acclaimed Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
The weather forced spectators and participants alike to don layers and rain gear, but it didn’t dampen enthusiasm for what is often called a “traditionally unique” La Conner event.
“It’s always a fun time passing out candy on the streets of La Conner,” explained Susie Gardner Deyo of the La Conner Civic Garden Club, who along with other participants bundled up for photos in the marina south basin parking lot before heading downtown.
This year’s parade took about 20 minutes and would’ve been shorter yet had it not been for the lone glitch of the afternoon.
Near the end of the steady progression, a Fire District 13 engine stalled, coming to a halt near the south end of First Street.
It took just a couple minutes for a District pickup, which had also been part of the parade, to backtrack and jump-start the much larger truck.
“All of a sudden it just went dead,” said the engine’s driver, Gary Ladd, who coordinates the popular Good Morning District 13 program.
Still, Ladd was able to maintain his trademark good humor.
“Please don’t give me a ticket,” he said as parade traffic began to back up.
Actually, no one seemed troubled by the delay. It gave both locals and tourists a second chance to pull out their phones and take photos of the orange and black Meow Mix car, always a parade favorite, and which was making a second loop through.
Fittingly, Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy” blared from the Meow Mix sound system.
Upbeat tunes were the order of a gray, chilly day. Student musicians, led by La Conner Schools’ Director of Bands and Choirs McKenzie Clark, offered their rendition of Northwest anthem “Louie, Louie” as they marched past onlookers lining sidewalks on both sides of First Street.
The Pacific Northwest Borderline Country-Western Line Dance Team didn’t miss a beat – or step – either.
As is its custom, the Not-So-Impromptu Parade, which was launched in 1987 by late La Conner Kiwanian Luke Long, featured an array of fun and zany entries.
There were the Shriner crazy cars, whose drivers’ fezzes remained in place despite the wind. The Swinomish Sloughmander also made a much-anticipated appearance. A human tulip joined in, too.
On the flip side, this year’s Daffodil Court and Sedro-Woolley’s Rodeo Queen Abigail Barr lent an aura of royalty to the parade.
They were joined by dogs, cyclists, vintage cars and trucks and even a pirate ship (not to be confused with the Skagit Bay Search and Rescue Boat).
Mayor Ramon Hayes, who often rides beside David Alvord in the classic white ‘41 La Conner fire truck, chose to walk with Town Park Commissioners, championing the coming Conner Waterfront Park pavilion. He was among other locals promoting civic causes, service organizations and public projects, including Friends of the La Conner Library.
Mere moments after the parade began, thoughts turned away from the weather and toward the event itself.
The Kiwanis Club of La Conner was joined by new sponsor Washington Federal and Town Councilmember Mary Wohleb to judge entries. “Walt the Vault” won the Kiwanis Award. Keith Kirchchcoester’s day of entry “Pirate Ship and 2 Flags,” with his first mate, won the Impromptu Award. The Borderline Dance Team gained the grand marshals’ award, judged the best entry in parade. The Alice in Wonderland Float won the Kids Award, which honors child participants. Washington Federal chose the La Conner Band for the Sponsor Award.
Part of the Not-So-Impromptu Parade’s appeal is that between spectators and participants it connects generations of La Conner and Skagit County residents.
As Saturday’s serpentine got under way, Jaime Garcia bounded down the Benton Street stairs to snap a picture of his great-granddaughter, Teagan Swanson, a Daffodil Festival princess.
“I want to make sure she sees me here,” he said.
Her glowing smile – one that overshadowed the raindrops – confirmed she did.
Dorothy Dalan of La Conner put it best afterward: “It was a good parade as always,” she said. “What’s a little rain?”