Seattle Now & Then: Fall City parade, 1954

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: The horse-drawn Fall City Women’s Bowling League cart rolls past the Fall City Hotel and Café during the town’s 1954 Strawberry Festival parade. (Courtesy Fall City Historical Society)
THEN2: A procession of seven soap-box derby cars is towed on the same route in the 1956 parade. The Fall City Hotel and Café’s neon sign glows, with the initial letter in the bottom word alternating to drive home the message “GOOD” and “FOOD.” (Larry Divers, courtesy Fall City Historical Society)
NOW: In front of the same building, now the El Caporal Family Mexican Restaurant, the Mount Si High School Wildcats Dance Team entertains during this year’s Fall City Day parade on June 11. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on July 14, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on July 17, 2022

A parade of community continuity thrives in tiny Fall City
By Clay Eals

Is anything so timeless and appealing as a parade? From musical to commercial, from patriotic to protesting (which in turn is patriotic), a parade engages countless participants and onlookers, encompassing every age, setting, group and cause. All you need is two feet — or wheels — and the willingness to move.

Parades happen so often that movie characters on the run momentarily evade capture by joining one. In 1984, I saw a local political candidate become so entranced by a parade’s effect that after one cruise along the route he circled back to the end of the line and motored through again.

There’s just something innate that draws us together in person, what I’ve learned to label the Original Social Media: Face to Face. Especially in a neighborhood or small town, a parade embodies this, weaving a powerful spell. Seemingly everyone sees everyone, breathes the same air and exchanges smiles and waves.

And this summer, after a two-year pandemic hiatus, parades are back all over the county. One of the earliest took place June 11 in Fall City, the unincorporated burg 25 miles east of Seattle. The route, on Redmond-Fall City Road paralleling the Snoqualmie River, has served the tiny town’s annual processions since the post-World War II early 1950s.

Greater gatherings surrounded the parades, of course. Initially, the event was called the Strawberry Festival before morphing into Fall City Derby Day, saluting a Cub Scouts soap-box race and showcasing Derby Darlings atop a float. (One year, in 1968, the parade gave way to a River Drift, in which a 35-gallon metal barrel was dropped into the Snoqualmie, and citizens guessed how long it would take for the barrel to float 3.2 miles to a finish line.)

NOW: Commemorative button given away at this year’s Fall City Day by the Fall City Historical Society. (Clay Eals)

A new name emerged in 1971: Fall City Days and Logging Show. This year’s post-virus rebound was simply Fall City Day, celebrating 150 years since establishment of the hamlet’s first post office. Accoutrements included the traditional dunk tank and watermelon-eating contest.

One sign of community continuity along the parade route is a building at 337th Place Southeast whose legacy stretches to the late 1880s, when it began life as a hotel and restaurant. Over the decades, its name, functions and roofline have changed, but it has stood as a parade touchpoint, next to the reviewing stand.

NOW: Ruth Pickering, Fall City Historical Society director, beams after serving as grand marshal of this year’s parade. (Clay Eals)

The Fall City Historical Society’s history books have tracked those incarnations faithfully, thanks in no small part to the group’s longtime director, the vigilant Ruth Pickering, this year’s parade grand marshal. “Rural towns are an important thing,” she maintains. “They’re kind of an endangered species.”

Unlike, thank goodness, their parades!


Thanks to Bob Carney, Emily and Bruce Howard and Ruth Pickering for their help with this installment!

To see Clay Eals‘ 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are four documents from the Fall City Historical Society, an offbeat historical blurb from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library), and three sets of additional photos that augment this column.

Click the image above to read a report on the hotel/cafe corner depicted in our “Then” and “Now” photos. (Fall City Historical Society)
Click the image above to read a report on Fall City’s annual celebrations. (Fall City Historical Society)
Click the image above to read a 2007 report on Ruth Pickering. (Fall City Historical Society)
Click the image above to see the welcome brochure of the Fall City Historical Society. (Fall City Historical Society)
Need evidence of the staying power of parades? Read this oddball item from the June 15, 1882, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Parades R us!

In three groups, here are 93 additional photos (click twice on each one to enlarge it):

  • 15 photos from the Memorial Stadium endpoint of the 1965 Seafair Torchlight Parade, by Katherine Drazic, courtesy of Teresa Anderson.
  • 30 photos from the June 11, 2022, Fall City parade by Jean Sherrard. Click twice on each photo to enlarge it.
  • 48 from the 1956 Fall City parade by Larry Divers and courtesy of the Fall City Historical Society.


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