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Fireworks at night, revelers' delight

Above, fireworks explode over a crowd of thousands at the Freedom Celebration at Freeland Park Thursday night. At Maxwelton Beach the next day, parade participants, including members of Island Dance, left, struck a patriotic theme. - Matt Johnson
Above, fireworks explode over a crowd of thousands at the Freedom Celebration at Freeland Park Thursday night. At Maxwelton Beach the next day, parade participants, including members of Island Dance, left, struck a patriotic theme.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

The Fourth of July is just too good to be confined to a single day on South Whidbey. It takes a night plus a full 24 hours afterwards to do it right.

The biggest crowds of the year formed up twice late last week as thousands of people first headed to Freeland Park on Thursday night to eat, listen to live music and watch a fireworks show put on for the ninth annual Celebrate America. New this year was a flyover by a Navy Prowler jet out of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, and a longer, more explosive fireworks show courtesy of pyrotechnicians Mick and LeRoy Olsen.

The Rev. Dareld Chittim, the associate pastor of the South Whidbey Assembly of God and organizer of the Celebrate America, said this year's event went off well in beautiful weather and may, unlike in past years, have brought in almost enough donations to cover all costs.

"It's going to be pretty close," he said of the $15,000 show.

The celebration, in addition to the Maxwelton Fourth of July parade the next day, seemed to bring out every family on South Whidbey and then some.

After eating carnival food, playing games and settling in under dark skies on blankets and lawn chairs for the Thursday evening's fireworks, almost the same crowd seemed to drain down to Maxwelton Beach for the 91st edition of the Independence Day parade. Big hits among the scores of units in the one-third mile parade included the Bruckner Family Clowns -- which brough family members from Boston, New York, Omaha and a half dozen other places to dress up in makeup and funny shoes -- and Gary Gabelein's fire engine. The engine drove the entire course under its own power this year after having to be pushed last year.

"It's running, it's running!" was the cry from one parade goer as the engine passed.

After the parade, the Maxwelton Community Club sold hundreds of hot dogs -- still priced at only $1 -- and even more strawberry-topped pound cake.

Both holiday events went off rain free after having to contend with intermittent showers and misting last year.

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