The Fremont Solstice Parade is perhaps Seattle’s happiest day of the year, and that’s in no small part thanks to the explosion of brave creativity that is the pre-parade bike ride featuring hundreds of people using their bodies as art canvases.
The solstice bike ride is still an unofficial part of the Solstice Parade, but it’s an annual tradition that goes back 30 years to when the first two naked bike riders crashed the 1993 Fremont Solstice Parade. It’s a momentary almost magical space when social norms and people’s personal limits are suspended. People’s feelings of vulnerability transform into self-expression, and they form an art space unlike any other in the city when they group up and ride together.
There is no official painting party location, a tradition that ran for years up until the pandemic. Instead, people will be getting painted at various private parties around the area, will paint at home before riding to the start or may just paint up at Gas Works Park, where the riders are gathering. Here’s the tentative schedule of events from the Solstice Cyclists website:
Morning: Paint up, then ride to Gas Works Park.
1:00 -1:25 Form up at Gas Works
1:25-1:45 Ride from Gas Works Park to parade route
1:45-2:30? Loop on parade route as desired, then exit to Gas Works or beyond.
The official Fremont Solstice Parade starts at 2, and it is also a wonderful display of creativity. No motors or visible sponsorships are allowed. You get things like dance troupes, music acts, big hand-powered floats and large puppets. Below is a map of the parade route from the Fremont Arts Council. Note that the route does not make it to Stone Way N this year, likely due to the major construction project there.
Some tips for first-time riders
If you have never ridden in the parade before, the Solstice Cyclists FAQ is full of helpful information and advice. But here are some major items to know:
This event happens in public, obviously, so that means people will be taking photos. So take that into consideration with your costuming and if you are planning to get painted near the start line. It’s not in the spirit of the event for creepy dudes to be taking lots of photos, but it could happen. Also, don’t be that guy.
The best “paints” to use are face paints and theatrical make-up liquids and cakes. The Solstice Cyclists list these brands as popular options:
- Diamond FX
- Wolfe FX
- Kryolan Aquacolor
- Ben Nye
Many riders have used acrylic paint in years past, but just know it’s not meant for use on bodies. And don’t bother trying to use tempera paint. It will flake off.
Apply sunscreen and give it time to soak in before applying paints. It’s the afternoon of Solstice weekend! The strongest sunlight of the entire year.
Make sure you have a way to carry your clothes with you on the ride so you can get dressed at the end.
A plastic bag or saddle cover for your bike seat is a good idea.
Be creative, express yourself and have fun!