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Starlight Parade returns for its 40th go-round of nighttime merriment

Heat wave fails to deter thousands from packing Portland's downtown to watch annual night parade

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - Cloud City Garrison has members from throughout western Oregon and southwest Washington; member march every year in the Starlight Parade. And the crowd went wild.

Attendees at the 40th annual Starlight Parade in Portland June 4 might have been excited to see local author Cheryl Strayed roll by in the back of a convertible or TV’s most recent “Bachelor” (Ben Higgins) and his West Linn bride-to-be, Lauren Bushnell, but what really set people off was the Storm Troopers.

“These parades are something else,” said Harry Starr, member of Cloud City Garrison. “The lights are bright, the crowds are loud — it’s amazing.”

Starr and 55 of the garrison’s members walked the parade in “Star Wars” costumes, something they do every Starlight Parade and at 150-odd events for charity throughout the year.

People can’t seem to get enough.

Missy Thingelstad of Beaverton marched as a Jedi this year but she used to walk the parade route as a “spotter,” helping keep the garrison members with visibility challenged costumes from going off-course.

“There are always over-excited fans, especially kids, who rush up to the Storm Troopers and they can’t see them. Spotters are there to keep everyone safe,” she said.

The Garrison got a boost of about a dozen new members this year after the latest “Star Wars” movie was released, said Starr, and now have about 80 members from Oregon and southwest Washington. For the most part, members make their own costumes, some going as far as molding their own futuristic armor.

Missy and her husband Scott joined the garrison five years ago, after attending a “Star Wars” convention in L.A. It takes the couple, and other garrison members, an average of 30 minutes to suit up for an event.

“I love to see how excited the kids get to see us,” said Missy.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - ilson High School's Chris Nussbaum adds LED lights to his marching band costume before the Starlight Parade June 4. Temperatures topped 95 degrees when the nighttime parade kicked off. PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - Rick Saturn, prime minister for the Royal Rosarians, rides in the annual Starlight ParadeElsewhere along the parade’s staging area, groups are gathering and floats are being prepped, most with the festive fun-loving theme that marks the Starlight Parade: be something other than yourself— or maybe, something MORE than yourself.

Over where the Mysti Krewe of Nimbus gather, the mostly middle-aged group displays an unsurpassed zest for color and mayhem in their costume and attitude, all akin to the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - Mysti Krewe of Nimbus celebrates the Starlight Parade in its Louisiana Mardi Gras style.

A block over a group of busy Sikhs in turbans the color of tangerines are stapling plastic bunting on a float. Marching bands pour out of yellow school busses and marchers help each other with face paint. PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - Portland Police were grand marshals at this year's Starlight Parade.

On a quieter block West Linn’s Old Time Fair court have already gotten dressed in their royal blue gowns, despite the 95 degree heat. Queen Bella Deeb gently swishes her hoop skirt and petticoat, trying to keep cool. The princesses wear personal fans on cords around their necks, over their sashes. PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - Clowns with Rose Festival Clown Prince float prepare to take off at the onset of the Starlight Parade June 4 in downtown Portland.

The Old Time Fair is entering its 60th year of selecting a choice group of middle school-aged girls to represent the annual summer festival.

“I never thought about being a role model for anyone and now I have little girls come up to talk to me and ask for a photo,” said Princess Mikayla Simon. “Something about the crown and the sash makes you more approachable I guess. It feels great.”

Bella was a princess last year and crowned queen during the 2015 Fair. She’s an old hand now at personal appearances and community service and said that while she loves the Starlight Parade in Portland, she most looks forward to the Old Time Fair parade in West Linn.

“It’s in our community and this year we’re including as many former Queens as we can find,” Bella said. “It’s going to be great.”

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - West Linn's Lauren Bushnell with her 'Bachelor' Ben Higgins, atop the Alaska Airlines Float at the Starlight Parade June 4.