Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Fremont Solstice Parade?

The Fremont Solstice Parade is a community event created and organized by the Fremont Arts Council. It is a fantastic celebration of the return of the sun, complete with larger than life puppets, floats, and street performers. The Solstice Parade kicks off the Fremont Fair which is a benefit for the Fremont Public Association. The parade operates with 4 guidelines – no printed words or recognizable logos, no motor vehicles, no live animals, and no guns or weapons.

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When is the parade?

The parade is on the Saturday on or before the solstice every year. More details are available at the Fremont Arts Council website and the Fremont Fair website.

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How long does it take to be painted?

Depending upon the complexity of your design, painting can take from 15 minutes to 4 hours. If your design consists of a base coat with detail on top, you’ll need to leave time for the base to dry plus time for the whole thing to dry before we ride.

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What kind of paint can I use?

There are a number of choices, each having different characteristics.  If there’s any chance of sun, be sure to apply sunscreen first and let it dry before applying body paint.  Use a non-greasy formula.
Theatrical face and body painting makeups are cosmetic products designed for use on skin. They are available in a wide variety of colors.  Other colors can be created by mixing, but this can be time consuming, so you will be best off buying the desired colors.
Solid cake makeup is the most commonly used type.  The top layer will turn into a smooth paste after applying water and working it with a brush.  It quickly dries after applying to skin.  After the ride, the paint removes easily with soap and water.  Most will come off with water alone.  Be aware that certain colors may temporarily stain skin for a few days.  You can buy these paints in individual colors or as a palette.  A professional size 1.4 oz/40 g cake is a good choice for ease of use, and one container will generally cover one person’s body.  Stores also sell small palettes designed for painting faces, but these will be consumed quickly when painting large areas and don’t accommodate larger brushes.  Check labeling, as the FDA recommends against using certain colors near eyes/mouth.  The colors may be prone to smearing in contact areas (e.g. arm-to-torso), although applying the same color to both surfaces minimizes this.
Popular brands include:
* Mehron Paradise
* Diamond FX face paint 
* Wolfe FX face paint
* Kryolan Aquacolor
* Ben Nye MagiCake
* Snazaroo
Liquid cosmetic paint (e.g. Mehron Liquid Makeup) has similar ingredients to cake makeup but doesn’t hold up as well.
This is also available as a body marker, which is convenient.
Temporary tattoo paint is an alcohol based formula that does not wash off from water/sweat.  If applied to clean, oil free skin (that may mean no sunscreen) it may stay put and look good longer.  It requires alcohol or oil to remove, and it’s more expensive.  Many products must be applied using an airbrush kit, making this a significantly more complex option.
This is also available as a body marker
Liquid latex makeup is another cosmetic choice, but this will be more difficult to work with and may not hold up to movement during biking activities.  It peels off in larger sheets when finished, but it can become tangled in body hair.  Do not use with latex allergies.
In the past, most riders used acrylic art paint products, such as Speedball textile acrylic.  These are not designed for skin, and will cause a reaction if you’re allergic to acrylates or the colorant.  Only products with an ACMI “AP” approved non-toxic label should be considered if you choose this option, and refer to the manufacturer material safety data sheet (MSDS) for more information about risks.  Acrylic paint will flake a bit, mostly in high wear areas like the crotch or under arm, by the end of the ride.  Designs may also peel off in large areas.  This flaking/peeling can be messy to clean up from showers or elsewhere, and leaving flakes on someone’s sofa will not make you a popular guest at an after-party.
Do not use tempera paint: it will flake off immediately.

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Where do I buy paint?

Look for theatrical paint at local costume or theatrical supply stores. They can also be found online, with Jest Paint (https://www.jestpaint.com/) being a good small business option with fast shipping.

Daniel Smith and Artist & Craftsman Supply both have Seattle stores and a good selection of non-toxic textile acrylics.

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Who will paint me?

Whoever you’d like. Ask your friends. You never know, they may also be interested in riding so you might arrange a painting swap. I’ll paint your back; you paint mine. Another option is to leave the painting in the hands of the new friends you’ll make at a painting party the morning of the parade. Many people show up with their ideas and a couple of brushes and ask others to help them out. If you have a particular design in mind and it consists of repeating shapes (ex. starfish, angel fish, seahorse) you can speed things along by making stencils ahead of time.

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Will the paint come off?

Yes, with varying ease.

Theatrical cake paint comes of reasonably easily with soap and water.

Temporary tattoo paint requires alcohol or oil.

Latex paint is more of a challenge. Your best bet is lots of warm, soapy water, a washcloth, and a friend to scrub between your shoulder blades. Most paints come off in little flakes so I recommend using a hair snare in your drain to prevent them from mucking up your plumbing.
In 2004, I discovered the miracle of “pressure washing”. I attached a spray nozzle to my garden hose, stood in the middle of my yard and turned the water on, adjusting the nozzle until the water was a concentrated jet. This essentially peeled the paint right off my body. Combined with some sea salt and Dr. Bronner’s and I was clean in a record 30 minutes! It’s probably not a bad idea to stand in a kiddie pool or on a tarp to keep the paint flakes out of your lawn.
Later, I experimented with dry scrubbing first. I used an old, rough washcloth to gently abrade the paint off and then lathered up and rinsed. Like a charm!
Others swear by the technique of rubbing baby soap across all your painted areas and scrubbing before adding water.

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I’m a little, um, hirsute. Will my body hair affect my paint?

You can definitely be painted over body hair although it can be a bit trickier to get an even coat. Body hair also makes removing the paint more difficult and more painful. Some folks get into the hair removal aspect while others chose to go au naturel. It’s up to you.

If you do paint over hair, be sure to move around while it’s drying so you don’t get pinching.

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Do I have to ride naked?

Of course not; some cyclists chose to wear a little something. Try flesh colored undies for the ladies and speedos for the guys. Buy them cheap at Ross or Marshall’s and you won’t feel a bit of guilt covering them with paint.

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Do I have to wear a bicycle helmet?

Legally, yes, though many riders don’t. Creatively speaking, a bike helmet can be the foundation for a whimsical headdress. Think papier-mâché dragon heads, streamer flames, pinwheels…

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Is this legal?

As long as you wear a helmet, yes! By RCW 9A.88.010, public nudity is OK if it isn’t “likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm.”

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Do I have to be painted?

Nobody’s going to force you to wear paint, but it’s part of the tradition, and much more entertaining for our audience if you do. The artistic element also helps us defend against those who try to ban us.

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Do we have to follow the Fremont Arts Council parade rules?

Some of us include words or numbers if they add to our costumes, but motorized vehicles, weapons, and non-guide animals are a very bad idea for the riders as well!

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Do I have to ride a bike?

We have bladers, boarders, joggers, and unicyclists who fit right in.  If you want to just walk, you can help form our back wall (which prevents riders from colliding with the parade).

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Where can I rent a bike?

Recycle Cycle rents bikes and they’re very close to the end of the parade. I’ve not rented from them, but they’ve always been reasonable when I needed bikes, parts, or repairs.

Dutch Bikes in Ballard has said they will rent bikes for this event.

We are also served by LimeBike and Jump.

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Can I store my stuff at the paint site and get it after the parade?

No. You should carry it with you (you’ll want clothes available at the far end anyhow), or get a buddy to do that. If you have no basket or such, you can duct-tape your clothes to your frame.

If you forget something there, you can come to the clean-up party the next day and look for it, but you’ll be expected to help with the clean-up, too!

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What happens after the parade?

In most years, nothing organized. Some folks hang around at Gas Works Park and socialize. Some clothe up and watch the main parade (it’s very cool) then go to the FAC’s beer garden.  Some go to after-parties. Some just go home and clean up. Some years, there’s a group wash-down.

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