By NED HAYES
Photography by Shanna Paxton Photography
Procession of the Species is Olympia’s annual celebration of the natural ecosystem. It’s been enlivened in recent years by the massive creations of large-scale puppeteer Jerry Berebitsky, whose creations delight crowds with brilliant color, innovative imagination and awe-inspiring movement. This year, however, instead of a single, oversized creation, parade-goers will experience a full revue of Berebitsky’s art from the past decade.
Berebitsky moved to the South Sound from rural Colorado in 2006, and in 2007 he first experienced the procession. He built his first creation for the parade in 2008, a huge elephant who shambled mightily down the street to gasps and delighted cheers.
In 2012, Berebitsky improved on that elephant with a huge giraffe that had to bend her neck to get under power lines. In 2016, Berebitsky brought us a peacock that filled the parade with sparkling feathers. In 2017, the peacock was joined by 35 smaller peacocks; and in 2018, Berebitsky debuted a frog that delighted the crowd with enormous leaps.
The elephant hasn’t been seen on the route for a decade. This year, for the first time since 2007, his head and 12-foot ears will be seen on parade. The giraffe’s 24-foot neck and head will appear on the route as well. The peacock will be resplendent again in all its glory, and a group will even back the 25-foot frog.
This year, at least parts of all four of these powerful creations will grace the experience. The procession is a participatory experience, though, so Berebitsky is interested in recruiting additional volunteers who can help bring these fabulous creations to life. Interested readers should reach out to Berebitsky via his email address below.
The amazing Berebitsky revue caps off a challenging year for Procession of the Species. The volunteers who create the procession rely on the goodwill of local landlords for work space, and have been fortunate to be in the same location for their studio the past three years.
This year, a snowstorm caused damage to the roof, which resulted in water damage to some of procession creations and materials. This summer, volunteers must relocate their studio to a new location on Thurston Avenue.
Berebitsky has been through a year of challenges himself. He was affected by The Evergreen State College layoffs last spring, and in April, he started a new job managing staff at Western State Hospital. He’s also working at Touchstone, helping youths just out of prison.
“I am still an artist at heart,” said Berebitsky. “I plan to continue on with the procession, and although I don’t quite know when the next piece will come, I have lots of ideas of things to make. The procession should be fun. It always is!”
Procession of the Species
From Jefferson St. and Legion Way to Water St. and Capitol Way, Olympia (see route map in OLY ARTS‘ print edition no. 18)
Luminary Procession: 8:30-10 p.m. Friday, April 26;
Procession of the Species: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27