History of the Daffodil Festival and the Junior Parade
Origin of the Daffodil Festival
The Daffodil Festival, for all intents and purposes, was born on April 6, 1926 when Mr. And Mrs. Charles W. Orton were hosts to civic leaders from 125 towns in Western Washington. The Orton’s lived in rural Sumner and opened up their home for a garden party. The garden party was arranged so the guests could see the many varieties of daffodils in bloom in and around their estate. Among the many guests were the Mayors from Seattle and Tacoma. Major General Robert Alexander, Commander at Fort Lewis, brought a military band and a group of officers and their ladies from the Army post. After this first garden party, the event became an annual affair.
Year after year, interest grew, (along with the ever expanding daffodil fields) until 1932, at which time “Bulb Sunday” came into being. The viewing of daffodils in bloom became fashionable, and, unfortunately created a massive traffic problem for Puyallup, Sumner and Orting, as up to 8,000 vehicles crowded the roads bordering the golden fields. No doubt, automobiles and owners were also vying for attention. The calamity of this congestion also brought a halt to “Bulb Sunday”.
1934 was to become “Parade” year. Well known Tacoma photographer and first secretary of the founding group, Lee Merrill, suggested that the daffodil blooms, which at that time were thrown away or used as fertilizer, be used instead as decoration for a Festival Parade. Automobiles were decorated with daffodils, bicycles followed in like fashion and together paraded through our city and neighboring Valley towns. The presence of a mounted contingent of the finest riding horses in the area, prompted their appearance each year to follow. The idea grew and presently the Grand Floral Street Parade travels through four Pierce County communities on Parade Day – – Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner and Orting.
In 2013 the Daffodil Festival was 80 years old, and there has been a parade every year since 1934, with the exception of the war years of 1943, 1944 and 1945.
History from the Daffodil Valley Times
According to Pete Andrews, who published the Sumner News Index for many years, the Daffodil Festival really started in the early 1920’s with what was called the Steelhead Banquet, sponsored by the Sumner Chamber of Commerce. It always was a springtime event, and the tables for the banquet always were decorated with masses of golden yellow daffodils. Around 1926, participants decided to switch the name from Steelhead to Daffodil Banquet.
Elizabeth Wotton, a young Puyallup matron, was asked to be the queen of the first Daffodil Festival in 1934. She and her “princesses” were toured around Tacoma, Sumner, Orting and Puyallup. That evening, they were presented to Gov. Clarence Marted and the Sumner banquet. Whether this “tour” was a parade is not clear, but the first official Daffodil Parade was held in Puyallup in 1935.
In it’s day, the Daffodil Parade was the third-largest floral festival of it’s kind. Although it has fallen from this vaulted position, it’s still one of the largest in the country, and still is one of the most welcome springtime events in this area.
The Junior Daffodil Parade History
The first Junior Daffodil Parade was held in downtown Tacoma in 1961 and stayed there until it moved to The Proctor district in 1991.