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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Finally on August 13th there’s the Rainier Valley Heritage Parade in Columbia City and Hillman City at 11 a.m.
Check them out!
All photos by Susan Fried.