Islanders cheer as Strawberry Festival parade passes by

When the parade finally started, under a bright blue sky, it wowed with high style and creativity.

The 2023 Strawberry Festival is now a wrap, but the memory of the sweet days and nights of this year’s edition of Vashon’s more than century-old tradition will linger on for many islanders, young and old, for weeks to come.

Vashon’s town center was packed on Saturday morning on both sides of Vashon Highway, awaiting the start of the Grand Parade.

Before it began, a group of beaming Zumba dancers, culled from classes at Vashon Athletic Club, warmed up the crowd with high-stepping routines.

And when the parade finally started, under a bright blue sky, it wowed with high style and creativity.

As always, it began with a march of island children, with many of them decked out in adorable strawberry-themed attire.

The kids standing on the sidelines got a huge treat after that, as Vashon Island Fire & Rescue’s ladder truck appeared to signal the start of the Grand Parade — with Fire Chief Matt Vinci and a big crew of firefighters out in front, pressing candy into eagerly outstretched small hands.

The parade was on.

It joyously once again included islanders outfitted as shimmering cephalopods, salmon, and almost every other sea creature imaginable, following the drumbeat of the dazzling Vashon Island Marine Band and Procession. Kazoo-tooting, tutu-wearing friends of Vashon Senior Center followed shortly thereafter.

A contingent of smiling Unitarians lofted banners messaging progressive values, while representatives of the Vashon Heritage Museum drove through town in a truck that pulled a small but mighty classic hydroplane in its wake. As always, there was a fine-looking fleet of vintage Vashon tractors, and Vashon’s venerable Backbone Campaign brought along its giant, inflatable Orca puppet to soar about the crowd.

Somewhere in the mix came Vashon’s very own ukulele band, blissfully strumming on a Tiki-themed float. Clubs representing youth athletes including swimmers, lacrosse players, and rowers kicked the energy up a notch with their appearances.

The DOVE Project’s celebration of love included rainbow flags and roller skaters, and next came an even bigger demonstration of Pride from the island’s LGBTQIA2S+ Friends and Allies — a parade entry that included drag queen Dame Rosa Acea Galletta, clad in a long pink skirt and apron, appliquéd with lace and big, ripe strawberries, bestowing her blessings on the islanders from the bed of a pick-up truck.

No Strawberry Festival would be complete, of course, without the Vashon Thriftway Shopping Cart Drill Team, and this year, the black-aproned team was back, with timeless flair and precision.

Also among the parade entries was a smiling, large delegation of Seattle Indian Health Board employees, including the organization’s executive director, Esther Lucero. All were clad in bright red logo t-shirts made especially for the occasion, as they marched in front of the organization’s mobile dental clinic, driven by islander and recent Health Board hire Brian Springfield.

Teresa Mosqueda, candidate to become Vashon’s King County Councilmember, was also there to shake hands with the crowd — but she wasn’t the only politician in the crowd.

To find out who won the Strawberry Festival’s hotly contested race to become Vashon’s Unofficial Mayor — during which candidates representing island nonprofits hustled votes at $1 each to win the honorary office — read more coverage of Strawberry Festival coverage here.