Maxwelton Parade celebrates 91st year

The Maxwelton Fourth of July Parade celebrates its 91st anniversary this year and a woman who has been at 56 of the parades will serve as the Grand Marshal.

Mary Bowen has been chosen as Grand Marshal and is looking forward to tossing candy to the kids as she rides in a convertible down Maxwelton Road.

The enthusiastic and social 87-year-old Maxwelton Beach regular started coming to Whidbey Island when she and her husband bought a small historic cabin in 1952. They turned the place into summer and holiday central for the whole family.

To support her on her special day, most members of her large family will be on Whidbey Island. Three children with spouses, 13 grandkids, 22 great-grandchildren and some great-great-grandchildren have grown up marching in the parade themselves or watching from the sidelines. The youngest in attendance this year will be 1-year-old

Malena Anderson.

The Maxwelton Parade has been a family tradition for decades.

Son Wade Bowen said he remembers being excited about the parade because he would get a dime for marching in it.

As he and his siblings got older, they got to ride their bikes and, finally, the oldest kids were allowed to ride on the fire truck.

He said his mother used to bake countless cupcakes for the parade and was always at the forefront of the action.

Mary Bowen, a champion egg tosser, has always enjoyed the games after the parade, too.

“She was a great egg tosser in her days,” said daughter-in-law Janie Bowen.

Witnessing the parade for so many years has led to some observations.

Wade Bowen said it’s amazing to see the sleepy beach community swell to nearly a thousand people on the Fourth of July.

“It certainly has grown,” he said.

When the family first started being part of the parade it would last about 10-15 minutes, he said.

“According to my calculations, it’s 47 minutes now,” he added.

Mary Bowen will arrive from her Seattle home the weekend before the holiday to get ready for the big celebration.

This year marks the 91st Maxwelton Parade and the 101st anniversary of the area, said parade organizer Dana Gilroy.

Each year, a person is chosen that has been a part of Maxwelton for many years — and Mary Bowen certainly fit the criteria, she said.

“The reason we have a Grand Marshal for our parade each year is to share some of the history of Maxwelton with the rest of South Whidbey,” said Dana Gilroy.

“We chose Mary Bowen as she is one of the oldest members of our area and has been at the same cabin since 1952,” Gilroy said.

“We are at a point where many of the early settlers are gone and their families no longer live here. So having her consent to being in the parade was perfect,” she said.

After the parade, the focus will shift to fun, games and food.

The South Whidbey Kiwanis Club will be selling food and drinks at the ballpark. After the parade, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars will have a flag-raising ceremony with Danny Ward playing the national anthem. The Fourth of July celebration rounds out with races and the famous egg toss.

However, the celebration causes traffic headaches each year. Visitors are urged to plan ahead.

The road will be closed at French Road and Maxwelton when all the parking is full in the park area. That usually happens at noon.

Overload parking will be at the church at French and Maxwelton and a bus will be provided to the parade site.

Those interested in participating in the parade can preregister by e-mailing or calling Dana Gilroy at 579-5930. People can still register the day of the parade. Line-up will start at 11 a.m. at the corner of Swede Hill and Maxwelton Road.

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