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Mission To empower communities to engage in cultural relationships with the natural world as a means of sustaining efforts of environmental protection and restoration.

Creating cultural connections for wildlife protection... The Olympian, April 2003

Diverse crowd honors Earth
Event draws 30,000 watchers


OLYMPIA -- A pack of wolves on bikes. A shimmying octopus. Chaotic rhythms and bedazzling dancers.

They were all part of the wild spectacle and raw energy Saturday in the ninth annual Procession of the Species.

Many unique floats and costumes wowed the crowd as the procession charged through downtown streets.

Some of the costumes celebrating the natural world grabbed applause and cheers.

Two very pregnant women painted their round bellies to look like the Earth and Moon.

Robin Morisette and Melissa Petit, both of Olympia, got plenty of comments as they walked past the crowd, their bellies protruding from under twilight-blue shrouds they'd wrapped around their shoulders.

"We're celestial bodies," said Petit, who is due in three weeks.

Participants in this year's celebration included young and old alike.

Tom Goldsmith, 93, pounded on a drum in his lap while being pushed in a wheelchair by his daughter, Jinny Beckmann, along with a colorfully clad group from United Churches.

"Do you think we've got anybody older in the parade?" Beckmann asked.

As the procession began at the corner of Legion Way and Jefferson Street, evolution unfolded. Butterflies, dragonflies, fish, frogs, penguins, whales, lions, monkeys, flowers, and peace doves were represented with costumes and papier-mache.

Procession director Eli Sterling said about 2,500 people took part in the procession, while 30,000 watched from the sidewalks.

"It's a benchmark for this community, about who we are and how we relate to each other," he said.

Sterling said it was a chance for the participants to step outside of the "human drama," given the current world conflicts.

"No matter what's going on in the world, the procession is still here. And I think that meant a lot to people," he said.

For some, the reasons for dressing up were simple.

"I like to hear the music, and I like everybody looking at me," said 6-year-old Gillian Thetford of Olympia, who had dressed in a homemade parrot costume.

2003 The Olympian

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