The Daffodil Festival in Tacoma

Tacoma’s Daffodil Parade by artist Mary Mann

Spring has sprung! This cheery painting of Tacoma’s Daffodil Festival by artist Mary Mann is displayed at McMenamins Elks Temple. This year marks the 90th year of the parade and on April 1st, the Tacoma Daffodil Parade starts just blocks away from Elks Temple. Making up the painting’s border are images inspired by the earliest days of the festival, including participation from the original Elks Lodge. How did this delightful celebration begin?

Daffodils were introduced to the Tacoma area in 1910, and this perennial favorite was well suited to the wet, mild climate. By 1929, the Pullayup Valley started producing a plethora of 60 million daffodils, and the bumper crop bulbs became an important worldwide export. Over 200 varieties were cultivated and daffodil fever swept Tacoma.

In 1932, “Bulb Sunday” was the term coined when locals decided to go on a nice country drive to see the golden daffodil fields. However, 8,000 drivers also had the same idea, and cars were backed up for miles. How could everyone celebrate the blooming daffodils together? Aha, a festival!
The first Daffodil Parade in Tacoma was in 1934. Daffodil blossoms that were previously cast aside were gathered to decorate bicycles, horses, and parade floats, and the Grand Floral Street Parade was born. And ever since, the festival and its parade have been held annually, with the exceptions of 1943-1945 during World War II, and in 2020 due to the covid pandemic

And other communities joined in the fun, too, adding more parades of their own. Now four festivals happen simultaneously in Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, and Orting, each featuring its own Daffodil Parade on the same day. The streets are filled with marching bands, performers, and spectacular floral floats carrying the Daffodil Queen and her court of Daffodil Princesses. These local high school seniors are selected for their academic achievements and leadership qualities, and they are rewarded with college scholarships. Other festivities continue throughout April, including the Tacoma Yacht Club’s Daffodil Marine Parade on April 16th, whose beautifully decorated boats glide down the Thea Foss Waterway (near McMenamins Elks Temple).

1 Comment

  1. Norm Curtis on April 9, 2023 at 1:08 pm

    Where were the horses in this tear’s parade?

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