Independence Day: South Whidbey preps to party on Fourth of July

Participants in the 2015 Maxwelton Fourth of July Parade make their way down Maxwelton Road.

America will celebrate its independence this weekend, and like every year South Whidbey won’t be left out of the fun.

The 22nd annual Celebrate America blasts off Sunday, July 3 at Freeland Park, and the Maxwelton Fourth of July Parade will follow Monday at Maxwelton Beach. Organizers for both events are banking on sunny skies and healthy attendance.

“It’s an optimal day because it’s Sunday… and it looks like the weather is going to cooperate so we’re expecting a good turnout,” said Matt Chambers, pastor of South Whidbey Assembly of God and Celebrate America event organizer.

“We hoping for at least 2,000 this year,” echoed B.J. Hoogerwerf, president of the Maxwelton Community Club.

Admission to both events is free.

Celebrate America

Celebrate America is a busy afternoon of mixed activities for both kids and adults. This year’s event will include, as always, the bouncy house and face painting. Both begin at 3 p.m. and kick off the party.

Another big hit with children is The Reptile Man, also known as Scott Petersen. A zoologist and educator, he’s appeared on programs such as Disney’s Bill Nye the Science Guy, PBS’ Biz Kids, Northwest Afternoon, Evening Magazine and NPR Radio, according to an event news release. Petersen usually brings an alligator, snake (giant python) and a snapping turtle.

“He’s just a favorite, kids just love him,” Chambers said.

Petersen takes the stage at 7:05 p.m.

Food vendors begin serving at 4 p.m., with fare ranging from hamburgers, egg rolls, stir fry, curries and curly fries to ice cream, kettle corn, cotton candy and cookies. Vegetarian options will be available.

Beginning at 6 p.m., this year’s live music includes three bands, one of which includes Hair Nation, a band that pays homage to 1980s classic hair rock. Also scheduled are Cranberry Bog Bluegrass and Straighter Road, a gospel/jazz a capella band. The last band takes the stage at 9 p.m.

The evening winds down with a patriotic presentation that includes a color guard, a singing of the national anthem and “God Bless America” by Sean King, a recognition of veterans and a prayer for the families of suicide victims led by Chambers.

The fireworks show will follow at approximately 10:20 p.m. The display will be detonated from a barge in Holmes Harbor and should last about 20 minutes.

Lawn chairs are permitted and attendees are

encouraged to bring jackets for the evening breeze.

Maxwelton parade

This year’s parade marks the 101st year of this colorful  event, and attendees should note one major change — the procession begins at noon, an hour earlier than customary. That means everything else will be pushed back one hour as well, including registration, shuttle service and the after-parade Outdoor Games.

B.J. Hoogerwerf, president of the Maxwelton Community Club, said attendance might be down from last year’s centennial but organizers are still expecting a robust turnout of between 2,000 and 3,000 spectators. Attendees shouldn’t be shy about arriving early and reserving their favorite spots on Maxwelton Road.

The parade begins at the intersection with Swede Hill Road and culminates at Dave Mackie Park.

Hoogerwerf says one of the highlights of the event is this year’s grand marshal, Laura Price. An accomplished law enforcement officer and celebrated community leader, Hoogerwerf said she was an easy choice.

“She’s just a lovely person, a lovely person who’s been interested in Maxwelton,” she said. “It was a no-brainer.”

Price is well known on South Whidbey. She’s spent 17 years in law enforcement, and currently leads the Island County Sheriff’s Office’s detectives as detective sergeant. She’s also a former board president of Good Cheer, and a founder and current president of Whidbey Island Farm Animal Assistance Program.

She was recognized years ago as a Hometown Hero in the South Whidbey Record, and this year was named Person of the Year by the Deer Lagoon Grange.

Incidentally, Price is also a big fan of the parade. She’s been assigned to it — traffic duty — since she began as a reserve officer in 1999 and hasn’t missed a single one.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s so fun, it’s so hometown, it’s so community, it’s so South Whidbey; it’s all that rolled into one.”

Price said she was flattered when asked to serve as grand marshal and is looking forward to actually participating in the event she’s attended for so long. She’ll be riding in a 1955 Bel Air convertible, owned by Ray Gabelein, with her 2-year-old granddaughter. The vehicle will lead the procession with Price’s two nieces, who will carry the grand marshal’s banner.

Once the parade ends, Danny Ward will play the national anthem, something he’s done every year for more than a decade, and the popular Outdoor Games will commence. Events include foot and sack races and the egg toss. Winners get ribbons.


Schedule of events

Celebrate America

– 3-7 p.m., bouncy house, face painting.

– 4 p.m., food vendors open

– 4:30 p.m., roads close and shuttle service begins

– 6 p.m., Cranberry Bog Bluegrass

– 7 p.m., fireboat demonstration and tours

– 7:05 p.m., The Reptile Man

– 8 p.m., Straighter Road

– 9 p.m., Hair Nation

– 10 p.m., patriotic presentation

-10:20 p.m., fireworks show


Maxwelton Fourth of July Parade

– 10:30 a.m. to noon, registration and shuttle service

– Noon, parade start

– Outdoor Games begin after the parade ends

– 12:30-2:30 p.m., return shuttle service


Parking/traffic info

Celebrate America

The following roads in Freeland will be closed from 4-11 p.m. on July 3:

– Shoreview Dr. between Freeland Avenue. and Stewart Road.

– Myrtle Avenue between Shoreview Drive and Main Street.

Residents living within this area may obtain a Roadblock Pass by calling 360-221-1656.

The boat ramp at Freeland Park will also be closed at 4 p.m. on July 2 until midnight on July 3; boats anchored within 1,400 feet of the dock must be moved by 2 p.m. on July 3 or they may be moved by the Island County Sheriff’s Office.