by Adam McKinney for OLY ARTS
The annual return of two Olympia institutions is approaching — the Luminary Procession and the Procession of the Species. Started in 1995 as the brainchild of local nonprofit Earthbound Productions, the Procession is a lovingly crafted, DIY march that aims to bring attention to the ever-present crisis of human impact on the global animal populace and Earth’s climate. Every year, an increasing number of folks spend months building puppets, costumes and lanterns (the latter namely for the Luminary Procession), all designed to evoke the natural world, and then march their beautiful creations down the streets of Olympia.
“It’s become part of the culture and one of the things that stands out when people speak of this idea of, ‘This is where I live,’” said Earthbound Productions and Procession of the Species co-founder Eli Sterling. “People don’t watch the Procession and go, ‘Wow, the Procession is really cool.’ They watch the Procession and go, ‘Wow, this is a cool place to live.’”
Sterling makes the astute point that the mere existence of the Procession as a spectacle is not as important as its symbol for the cooperative community that Olympia engenders. The Procession is a manifestation of what Olympia can do when it combines forces. In the lead-up to the event, a number of workshops are offered for participants of all ages to get together and craft what they will be bringing to the march, with increasingly elaborate works of art popping up to elevate what is a fundamentally homespun experience.
“We have the opportunity to still engage with each other, and it’s a miracle. It really is miraculous that we get to have a life upon this planet,” said Sterling. “The Procession has always said that and has never apologized for that. It is a celebration that we are here.”
While Sterling is pragmatic about the direction in which the world has been going, when it comes to environmental causes, the Procession remains a fundamentally hopeful project. After 24 years of existence and its shares of ups and downs, the Procession marches forward into a brighter tomorrow, bringing along its own illumination.
Luminary Procession and Procession of the Species
Luminary Procession: 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 27
Procession of the Species: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 28
Assembling on Legion Way SE and Cherry Street SE, Olympia