Redmond's Derby Days events part of festival since inception
Redmond Reporter Reporter
July 11, 2013 · 3:52 PM
This weekend marks the 73rd anniversary of the City of Redmond’s Derby Days summer festival.
With two parades, live music and entertainment, food vendors, a criterium bike race and more, there is something for everyone.
But before the annual event grew to its current size with all the different activities, Derby Days was a fundraiser to buy holiday decorations for the city and athletic equipment for the local school.
While many activities have been added throughout the years, Redmond Historical Society office manager Monica Park said a few have been part of the festival since the beginning.
The first is the Criterium, which is sponsored by Swedish Medical Center in Redmond this year. A Derby Days staple, the Criterium has been part of the festival since its inception in 1939 and is the city’s oldest event and the country’s longest-running bicycle race.
Park said the race route was around Lake Sammamish before it moved to downtown Redmond.
This year’s Criterium begins at 1:15 p.m. and the last race will be at 7 p.m.
The Kids Parade has also been part of Derby Days since the beginning.
“The parade was a huge, big part of the community,” Park said.
She said the parade eventually split into two, one with kids and one with adults. As businesses and civic groups would sponsor floats, Park said the parades were a way for people to show their civic pride.
This year’s Kids Parade will begin 10 a.m. at a new location: the Old Redmond Post Office on Northeast 85th Street in downtown.
Park added that the parade is her favorite part of Derby Days.
“I always liked the parade,” she said. “It’s just a lot of fun watching the parade.”
Lisa Rhodes, City of Redmond events and marketing administrator, is also excited for this year’s Kids Parade.
“I’m really looking forward to having Ben Franklin (Crafts and Frames) involved in the event in a larger way this year as our new Kids Parade sponsor,” she said.
Park said in its early years, Derby Days — which has been held every year since the beginning except during World War II from 1942-45 — was an Eastside-wide event because “this area was pretty much isolated.” When State Route 520 and the bridge were built, the area’s population began to grow and it became easier to get to Seattle. As a result, Eastside towns grew and began to hold their own summer festivals, there was more for people to do and Derby Days became more Redmond centric.
While activities such as the Criterium and Kids Parade have been part of Derby Days since the beginning and others have been added to the schedule throughout the years, there have also been some things that have been discontinued since those early days.
“In the early days, they used to auction off a car,” Park said, adding that this practice was stopped in the 1970s due to insurance purposes.
Another early Derby Days tradition was the Derby Queen. Derby queens were high-school age and would receive scholarships. Park said runner-ups would become Derby princesses and elementary school-aged contestants were crowned junior princesses.
“Crowning the Derby Queen and the parade were the highlights,” she said, adding that the last queen was crowned in the 1990s.