You heard the march before you saw it.
All it took was a toot from schools' brass bands, clangs from firetrucks, bleats from bagpipers, honks from bikers, the whinnying of horses and calls from clowns, mermaids, pirates and politicians — and the sounds of the St. Johns Parade streamed into town.
Organizers said several thousand were expected to participate in the procession that began at noon, not including the countless families and community members who lined Lombard Street and downtown St. Johns on Saturday, May 12 in Portland.
"We love to come. I used to bring my daughters and now I bring my grandkids," said Patsy Keels, who has lived in the same house in this far-north neighborhood for more than a half century.
Perched beside her was Connor Schmidt, a second-grader at Llewellyn Elementary in Southeast Portland.
"I like the clowns because they're funny," the eight-year-old commented.
The parade, now in its 56th year and supported by about 120 volunteers, had 109 registered groups, including the mayor of Portland and a handful of candidates for political office.
Mayor Ted Wheeler cried "Thank you St. Johns for the weather!" as his car passed by, while Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith asked for and received a miniature American flag from a little girl who had several.
School marching bands converged from place likes Gresham, Beaverton, Battle Ground and Vancouver, Washington and across Portland to perform at the parade, and the Royal Rosarians and Court Princesses of the Portland Rose Festival appeared near the head of the pack.
"I was very honored to represent my school," said princess Kash'Imani Thomas, a senior at Jefferson High, noting that the nomination is "50 percent you and who you are as a person," but also requires the support of the student body.
"I've got to stop at one of these food carts," another princess commented as her motorcade passed.
Wearing an outlandish fake beard and accompanied by a gaggle of friends on bicycles, Marey Wayne said she runs the "oldest and newest" barber shop in St. Johns and was participating in the parade for probably her 25th time. She became proprietor of Wayne's Barber Shop on Lombard last year.
"I'm a long-hair specialist. Just representing what I do," she explained. "Hairy not scary. That's St. Johns."
Not everyone in the street signed up using the official paperwork. Three "sasquatches" in afros ran ahead of the throng, saying they would stay in the shadows no longer.
"You always see our straight-haired cousins," declared Anda Vaugh Fitzgerald, another St. Johns resident, "but this is our day."
For organizer John Teply, the day was a reminder of how St. Johns has transformed from an isolated pit stop on the way to a garbage dump into a bustling burg. Decades ago, some litterbugs settled for leaving their trash in St Johns rather than making the trek to the dump beyond city limits, so the first parade was organized as a community clean-up.
"We may not be the fanciest parade, but we're homegrown," Teply said.
Though not directly affiliated with the parade, many in the crowd mosey over to the 2018 St. Johns Bizarre, which offered food, drinks, local music and lots of opportunities to shop throughout the day.
Miss this year's parade? Check out these photos taken by our reporter:
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