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Maxwelton’s parade has vet for grand marshal

Leon Israel, this year’s grand marshal of the Maxwelton Fourth of July Parade, is flanked by official escorts Cliff and Leona Burnham. - Roy Jacobson / The Record
Leon Israel, this year’s grand marshal of the Maxwelton Fourth of July Parade, is flanked by official escorts Cliff and Leona Burnham.
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

Leon Israel is happy to be this year’s grand marshal of the annual Maxwelton Fourth of July Parade. But he’s also wistful.

“I’ll be in a little bitty golf cart instead of a big, fat red Cadillac with the top down,” he said.

But the golf cart beats walking, he quickly added.

“I couldn’t walk that far if I had too,” he said.

Israel, 83, a Maxwelton Beach resident for more than 30 years and a property owner for 50, is nearly as old as the parade itself, which has been going strong for more than 90 years.

Accompanying him as escorts in the, um, golf cart of honor will be neighbors and longtime friends Cliff and Leona Burnham.

All three have been active for several years in putting on the parade.

“But this is about Leon,” Leona Burnham said.

“Everybody always has a good time at the Maxwelton parade,” Israel said.

Israel was born in Seattle and attended Garfield High School. An Army infantry veteran of World War II, he fought in both the European and Pacific theaters.

“I was on the first troop ship that left Europe for the Pacific,” he said, adding that he intends to wear his American Legion cap in the parade.

After the war, Israel became a shoemaker and had a shop in Seattle for 40 years.

When he moved to Whidbey Island, he set up in Bayview, then in his garage at Maxwelton, until health issues forced him to retire for good.

He said he has helped to park cars at the parade for nearly 30 years, until the task was turned over to law enforcement officers.

“I enjoyed telling people where to park,” he said.

“I got a big charge out of that.”

The Burnhams have lived along Maxwelton Beach for nearly 30 years.

Leona Burnham, 80, was born and raised in Anacortes. She spent several years in New Jersey, and before retiring, she worked for Allied Chemical Corp., which later became Honeywell Corp.

Cliff Burnham, 70, is a retired business administrator at universities, including Humboldt State in California.

Both have enjoyed working the parade for several years, and again this year will host a big Fourth of July party for friends and relatives at their house.

“It’s one of the greatest events the community and the island can have,” Cliff Burnham said of the parade.

“I love the festivities and all the wonderful people,” added Leona Burnham. “But most of all, I love celebrating the birth of our nation, and our freedoms.”

But there will be no big Cadillac.

Organizers of the parade, the Maxwelton Community Club, decided this year to prohibit vehicles, except for those under human or electrical power, and for small tractors pulling floats.

Those who can’t bear to leave their special vehicles at home can bring them before the parade starts and park them for show in the softball field, organizers said.

Still, Grand Marshal Israel laments the change.

“Every parade should have a fire truck at the end,” he said.

The parade will be 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday. Games will follow at the ballfield at Dave Mackie Park.

Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. All entrants are asked to buy a $1 button for each member to support the parade. There’s no pre-registration, but advanced notice would be helpful, organizers said.

Parking for 300 vehicles will now be closer to the site, mostly at Maxwelton Farm and Dave Mackie Park, organizers said. They said the use of carpools, bicycles and scooters is still encouraged.

There will be no parking along Maxwelton Road below French Road, and along Swede Hill Road, organizers said.

Traffic between Maxwelton and Swede Hill Roads will be re-routed through Maxelton Farm when the parade starts. There will be no access down Maxwelton below Swede Hill during the parade, they said.

Organizers said the new parking plan will shorten the length of Maxwelton Road to be closed, and affect how long the closure will last.

They said at least four members of the sheriff’s office will work the parade.

For information about the parade, or to volunteer, call 321-2581 or e-mail MaxweltonClub@whidbey.com.

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