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Freedom reigns on Whidbey | JULY FOURTH WEEKEND PLANNER

A South Whidbey youngster makes his way down an inflatable toy during last year
A South Whidbey youngster makes his way down an inflatable toy during last year's Celebrate America festival in Freeland. Children will be able to enjoy the various inflatable playhouses available during Celebrate America festivities in Freeland Park on Sunday, July 3.
— image credit: Patricia Duff / Record file

It’s the biggest, most-action packed weekend of the summer.

Well, it’s at least the loudest.

Whidbey will be a blast from one end of the island to another for this Fourth of July weekend.

On South Whidbey, Freeland will take its typical one-day head start to Independence Day on Sunday, July 3, with the Celebrate America festival at Freeland Park.

Then, on July 4, the much-anticipated Maxwelton Independence Day Parade will kick off.

Elsewhere on the isle, crowds will descend on Coupeville for the Lions’ must-see massive garage sale this weekend, and Oak Harbor will also have a festival and fireworks display on Independence Day.

Celebrate America

During Independence Day weekend, islanders and weekend visitors alike adopt the patriotic fever that sweeps across Main Streets all over America. South Whidbey is no exception as it pumps up the volume on family fun and entertainment throughout its neighborhoods.

When Celebrate America comes together on the Holmes Harbor waterfront in Freeland for its 17th year, children will find themselves safe from wayward bottle rockets when they head down to Freeland Park for pre-firework display events.

Harry Sinanian, a seasoned Celebrate America veteran, has attended every year. He offered some insights into what makes for a satisfying festival experience.

“It beats going across the water because of the traffic there,” he said.

Arrive early and stay late. He suggested attendees arrive no later than 4:30 p.m. at either Payless or Trinity Lutheran in Freeland to catch a shuttle down to Freeland Park.

Two shuttles run a continuous loop from the pickup spots to the park, about every 15 minutes. Riders can flag the bus down along the main thoroughfare, though.

Once there, feast on the smorgasbord offered by the booths. Hamburgers, hot dogs, curly fries, Asian food, scones, fruit smoothies, doughnuts, popcorn, kettle corn, pies, ice cream and apple dumplings are available to buy at Celebrate America.

Matt Chambers, event director, said a family of four could eat well for $30, and recommends all guests bring some cash to try the apple dumplings or buy a hamburger. The booths officially open at 4 p.m., but once guests arrive and beckon for food, vendors typically oblige.

Activities begin with the inflatable bouncy house and face painting for youths at 2 p.m. Music begins with For the Birds at 6 p.m., followed by performer Alex Zerbe at 7:15 and marimba music by Ruzivo from 8:30 to 10.

Early arrivals can visit the handful of garage sales and antique sales around Freeland on July 3.

Guests can bring lawn chairs, blankets, coolers and grills. Chambers said some guests arrive as early as noon to stake out space on the grass and barbecue.

There are a few items on the “do not” list. Do not bring glass bottles, do not bring fireworks and do not bring pets. Also, alcohol is not allowed in the park.

Highway traffic will be heavy after the fireworks. Chambers estimated it could take 30 minutes to get out of Freeland by car as deputies direct traffic past the stoplights.

“Just be patient,” Chambers said.

Walking back to cars parked at either Payless or Trinity Lutheran should take about 10 minutes from Freeland Park. Chambers also said parking at Chase Bank will be available on Sunday.

Handicap parking is available next to the park with a state-approved handicap parking pass.

Weather will cooperate

On the weather front, rain isn’t on the horizon.

“The forecast for Whidbey Island is going to be for nice weather Saturday through Monday,” said Doug McDonnal, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. “It looks like it should be a dry period with mostly sunny days, partly cloudy at night.”

It won’t be exactly sunscreen weather on Whidbey, but that might be OK, considering the rainy record in Puget Sound during the Fourth of July weekend.

“Saturday and through Independence Day looks like a solid three-day block of dry nice weather,” McDonnal said.

“The highs are going to be in the 60s on Saturday, and they are going to be in the 60s to lower 70s on Sunday and Independence Day,” he said. “It looks like it’s going to be dry all the way through.”

Away from the bangs

Greenbank Farm celebrates with its First Fridays at the Farm wine tasting and artwalk from 5 to 8 p.m.  July 1.

Downtown Langley features its own array of galleries, too, with its first Saturday of the month artwalk on July 2. Join other art lovers on a trek around Langley to visit the MUSEO Gallery, Brackenwood Gallery and the Whidbey Art Gallery cooperative in its new location at 220 Second St.

Head over to the Bayview Farmers Market in the parking lot next to Bayview Community Hall for a market in full swing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine, with farmers and growers, plenty of arts and crafts and more vendors than usual.

“Traditionally, it’s the busiest day of the year, so it’ll be a rockin’ place,” said Larry Lowary, a market regular who runs Tree-Top Baking with Gerry Betz.

Bayview will have a marimba band and up to 70 vendors will serve a variety of goods, including a veritable cultural rainbow of foods. Lowary said folks will be able to taste everything from fresh crepes and wraps, to Philippine, African, barbecue and Mr. Mogli’s sauce.

If you miss Friday and Saturday markets, the South Whidbey Farmers Market at Highway 525 and Thompson Road is from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, July 3, with Quinn Fitzpatrick providing the musical entertainment. Greenbank Farm will also hold a market between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 3 at its “Sundays at the Farm,” just off Highway 525 in Greenbank.

Farther north, the Coupeville Lions Club will hold its 30th annual garage sale and fundraiser at Coupeville Elementary School. This year’s sale — featuring everything from antique perfume bottles to gumball machines to tools to sporting goods — starts with a Friday afternoon preview, with shopping beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. Sunday’s hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Oak Harbor’s Old Fashioned Fourth of July Extravaganza will be held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday, July 4, at Windjammer Park. Fireworks will begin at 10:30 p.m.

Fun in Maxwelton

Don’t expect this year’s grand marshal of the Maxwelton Parade to walk on egg shells.

Unless, of course, he takes a shortcut across the baseball field after the end of this year’s egg toss.

Richard “Mick” McGuire will lead this year’s parade through the beachfront community of Maxwelton during Whidbey Island’s best slice of small-town Americana on Independence Day. But when it comes time to talk about the friendly fixture often found walking the sands of Maxwelton with his Chihuahua sidekick “Toro,” McGuire says there’s something much more interesting to talk about than the pair who will lead this year’s Fourth of July parade.

“I’ve been here for over half my life. I’m not today’s news,” McGuire said.

Instead, he points here and there to the problems with Dave Mackie Park since county funding for maintenance dried up. Much of the life of the South End neighborhood revolves around the park, especially on the day the community attracts a crowd from South Whidbey and beyond that numbers into the hundreds for its Independence Day celebration.

“The big story here ... take a look at the ramp,” McGuire said, motioning to a boat launch that’s been rendered largely useless by a massive mound of drifting sand and environmental restrictions that hinder any easy attempt to clear it free. And there, he motions, are where the garbage cans used to sit before the county took them away with the hopes that visitors would “pack it in, pack it out.”

“That doesn’t work too well, either,” he said.

And don’t get him started, he warned, about the county turning off the water to the taps near the restrooms, and shutting down the bathrooms, too, because of budget cuts, with a line of yellow “caution” tape that’s since been torn down and left on the ground.

“That’s not right. That’s a bigger story than someone who has been here half their life and knows everybody, and all that,” McGuire said.

Maybe so, but McGuire and Toro will be the center of attention on Monday as they make their way down Maxwelton Road in Dave Hoogerwerf’s red MG.

McGuire, 81, and his dog Toro were chosen by the Maxwelton Community Club as grand marshals of the 96th annual Independence Day parade. A resident of Leroy Circle, McGuire is well-known to folks in Maxwelton, where he can be found walking the beach with Toro as many as three times every day.

“Mickey is such a well-known figure walking the beach and keeping track of neighborhood goings on, we’re delighted to honor him for the parade,” said Nancy Waddell, one of the organizers of the celebration.

McGuire was raised in Lincoln, Neb., where he worked for a trucking company, setting the rates and charges for shipments. He moved to Whidbey in 1974, when Langley was “all hippie” and he was in his mid 40s.

“I fit right in,” he said.

“I came up one summer and I immediately took to the place, like a fish to water. And went back to Nebraska and said, ‘I’m thinking I’m going to head west.’”

McGuire has a real fondness for his neighbors, and for the folks who live along the beach from Maxwelton to Scatchet Head who’ve never once yelled at him to get off their beach.

“They are a wonderful, wonderful bunch of people,” he said.

McGuire was a bit speechless when asked to serve as grand marshal, but he said Toro, his long-haired Chihuahua, will handle all the extra attention come Independence Day with no trouble at all, despite any lingering discomfort from a recent operation where he had 11 teeth removed.

“He’s so mellowed out,” McGuire said.

This year’s parade will start at 1 p.m. Waddell said she couldn’t exactly say how many participants will come out this year, as most people register the morning of the parade.

Expect a collection of vintage vehicles, a gypsy peace wagon, local kids and their bikes decked out for the grand promenade, and hopefully, there will be some surprises — such as last year’s group of vampires or the quirky assortment of “Whidbey Weirdos” who showed up unannounced.

Waddell said there will be plenty of free parking in the fields behind Maxwelton Farm.

Her advice to those driving to the parade: “Keep coming down.” Traffic will be waved through until all parking areas at the farm are full.

Overflow parking will be available at the Little Brown Church on the corner of Maxwelton and French roads, and a shuttle service will run between Maxwelton and the church.

Traffic will also be routed differently for this year’s event, with Maxwelton Road open in one direction only, southbound toward Maxwelton, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, with a pedestrian-bike lane on one side. (Anyone traveling in the opposite direction must use Swede Hill Road.)

No parking will be allowed on Maxwelton Road south of the Little Brown Church, nor on Swede Hill Road. Access below Swede Hill will also be blocked during the parade, from 1 to 2 p.m.

The shuttle service will run after the parade, and the traditional games at Dave Mackie Park — sack races, three-legged races, sprints and an all-comers egg toss — will continue until 3:30 p.m.

With the Maxwelton Community Club covering the costs of sheriff’s deputies, extra portable toilets, the shuttle and more, Waddell encouraged those coming to the parade to buy a $1 parade button to help offset expenses for the event.

There will also be pop, water and hot dogs available, and by popular demand, strawberry shortcake will be back on the menu for the first time in years.

Record writers Ben Watanabe and Patricia Duff contributed to this report.

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