Evan Thompson / The Record — Rhys Thomas, a juggler, performed at the Celebrate America event on Monday, July 3 at Freeland Park.

Celebrate America draws hundreds to Freeland Park

The 23rd annual Celebrate America event entertained hundreds for more than eight hours Monday at Freeland Park.

The pre-Fourth of July event was a success, according to organizer Matt Chambers, who said he was thankful the weather was warm and sunny as opposed to previous years when there’s been rain. The event is run by the South Whidbey Assembly of God.

There was plenty of entertainment for the kids, from inflatable bouncy houses and face painting to “The JuggleMania Show” by Portland-based juggler Rhys Thomas. Musical entertainment included Swingy, a rockabilly swing band, the Shifty Sailors and Hair Nation, a 1980s rock tribute band.

Kids clamored for a chance to watch Rhys Thomas perform his juggling routine, even going as far as crowding the area beneath where he was performing. According to attendees, he had a mix of humor that appealed to both kids and adults.

“I liked the sword stuff!” Ransom Hamblen, 5, exclaimed.

Thomas also mixed in a few political jokes, but said after his show that he kept it neutral and never revealed his political leanings.

Thomas said it was a very “interactive crowd.”

“The kids are climbing onto the stage and they’re yelling things at me, and I was like, ‘OK, this is what you call live theater,’” Thomas said.

Thomas said his routine included knife juggling, torch juggling, Chinese yo-yo and a “whole lot of comedy.”

“I truly aim to be a family entertainer, which means everybody from grandpa down to the grandkids has got to laugh,” Thomas said.

Ransom’s grandfather, Tim Hamblen of Marysville, said he enjoyed Thomas’ routine and appreciated his willingness to not stray away from political jokes.

“He has some stuff that is a bit on the edge, no pun intended,” Hamblen said. “It was not offensive to me.”

South Whidbey Fire/EMS also led a fireboat demonstration and boat tours. The event concluded with a 20-minute fireworks display over Holmes Harbor known as the “patriotic presentation.”

Sarah Gadjigo of Oak Harbor prefers South Whidbey’s pre-Fourth of July event over the one held in North Whidbey. She said she’s been coming for the past few years for the “nice atmosphere.” She said she’s not overly patriotic but enjoys attending the event with her family.

“It’s just a nice setting to come down for the fireworks and stuff,” Gadjigo said. “I’ll probably go to Oak Harbor’s tomorrow night too, but this is a good show here and it’s nice to be on the water.”

Sisters Ally and Addie Hansen are longtime attendees of the event. They both said it’s fun to watch the different acts and performances, but they also enjoy dressing up in patriotic fashion. Most of all, they enjoy the fireworks.

“The visuals are beautiful,” Ally Hansen said. “It’s a really good grand finale.”

Evan Thompson / The Record — The Shifty Sailors performed at the Celebrate America event on July 3 at Freeland Park.

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