This year's Ski to Sea grand parade features a touch of the classic and also the exotic.
First, the classic. The event's official name is now Ski to Sea Blossom Time Grand Parade.
Long ago the event was called the Blossom Time Parade, until that parade's demise in 1973. However the emergence of the Ski to Sea race in 1970 generated enthusiasm for the return of a springtime community parade.
Mora Shaw, events coordinator at the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry, which organizes the parade, said putting "Blossom Time" back into the name emphasizes the parade's longtime presence in the community, and will please residents old enough to remember the earlier incarnation.
"It's a return to basics," she said.
Now to the exotic. In addition to the traditional mix of marching bands, floats and walking groups, this year's parade will feature camels.
Guy Seeklus, the owner of Beldar Haven, plans to march in the parade with, likely, two Dromedary (one-hump) camels and a rare Bactrian (two-hump) camel.
Beldar Haven is the camel-breeding and camel-riding business at 5435 Sand Road that Seeklus hopes to open by mid-summer. He plans to sell camel calves, and offer customers the chance to learn about and ride camels at the property.
"It's a cool, family-friendly animal experience," he said.
He also plans to take his riding camels to county fairs and similar events. His website, camelsafari.com, should be up and running soon.
Why camels? You might ask? "Why not," says Seeklus.
"Camels are smarter than a horse, they're more affectionate than a horse and they're easier to train than a horse," he said.
This year's parade grand marshal isn't one person. It's a family, the Locker clan of Ferndale, from grandpa Hugh Locker to grandson Jake Locker, the star quarterback at Ferndale High and the University of Washington who now plays for the Tennessee Titans in the National Football League.
"They're a well-known family because they're so involved in Whatcom County," Shaw said. "We're trying to get multiple generations of Lockers to be involved in the parade."
This year's parade theme is "Whatcom County - Watch Us Grow." The theme symbolizes the "positive growth in Whatcom County," said Maria Dahl, chairwoman of the grand parade committee.
The parade's grand sponsor is US Bank, providing financial and other support. Carey Nunn, a US Bank administrator in Bellingham, has played a key role helping to organize the parade, Shaw said.
"The grand parade is a Whatcom County tradition," said Ken Oplinger, the chamber's president and CEO. "The chamber is proud to be involved in the parade for nearly 70 years."
IF YOU GO
When: Noon Saturday, May 25.
Where: The parade starts at Cornwall Avenue and Alabama Street and continues south on Cornwall. The route makes a left at Champion Street and another left at North State Street, before ending at York Street.
Browse the Ski to Sea special section at BellinghamHerald.com/skitosea.