Photos: Drill teams put the sparkle in Seattle summer

Members of the Elegance Drill Team pause in the middle of a performance. (Photo by Susan Fried)
Members of the Elegance Drill Team pause in the middle of a performance. (Photo by Susan Fried)

On almost every summertime weekend you can find a parade somewhere in Seattle.

You might spot anything from pirates to clowns to naked cyclists. But for me, the highlight of those parades are always the drill teams.

The teams are comprised of girls between ages 5 and 18. They have names like The Dolls, The Diamonds, The Electronettes and The Ladies of Elegance. Their members dress in sparkly, eye-catching costumes, chanting and marching in unison, periodically stopping to perform for the crowds along the parade route.

Dolls co-captain Tamia Robinson
Dolls co-captain Tamia Robinson
The dolls march in step.
The Dolls march in step.
Dolls Coach Janaea Loyd keeps her drill team in line at the Wallinford Family Parade.
Dolls Coach Janaea Loyd keeps her drill team in line at the Chinatown Seafair Parade.

They are usually accompanied by a drum line of boys and maybe a few girls keeping the rhythm in simple uniforms or just matching t-shirts.

With the sound of boots hitting the pavement, the beat of the accompanying drums and the shrill sound of a whistle, the teams make their way down the street receiving loud cheers and applause as they go.

Aziza Alabe has been on the Electronettes for about 6 years. She is 13 now and a team captain.
Aziza Alabe has been on the Electronettes for about 6 years. She is 13 now and a team captain.
Members of the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team look on as Aziza Alabe lands a backflip.
Members of the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team look on as Aziza Alabe lands a backflip.
Alabe gets a rousing applause.
Alabe gets a rousing applause.

Drill teams have existed in Seattle for over 60 years, and can be found across the western U.S. and Canada, with competitions are held annually.

But even between Seattle drill teams, styles vary. Where teams like the Electronettes and Dolls employ a more dance and cheer style, the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team emphasizes military precision. Both types of drill teams stress teamwork, discipline and the importance of being an asset to their community.

And they all have fun.

Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team prepare for the Chinatown Parade.
Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team prepare for the Chinatown Seafair Parade.
Smaller members of the Chinese Community Drill Team run to catch up.
Smaller members run to catch up.

Many of the teams have participants spanning multiple generations.

The Executive Director of the Electronetts Hi Steppers, Vitina Patterson, has a daughter and a great niece on the team and a granddaughter, who although too young to participate on the team just yet, acts as the mascot.

As a girl Vitina Patterson was a drill team captain, winning competitions in the Washington, Canada, Oklahoma, Arizona and Las Vegas. Now she's executive director of the Electronettes. Here she is holding her granddaughter Vitina Winston, with her great niece Shawniyah Turner ready to perform.
As a girl Vitina Patterson was a drill team captain, winning competitions in the Washington, Canada, Oklahoma, Arizona and Las Vegas. Now she’s executive director of the Electronettes. Here she is holding her granddaughter Vitina Winston, with her great niece Shawniyah Turner ready to perform.
Junior (far right) is a drummer on the Electronettes Drum Line.
Junior (far right) is a drummer on the Electronettes Drum Line.
Seattle Globalist-electronett-Ariyahna Davis-1970498-1
Electronette Ariyahna Davis

Makessa Jackson and Jameelah Cage were members of the Sweet Mahogany Drill Team as children, and went on to be co-founders and executive directors of the Dolls and Gents Drill Team and Drumline.

“We both learned the importance of teamwork, time management, confidence, discipline and many other life skills that we teach our team, as well as use in our daily lives,” says Jackson, who has a daughter on the Baby Dolls as well as two sons on the drum line. “We also were able to travel. Drill team was a positive place and outlet for us as young ladies.”

Elegance Drill Team Coach Veronica Warren applies make-up to her daughter Jade Marie Warren’s lips before the Jubilee Parade in White Center.
Elegance Drill Team Coach Veronica Warren applies make-up to her daughter Jade Marie Warren’s lips before the Jubilee Parade in White Center.
Estrella Gonzales Sanders, 7, has been on the Elegance Drill team since she was 4.
Estrella Gonzales Sanders, 7, has been on the Elegance Drill team since she was 4.
MyJestie, who's on the Elegance Drill Team, hitches a ride with her brother, who plays on the drum line.
MyJestie, who’s on the Elegance Drill Team, hitches a ride along with her brother, who plays on the drum line.

Seattle’s drill teams are packed with amazing talent and non-stop enthusiasm.

There are tons of opportunities left to catch them this summer: Up next is the Seafair Torchlight Parade on the evening of Saturday July 30th at Seattle Center.

The following Saturday, August 6th there’s The Magnolia Seafair Parade at 10:30 a.m., The Umojafest Africatown Heritage Parade at 1 p.m. and The Lake City Pioneer Days Parade at 7pm.

Finally on August 13th there’s the Rainier Valley Heritage Parade in Columbia City and Hillman City at 11 a.m.

Check them out!

Captain Jaiana Brown, 18 leads the Dolls Drill Team.
Captain Jaiana Brown, 18 leads the Dolls Drill Team.
Members of the Diva Upgrades Drill Team pose for a photo.
Members of the Diva Upgrades Drill Team pose for a photo.
Attanaya Monisha Daniels of the Diamonds Drill Team.
Attanaya Monisha Daniels of the Diamonds Drill Team.
Preston McInnis marches with the Electronettes in the Umoja Festival Parade.
Preston McInnis marches with the Electronettes in the Umoja Festival Parade.
A member of the Electronettes Drill Team does a back flip during the Wallingford Family Parade
A member of the Electronettes Drill Team does a back flip during the Wallingford Family Parade
The Dolls depart the Wallingford Family Parade.
The Dolls depart the Wallingford Family Parade.

All photos by Susan Fried.

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1 Comment

  1. These photos are beautiful and I’m so inspired by the kids/families/youth in them. Thank you Susan!

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