The NEC’s All Species Parade is a fun family-friendly event at the annual North Country Fair in which people of all ages dress as their favorite animal, plant or other creature and march and dance around the Arcata Plaza. The parade is deeply rooted in the history of the annual North Country Fair, a grassroots community festival that has celebrated the change of seasons, interconnectedness, and creativity since 1974.
While many have participated in the All Species Parade over the years, few know its origins. Some digging will reveal that the Parade first made an appearance at the North Country Fair in 1979. It was around that time that Keith Lampe, known as Ponderosa Pine to his friends, was traveling throughout the northwest with his partner Olive Tree to promote multi-species events throughout California. Pondorosa, who died in 2014, was an environmental activist who worked vehemently against redwood logging and species-ism (a term he coined to describe human-centered behavior). He used music and dance throughout his life to promote protection for all species, and had already coordinated an All Species Parade in San Francisco the year before in 1978.
After arriving in Arcata, Ponderosa stopped by the NEC to encourage such an event here. The idea took root and on Sunday, September 23, 1979 the NEC co-sponsored Arcata’s first “Multi-Species Day Parade”, followed by a “Multi-Species Ball”.
A flyer advertising this first parade explained, “What is Multi-Species Day? More than a parade, more than a costume ball. A time to celebrate the ties between all the species. A time to celebrate the planet.”
Totem, mask and costume making workshops preceded the events, and a tent of miscellaneous supplies was also available at the North Country Fair for attendees to put together an impromptu costume.
Over the years, the All Species Parade has become a well loved tradition at the Fair. As former NEC Director Tim McKay wrote regarding the Parade, “It does seem to sort of perpetuate itself. People enjoy doing it.”
For many years the Parade was followed by a species-themed costume Ball hosted by the NEC. Participants recall dancing and parading from the plaza to the Ball (then held at the former Arcata Community Center on D St.) to continue the celebration throughout the night with food, drink, music and festivities. In more recent years, the NEC has unfortunately not been unable to host a Ball following the Parade, but perhaps, with enough support, we could bring the event back in the future.
As with many traditions, it requires a collective memory to remember their beginnings and the root of their meaning. It takes community members like you to keep the spirit alive. Particularly at a time when threats to biodiversity are on the rise and protections are being cut by the current administration, we need to show our support and stand together to celebrate all species and recognize the ties that bring us together.
As an old parade flyer notes, “For years, everything centered around man and what he/she wanted; where to live, what to eat, and which creatures should live, if anywhere. Now, hopefully, people can change this.”
The theme for the All Species Parade this year is Sanctuary for All Species. Watch for painted umbrellas in the Parade symbolizing places that provide sanctuary for plants and animals, such as National Parks, Monuments, and Forests, and Marine Protected Areas! Take refuge under the umbrellas from threats such as the Plastic Bag Monster!
On September 16, bring your family, friends and neighbors and share in the revelry of this community event that has continued for 38 years, and will continue for many more! We look forward to seeing YOU in the All Species Parade!
Join us for a FREE costume and mask making workshop to get ready for the Parade on Sept. 8, 6-8 p.m. at the Sanctuary in Arcata!
350 Humboldt will also be hosting two art parties to prepare for the All Species Parade: Saturday, Aug. 26 1-4pm and Wednesday, Aug. 30 6-9pm.