As the drum rolls drew nearer, a burst of creatures rounded the corner of Sylvester Park onto Capitol Way. Commemorating 25 years, a whole ecosystem congregated to honor the natural world at the annual Procession of the Species in Olympia. The procession is a public celebration of the natural world’s beauty and the joy of experiencing a diverse ecosystem. Weaving through the streets of downtown, multiple generations looked on at the towering orcas, giraffe and elephant winding down the avenue.

Tulip-clad dancers swirled in unison to the to the beat of the tree frog drumline. Families of deer and a swarm of bees braided between a peacock as tall as the trees lining the sidewalk. Schools of jellyfish made way for an elementary class of tadpoles. A lion roared for the young sidewalk viewers and as the skunk rolled by, a plume of smoke was left in its wake. On-lookers joined in at the end of the Procession line and skipped to the tune of the trombones ahead.

The Procession and its cousin, the Luminary Procession, carry a sort of magic into the Olympia air. As the community gathers, people of all backgrounds are free to experience the joy of the natural world. Toddlers, grandparents and college students can all find a common thread in the creation and celebration of these creatures. And this atmosphere is exactly what Procession Director, Eli Sterling, strives to create. A space to appreciate the natural world free from judgement. “An essential aspect of being out in nature is that I am not in question with myself,” explains Sterling. “I am not questioning myself in relation to my community or my society. I am actually in standing with this miracle of life on the planet.”

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