MARYSVILLE – In a garage bay in a closed-down auto repair shop near Ebey Waterfront Park, volunteers strip down a craft oddly shaped like a hydroplane.
It’s actually the shell of this year’s Marysville Strawberry Festival float.
It’s not much to look at yet, but once Maryfest volunteers begin decorating with it with colorful deck materials, fabrics, moving figures and scenes befitting the 2018 theme “Jam in Marysville,” the transformation will be a head-turner at parades in Marysville and around the region.
“People may not realize that building the float is a lot of hard work,” said Jodi Hiatt, president of Maryfest, the volunteer organization that hosts the festival.
Hiatt said the float can take up to 200 hours and six weeks to build with a half-dozen people working on it. “It’s not just the physical labor involved with building it either; we have to start building it in our minds first.”
There’s an art to float-making. It needs to be lightweight and durable to handle all weather conditions, especially true in the spring in the Pacific Northwest.
Thanks in part to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, this year’s Marysville float plans to go high-definition with large TV screens featuring an animated strawberry named “Jammer” leading parade-goers in the Strawberry Jam Dance. Marysville senior and junior royalty will be joined by dancing strawberries and a musical jam band.
The cityhas allowed festival organizers to build and store the float in the city-owned former Baxter Auto Repair building at 1408 1st St.
“This is a great, secure spot to work,” said Tom King, a festival officer and City Council member. He and fellow Maryfest board member Ed Giesler spent hours making sure the float’s in-board generator was accessible for servicing. They also checked batteries, motors and other mechanical and dashboard components to make sure everything was ready before decorating.
Festival sponsor Les Schwab donated new tires, replaced wheel bearings, fixed a troublesome fuel gauge and made sure other related fixtures were working.
A recent kickoff work party drew a handful of volunteers.
“This is my first float,” said Maryfest board member Jodi Condyles, who was helped by her son, Peter. They pulled up red carpet, unscrewed the doors and hinges, and pulled off other decorations left over from last year.
She is enjoying the work. “We’re all helping out for different reasons, but we all care about the festival and the community,” she said.
If you want to help, call 360-659-7664 or contact email@example.com.
When the float is parade-ready, Hiatt said, “It’s an exciting moment, and something we can all be proud of when we’re out promoting not only the festival, but the Marysville community as well.”
Marysville’s float has won its share of awards over the years. “We expect grand sweeps of awards every time,” she said with a laugh. “Really though, we’re thrilled when it wins awards.”
Marysville is one of more than a dozen members of the Northwest Festivals Hosting Association that in simplest terms believes that if you bring your float to our parade, we’ll bring ours to yours. The parade tour includes Seattle Seafair Torchlight Parade, Portland Rose parades and others in British Columbia.
The float’s maiden voyage will be in the Daffodil Parade April 7, a marathon of four parades that starts in Tacoma, then to Puyallup, Sumner and Orting. For Marysville’s royalty and parade walkers, it’s the ultimate test. “We’ve had rain, wind, sun and snow – all in one day,” Hiatt said.