Creative vibes, community learning and cultural connections have been humming with activity preparing for the “Rise of the Reflection,” the return of Procession of the Species. During Olympia Arts Walk weekend, Earth things will glow in the night of April 26, 2024, and colorful creatures and people will parade by day on April 27, through downtown Olympia. Hundreds will participate, and thousands will watch in awe at a full embrace of the natural world in a shared acknowledgement of beauty and wonder.

On pause since 2020 COVID closures, the Luminary and Procession of the Species returns familiar, yet always as a new creation with new expression. Community workshop and open art studio activities have all been in preparation for weeks. People from the community have been planning, gluing, shaping and painting masks, drums, large creatures, delicate and opaque lanterns and more.

collection of paper mache animals for the Procession of the Species in Olympia including a rhino, tiger and a mythical beast with a lion head and a fish tail
At the Olympia Armory Creative Campus, paper mache’ creatures await the 2024 Procession of the Species. Creatures of the past include elephants, large birds, a gigantic peacock supported with stick poles held by humans and once a 35-foot gray whale made from 9,000 braided plastic bags. Photo credit: Rebecca Sanchez

Olympia Gets Involved in Procession of the Species Community Workshops

Since its first workshop in 1995, community volunteers have been supporting one another making art. For 2024, studio space at the Olympia Armory Creative Campus opened March 1. No prior knowledge has ever been required as someone would be there in the studio to help, and the only limits on creativity have been the limits of one’s imagination.

“I came across the Procession by accident,” says Kris Geringer who has been involved with the Luminary and Procession for 25 years. “I was downtown during the Procession, and I saw the batiks and Samba Olywa, and I just instantly thought, ‘I have to get involved with this!’ I volunteered at the studio, and I’ve just been here ever since.  I’ve taken on more and more responsibilities throughout the years as I’ve gained experience.”

Based on personal interest and available time, people have been coming and going making objects. Families, individuals, friends and the like all joined, some for one-time experiences and others for the whole seven weeks.

While the Procession of the Species never disappoints with amazing creations, participants have not needed artistic inclinations, only a want to participate.

“I liked arts and crafts all my life, but I really didn’t learn how to make art until I got involved with the Procession,” Says Geringer who works for the Department of Corrections when not volunteering. “It’s just been such an amazing opportunity to learn. I really like working in a group setting, working together on projects and learning from each other, so I like to do a lot of community workshops. Anyone can come down to the studio and help me make four floats, one for each element.”

Longtime volunteer Kris Geringer (pictured) has been involved with the Procession of the Species and Luminary for 25 years and has been working with all of the art mediums for 20 of those years. Photo credit: Rebecca Sanchez

Variety in Art Mediums Makes for Amazing Luminary and Procession of the Species Creations

Variety in art mediums means variety of choices for participants. Volunteers can learn more about Batik work, using a tjanting tool, held like a pen, drawing wax onto fabric to make banners, windsocks and costumes. Paper mâché over cardboard becomes the tough layers of masks or animal puppets that can be painted. Luminaries are made from wooden cane formed into shapes, covered in paper or translucent fabric and illuminated inside.  

“I am not this masterful artist, but I have made things that I have really loved,” Geringer says. “And, that’s what I try to tell people. Don’t go for perfection. Make something that you enjoy looking at, and enjoy the process of making the art. That is equally as important as what you create. It’s getting your hands into papier mâché and smearing it on the big octopus that you’re making. I just enjoy the whole process.”

jazz band playing at a Illuminated Ball and a Dance Party
An Illuminated Ball and a Dance Party at the Olympia Eagles Club helped with fundraising. The Create Your Own Creature and Vendrediti’s Bag jazz soiree raised additional funds during an art studio open house at the Olympia Armory Creative Campus. Photo credit: Rebecca Sanchez

2024 Rise of the Reflection Theme for Procession of the Species in Olympia

New creations join the Procession of the Species each year and old favorites come out too. Spectators can look forward to the familiar earth, air, water and fire element themed sections and see the new creations as they wind through downtown Olympia.

Participants come in all ages, as individuals or as groups. For example, they may process as a team to lift one animal aloft. Once, people processed as a group of wolves on bicycles. Another time, an individual person acted as a snake in a basket pulled by a wagon. Music and dance are staggered throughout the Procession of the Species sections. Samba Olywa practices each year and welcomes the public to join their practice sessions. Live bands such as Artesian Rumble Arkestra came out of earlier Procession of the Species days, along with Sticks and Bones Marching Band.

woman in a black, white and red bird outfit with her arms in the area.
While optional, people have been joining Procession of the Species community workshops on dance and to learn art techniques at the Olympia Armory Creative Campus to share in the Procession. Photo credit: Shanna Paxton Photography

“Seeing the Procession is one thing,” says Geringer, “but I really want to point out the benefit of coming to the studio and making art and being in the Procession. For me, that’s where the magic is.”

Magical indeed and always new, for both long-time and first-time spectators. The community will be processing forth for the first time since 2019, so it is a renewal of engagement in itself. Visit downtown for the Olympia Arts Walk weekend, April 26 and 27 and be awestruck by one of the largest and best-known annual Earth Day celebrations in the Northwest. Visit the Procession of the Species website for more a downtown map of the event and more information.

Luminary Procession
April 26, 8:30 p.m.

Procession of the Species
April 27, 4:30 p.m.

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