The Daffodil Parade and Festival might come and go, but its legacy lasts forever. The 2022 roster of parades, known as the Grand Floral Parade, marches, drives and walks through Pierce County on April 9, with legs in downtown Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, and Orting.

The otherwise annual event has been held since 1934, except for the war years of 1942, when there were festivities without a parade and everything was canceled in 1943, 1944, and 1945, because of wartime restrictions. This year’s Daffodil Parade and Festival festivities in Pierce County follow the theme of “Hope Rises” and are the first “four-in-one” parades since the global pandemic forced cancellations in 2019.

Daffodil Parade
Young women from area high schools compete for the honor of being among the Daffodil Royal Court. Photo courtesy: The Daffodil Festival

A new Queen’s Float this year features all 23 members of the Royal Court, courtesy of a full sponsor by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.

This year’s court was selected from each area high school, following interviews of girls with high grade point averages and histories of community service. They are Darya Baker of Puyallup High School; Willow Warren of Lakes High School; Kaitlyn Bolland of Bonney Lake High School; Maeson Sterrenburg of Sumner High School; Amber Burgess of  Orting High School;  Julia Schmidt of White River High School; Aiysha Ali of Foss IB World School; Samantha Calland of Fife High School; Caitlyn Ye of Stadium High School; Andrea Galvin of Silas High School; Julia Odhiambo of Rogers High School; Victoria Plom of Franklin Pierce High School; Arin Havenstrite of Emerald Ridge High School; Zana Stewart of Bethel High School; Alexis Powell of Eatonville High School; Isha Hussein of Lincoln High School; Kaely Harding of Graham Kapowsin High School; Lilly Nonamaker of Clover Park High School; Sydney Brickey of Spanaway Lake High School; Nakiya-Rene Jastillana of Washington High School; Thien-Ha Ngo of Mount Tahoma High School; and Faith Hudson of Chief Leschi School.

The Daffodil Festival Queen is Clara Blakeslee of Curtis High School, who was crowned not only queen this year but also holds the title of Miss Congeniality.

Daffodil Parade
The Daffodil Festival Queen is Clara Blakeslee, of Curtis High School, who was not only crowned queen this year but also holds the title of Miss Congeniality. Photo courtesy: The Daffodil Festival

After the Grand Floral Parade, the Royal Court participates in events and makes appearances within Pierce County throughout the year, including the Tacoma Yacht Club Marine Parade on Sunday, April 24, Princess Tea on Sunday, May 1, and other volunteer events. The Royal Court also serves across Pierce County such as the “Read with a Princess” partnership with the Pierce County Library System, although they will be virtual appearances.

Daffodil Parade
An enthusiastic crowd watched as the first Daffodil Parade rolled by in 1934. The parade, designed to use the leftover daffodil blooms that were formerly thrown away when the bulb was harvested, has become a much-anticipated feature of the spring festival. Photo courtesy: Tacoma Public Library

The Daffodil Festival might make a grand entrance with a parade, but the work runs year-round as it builds on the traditions that came before. The festival officially started in 1934 to celebrate the South Sound’s agricultural industry. The local daffodil farms, in particular, bloomed after arriving in the early 1920s as a way to keep farms productive during the prohibition years that all but killed the thriving hops market.

The first seed of an annual celebration came on April 6, 1926, when Charles Orton hosted a garden party with his wife at their Sumner home that had a guest list of the “who’s who” of local businesses and politics. The festival of all things flowers became a tradition and formalized over time.

Daffodil Parade
The Queen’s float, created by the Department of Public Utilities, was traditionally the first float in the parade, and the 1961 Daffodil Parade was no exception. Photo courtesy: Tacoma Public Library

Tours of daffodil farms became a spring thing by the 1930s but got too popular for rural roads around Puyallup, Sumner and Orting when as many as 8,000 vehicles crowded the roads bordering the golden fields during “Bulb Sunday” drives in April and May.

Rather than have visitors tour the farms, the farmers brought the flowers to crowds with the introduction of a parade in 1934. Flower ranchers decorated floats with daffodil blooms that would have otherwise been thrown away or mulched for fertilizer.

Daffodil Parade
“The Greatest Showman on Earth” was the Sumner Community’s entry in the 1970 Daffodil Festival Parade and was awarded the top Sweepstakes Award. The 40-foot long float used 80,000 daffodils. Photo courtesy: Tacoma Public Library

What started as a way to milk the last dollar out of what would otherwise be waste has grown to be the second-largest local festival in Pierce County, right behind the Washington State Fair.