Everybody thinks Seattle's biggest parties are Folklife at Memorial Day and Bumbershoot at Labor day--but the ones I always try to hit town for the Fremont Solstice Parade (closest Saturday to the Summer Solstice) and Trolloween (Halloween to you).
Fremont is getting yuppified, but it still has a lot of artists and locos, and just that Fremont attitude. These people LIVE to make a bunch of costumes and campy sets and get weird for the hell of it.
The Solstice Parade is the Fremont Street Fair's main event and a grander, sloppier, more user-friendly event you'll never see. Ornate floats like you've never seen (some following themes so esoteric the artists themselves don't have a clue--that's why they live in Fremont) alternate with little kids camping it up or looking dazed, bizarre bands ranging from Samba to the Executive Briefcase Drill Team, 'Dykes on Bikes' left over from the Gay Pride parade, and pretty much whoever wants to get out there and make a spectacle of themselves. The parade has gotten famous for the streakers--by now an unregulated and unhassled tradition of naked bicyclists who proceed the parade and zip around 'waving' to the crowd. And remember--if you want to YOU can get an old bike, get naked, maybe paint yourself blue, and ride around in the open air in front of God, everybody and the huge bronze statue of Lenin that stumbled into town and never found it's way out--nakedness to the people.
If the Solstice doings are essentially family fun (nobody seems to mind the pernicious effects of your occasinal bare penis trying not to get wracked on a bicycle seat), the Troll o ween is something else again. This is no trick-or-treat affair, and you won't see any K-Mart Power Ranger costumes. This is a celebration of what Halloween has always been--creepiness, scariness, Evil, and crazy clothes. It starts up at the Troll sculpture under the Aurora bridge--the huge concrete monster munching on a real Volkswagen he's evidently snatched off the bridge. There is music, pageantry (none of which makes any sense at all), merriment, waving banners and lanterns, HUNDREDS of drummers, THOUSANDS of people in extremely creative costumes. When everybody gets whipped into a frenzy, the whole event moves down through downtown Fremont, where the paraders flaunt themselves in the windows of the bars and eateries, and ends up in the parking lot, where bands and light shows continue until everybody has scared themselves to death.
Sometimes there is also a parade along the canal, where various art projects, such as fire dances and burning men are held. All to the pulse of hundreds of drums and the swirling canvas of images from horrific to sublime to insane. Screw Mardi Gras, this is my kind of party.