WHAT THE 4TH IS ABOUT: The perfect storm, metaphorically, for celebrating our nation’s birthday: kids, bikes, bunting in red, white and blue and miniature flag ribbons all wrapped up in a parade. Sisters Maeve and Nora McCormick, in blue and red, are accompanied by a friend, in white, of course. The McCormicks are granddaughters of John and Toni Christianson. Happy 242nd birthday USA! – Photo by Don Coyote
SUMMERTIME AND THE EATING IS EASY: How easy is it to eat watermelon with your hands tied behind your back? Each contestant has her own answer. Great idea to have an all girls contest at the July 4th community picnic in Pioneer Park. – Photo by Don Coyote
By Ken Stern, Bill Reynolds and Marissa Conklin
La Conner’s Fourth of July parade celebrated the nation’s founding in 1776, and was somewhat historic in its own right. People were united in wearing red, white and blue, though the shades, stripes, patterns and designs varied widely. Flags of all sizes, on and off sticks and poles, were waved and draped, respectively. The colorful downtown procession was by many accounts one of the best attended in the town’s recent history as crowds lined both sides of First Street on a picture-perfect day. Four veterans from the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community comprised the color guard. Behind them were Swinomish Boy Scouts bearing their flags. The lead police vehicle, siren blaring and lights flashing, was from the Swinomish police department. La Conner’s classic 1941 white fire truck led what became a caravan of primarily old-time vehicles, though La Conner’s current fire department trucks and EMS vehicle followed. The on-foot brigades came on in all of La Conner’s eclectic randomness, led by the Soroptimists. Miniature donkeys, no taller than five-year-old girls, were in the Farm Stay Skagit menagerie, which included dogs and perhaps their chickens in a wheeled cage. The Sunrise Food Bank truck led the entourages of good deed-ers. Later, the Park Commission’s float of pop up tents promoted the future gazebo for Conner Waterfront Park. The Kiwanis marched and the Swinomish Yacht Club rolled a boat on a trailer. In between were old cars of various makes, models and vintages, with the occasional 2005 and other modern Corvettes, interspersed. A five-car Kia Brigade, complete with a six foot tall costumed squirrel waving from the sun roof, came boldly up the street. Ten tractors, John Deeres all probably in chronological order, were led by a 1937 model, as shiny as the day it was built. Mike Elde brought up the rear with a rig bearing a large banner plugging the August 2 Pioneer Picnic here. The last Deere was double-wheeled and at least two stories high.
Before noon, the crowd was ready, lining up as far north as Centre Street to catch the start as t turned south onto First Street. While many stood, others settled into folding chairs of a variety of types, sizes and heights. Still others found spots on benches or curbs. Children edged out into the street to collect candy thrown by the various parade entries The kids were thrilled to grab the candy that was thrown at them from the patriotic floats, including local children Olivia and Evan Holmes. They “thought the parade was awesome” and they “really liked the kitty car”. The famous cat car blared out “Celebration” as it crossed Morris Street. The quantity of candy coming to kids seemed a larger, and more easily gotten grab, than that collected at Halloween. The parade attracts people from near and far with its reputation of being a guaranteed good time. Steve Carah, a new resident to La Conner, made it clear that “we’ll make it an annual event for our family.” Two Fire District 13 trucks, including their ladder, and their EMS vehicle, brought up the rear. Except, La Conner’s white firetruck circled around and started over. This time Mayor Ramon Hayes was navigating, riding alongside Dave Alvord in the front as it went down First Street a second time. At the parade’s start, Hayes waved with one hand and held on with the other from the truck’s back. “I thought it was fabulous,” Hayes said afterward. “I’m extremely thrilled with the turnout. It definitely looked like this was one of our biggest Fourth of July parades yet.” He should know. This is his eleventh year as mayor. For Hayes, it was definitely a seat of honor. “It always looks like it just came off the showroom floor,” Hayes said of the vintage pumper, which was La Conner’s primary fire truck for more than 30 years. “Dave,” stressed Hayes, “treats it like his baby.” “Everything went well,” said Hayes, whose holiday also included a community picnic, outdoor concert, and night-time fireworks show. “The day was very successful.” After the parade came the picnic at Pioneer Park, complete with all the kid contests of summer gatherings. By 5 p.m. the action had moved to the lawn at the Port of Skagit Marina, where The Walrus warmed the crowd up as it swelled to over 300 by the time Jr. Cadillac took the stage at 7 p.m. The raffle at the concert raised $2,500. It was a fundraiser for the Rick Epting Foundation for the Arts Fund to pay for music lessons and equipment rental for La Conner students. Finally, the fireworks, at 10 p.m. The Town’s show, launched from the west side of the Swinomish Channel north of the Three Hats picnic shelters, lasted some 12 minutes. Folks oohed and aahed and clapped. The crowd lining the boardwalk from the north end south to La Conner Seafood and Prime Rib, were treated to other rockets’ red glare, and many other colors and explosions that started before dusk from at least five launching centers, primarily along Front Street. Swinomish fireworks sellers spent the evening running through their leftover inventory, overwhelming and out-exploding the official show. These brought claps and cheers, also. There was a perhaps three-minute burst from the shore below the Three Hats about 10:30 p.m.. Intermittently through the evening color bursts came from Snee Oosh beach on the west side of Fidalgo Island. By 10:45 p.m. the crowd had dispersed. Fireworks continued past 11 p.m. At least one person in Shelter Bay complained of a “cherry bomb” explosion at what he guessed was 2 a.m.