Fremont is a neighborhood in Seattle and its Solstice Celebration is described here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fremont_Solstice_Parade . A major “add-on” is the naked and painted bicycle riders who always precede the main parade http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice_Cyclists . This tradition began about 20 years ago and has been growing in popularity every year (116 cyclists in 2004 and over a 1000 cyclists this year). In the early 2000s members of the Fremont Art Council who organizes the parade and some yearly parade participants were incensed by the cyclists who were perceived as receiving too much of the media attention. The current organization includes the following “warning” and “setting of boundaries” on their web page http://fremontartscouncil.org/facevents/fremont-solstice-parade/watching-the-parade/ :
“ The Fremont Solstice Parade welcomes the Solstice Cyclists to ride in our parade. Please be advised that riders will not be wearing clothes and full nudity is to be expected. All cyclists are required to be painted and costumed for the ride. Most are. The Parade is not a nudist event, it is an Art event that recognizes the human body as a canvas and the joy of riding as a part of our community’s creative expression. When you come to watch the parade, you will be witnessing a right of passage for many Seattlites, and for many people from all over the globe. Respect and Celebration is the main vibe.
The Fremont Arts Council supports a policy of No Lewd, Offensive, Obscene, or Otherwise Objectionable behavior. Anyone watching the parade who experiences such behavior is welcome to request assistance from a parade monitor, or contact the police directly. ”
Brigitte and I went to the Fremont Solstice Festival as spectators. I was curious about the experience of the spectators – literally tens of thousands along the parade route. We arrived an hour before the main event and 30 minutes prior to the start of the Solstice Cyclists. Streets were jammed with people and we were only able to snag a bit of curb facing into the sun at a corner near the end of the parade route. All remaining standing room evaporated in the next few minutes. We could hear the progress of the cyclists by the sound of cheers far down the street. They came streaming by us filling the street completely. They circled around about a quarter mile farther down the street and looped back. For an hour naked painted bodies continuously streamed by us in both directions. As the main parade started, the cyclists had less room and became increasingly packed between the end of the parade route and the front of the main parade. The street in front of us became gridlocked with no space for any cyclist to ride in any direction. To clear the congestion, parade marshals directed the cyclists onto a side street. Many cyclists parked their bikes and walked back onto the parade route as spectators. Some pulled on bras or pants. Many did not. It was a fabulous event. People of all ages, sizes, races, and gender participated (women may have slightly outnumbered men). Their enthusiasm and joy in the event was unmistakable. The body art ranged from none to crude to fabulously creative. The spectators were positive and nearly as enthusiastic as the riders. The audience was a mix of children and adults. The three small children sitting next to us (and their mom) were completely unphased by the nudity – they were more interested in the color and fantasy of the art. I sincerely hope that experiences such as these, in front of an audience of many tens of thousands, will serve to positively change societal attitudes towards bodies.
Many of the cyclists hang out at a park near the end of the parade route – given the effort put into their art I think they want to display it a bit longer. Actually, one cannot really see or appreciate most of the art work as the cyclists lean over their bikes and stream past.
Our location was not ideal for quality photography - facing the sun. I’ve uploaded a few to an album to provide a perspective of our experience.
A search on a photo site like flickr.com provides links to outstanding photographic records of the event. Here is a link to a nice set of photos from 2009:
and here is a link to all photo sets from this year: