The year was 1950 and community members gathered at Gaffney’s Lake Wilderness Lodge to host a fundraiser in order to purchase a much-needed firetruck. Being such a successful event, they would continue the celebration, adding a royal court the next year. As the years passed, events would be added including the famous boat races, “Citizen of the Year” award, street dancing, food, booths, rides and more. On May 6, 1961 Maple Valley held its first parade. It was called the Queens Parade and the first theme was “Back Across the Years” . Mrs. Laura Kress, Ralph Brown, Mrs. Estelle Maxwell, William Peacock, Mrs. Ollis Lee, and Frank Perry were some of the pioneers honored in the parade.
The original parade started at the Junior High (the original grade school on 216th) and ended at the community hall(Cedar Grange Building), this would later extend to the royal arch park. The first queen was Darlene Jones and the first princess was Sandy DiMartino. Awards included best floats, costumes, horses, decorated cars and bikes, and clowns. Every child who participated in the parade received a popcorn ball . Homemade items were offered for sale at the community club and a dinner was held at Gaffeny’s Lodge .
By 1978 the parade would have 40 entries including clowns, puppets, floats, drill teams, bands, plenty of horses and antique cars. The children would have a separate parade with decorated wagons, trikes, and bikes . A country fair was added in 1974. The fair featured artists, handcrafts, pottery, plant swap, quilt giveaway, historical society community room, fun food, and many other attractions. The event took place in the Maple Valley Community Club. Royal Mason Park would host a picnic that same year with food available for purchase  and old-time games like coins in a haystack, watermelon eating contest, sack races, and a frog-jumping contest.
My first memory of the parade was when I was 5 years old. The road was made of dirt and I sat with my grandparents, my grandfather wearing the same old overalls he’d worn his entire life. Both of my grandparents were children of pioneers, raised on the farms of Maple Valley. I would spend the rest of my childhood in the parade, first with my girl scout troop and second with the junior high school and high school marching band.
Thomas Markus recalls the when the festival was held at the “South Seattle Saddle Club” off of Witte Rd. along the Cedar river. It was there that they hosted the 4×4 mud-bog and the mud wrestling events.
Over the years the parade route has changed.
Today it starts at Wilderness Village and ends up at Lake Wilderness Park, ironically, right where it started. My children now sit by my side as we cheer on their sister, proudly marching with the colorguard and the
Tahoma High School marching band. My uncle no longer rides with the Veterans, but it is still wonderful to honor them as they pass with the American flag held high Always held the 2nd weekend of June, the “Festival in the Park” boasts upward of 1300 visitors,120 food and vendor booths, over 75 parade entrants, carnival rides and much more . I hope to enjoy the event for many years to come.
- “About Us.” Maple Valley Days, 2018, www.maplevalleydays.com/about/.
- “Cedar River Boat Race History: 1940 through 1980s.”Voice of the Valley, 3 June 2018, blackdiamondhistory.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/cedar-river-boat-race-history-1940-through-1980s/.
- Unknown. “Eager Maple Valley Awaits First Queen’s Parade May 6.” News Record, 27 Apr. 1961, blackdiamondhistory.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/eager-maple-valley-awaits-first-queens-parade-may-6/.
- Unknown. “Maple Valley Day ’78 Unfolds Saturday with Parade, Picnic, Races, Other Events.” Voice of the Valley, 31 May 2018, blackdiamondhistory.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/maple-valley-day-78-unfolds-saturday-with-parade-picnic-races-other-events/.
- Webber, Phil H. “Maple Valley Folk Parade in Tribute to Settlers.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7 May 2018, blackdiamondhistory.wordpress.com/2018/05/07/progress-maple-valley-folk-parade-in-tribute-to-settlers/.