Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lakefair Parade Float Denied Entry by Organizers

Above:  A float created by members of the Olympia Confronting the Climate Crisis group was not allowed to enter the Lakefair Parade. Instead, the group parked it on Percival Landing and educated the public about fossil fuels, recent oil train derailments, and provided a more sustainable, alternative vision of the future.

By Janine Gates

The carnival rides and games, food, parade, and fireworks are all highlights of Capital Lakefair, a five day festival which began 59 years ago in downtown Olympia. 

It's gone through a lot of changes over the years, but maybe there’s room for just a little more change.

About 100 entries from around the Northwest for the parade on Saturday night were submitted, including flashy, motorized floats from Northwest area community festivals, school marching bands, drill teams, and a few groups advertising their for-profit businesses, but a modest, homemade, two piece float was not allowed to participate.

Designed by members of the Olympia Confronting the Climate Crisis group, an oil train derailment is depicted under the section titled, “CO2 = Climate Chaos, which features a lot of of black paint, train wheels that really move and flames made out of cardboard. 

The other section depicts a happy scene with children and families playing near clean water, raised garden beds, and a solar powered house under a rainbow.

After organizers could not get an explanation for the denial from Lakefair executive director Dennis Williams, group members reached out to local media to make their case.

King 5 News contacted Williams, who told that news organization that the floats were political in nature. Williams did not respond to an emailed request for information from Little Hollywood.

“The floats were made specifically for the Lakefair Parade - all stated limitations regarding the parade were related to politician limitations as stated on the Lakefair website,” Rod Tharp told Little Hollywood

In response to the denial to participate, members of the group quickly organized to place the float on Percival Landing near The Kiss statue, and staff it during Lakefair hours of operation. They explained the scene and climate change issues to passersby.

Tharp, a member of the climate crisis group, and a former small residential contractor and carpenter, designed the floats and worked with several others to create the two piece, educational, multi-media float. He has lived in Thurston County since 1975.

“If we don't solve the climate change issue, all the other issues - social justice, equality of all people, and peace, will become more serious. All these are related so we are working on all of them, but climate change is our top item,” he said of the group.

The theme for this year's Capital Lakefair is Community Hearts Fly! 

“We are an accepting community – that doesn’t make sense. We’re so progressive here. We line Fourth Avenue and Capitol Way with rainbow flags showing our pride and we can’t have a rainbow float in our Lakefair parade to show community spirit?” said one woman who saw the float and was told it wasn’t allowed in the parade.

Above: A passerby ponders the portion of the float depicting an oil train derailment.

“Hey, at least you get to be out here showing people this longer than being in the parade,” said a young man.

Above: Todd Davison is a new member of the Olympia Confronting the Climate Crisis group. He helped create the float scenes, and educated passersby about climate change issues on Friday.

“I’ve been concerned about pollution and the destruction of the environment for about 30 to 40 years and my parents built a solar powered house in the '80s in Maine. I used to work for Homes First! but now I’m retired and have the time and resources to help out,” said Todd Davison, as he staffed the float on Friday.

The group is part of the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation and has been active in Olympia for almost six years. It meets every third Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. at the Olympia Center, and is known for its colorful signs and props at peaceful protests and events.

Bourtai Hargrove, a member of the group who staffed the floats on Friday and Saturday, said the floats took about three weeks to make. She and other members of the group have also testified for divestment of state retirement funds in fossil fuels at meetings of the Washington State Investment Board.

“This float is about protecting future families,” said Sue Langhans, who was also helping to staff the float on Friday and Saturday.

Capital Lakefair is a non-profit, volunteer organization. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to pull it off, and many local organizations rely on the proceeds from their Lakefair food booths to fund their year-round community activities. To find out more information, go to

Above: Using an oil train tanker look-alike semi, CrimeStoppers volunteers inexplicably threw toilet paper rolls featuring an advertisement for a local plumbing company to parade watchers, which was a real hit with the kids. 

Speaking of fossil fuels, Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby rode in the parade in a 1950 Buick. Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet rode in a 1957 T-Bird Convertible. There were also several cars with the Corvettes of Olympia club, several entries for the Horseless Carriage Club and the ever-popular fire trucks. Near the end of the parade, Olympia city councilmembers Clark Gilman and Julie Hankins were seen on foot, along with city manager Steve Hall and a solid waste recycling team, ready to collect recyclables from parade watchers. 

For more information about the Olympia Confronting the Climate Crisis group, the Washington State Investment Board, sea level rise, and other climate change issues of particular concern to downtown Olympia and the community, go to Little Hollywood,, and type key words into the search button.