Bust out your sunscreen and dust off your parade gear, the 102nd Maxwelton Independence Day Parade is just over a week away.
Organizers say this year’s event should be a good one, with longtime event musician Danny Ward serving as grand marshal, the return of a host of float regulars, and, of course, the ever popular foot races held at Dave Mackie Park.
“We’re hoping to see the usual 2,000 people come and share a day of family fun and games,” said B.J. Hoogerwerf, president of the Maxwelton Community Club, which organizes the annual event.
For the second year, the parade kicks off at noon on July 4, Tuesday, at the intersection of Maxwelton and Swede Hill roads. Parking is available nearby but it’s limited and attendees are encouraged to park at the Little Brown Church at French Road and ride the free shuttle to the beach and parade start.
Service south runs from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and north from 12:30-2:30 p.m.
The parade, which began in 1905, is one of the premier Fourth of July events on Whidbey Island. It routinely draws crowds that number in the thousands, with people hailing from all over Western Washington.
Part of the allure, said Hoogerwerf, is the parade’s open participation. Anyone can join, from pioneering families and kids on bikes to non-profit organizations and political campaigns. It’s a colorful event that sees dozens of groups and hundreds of marchers, many of whom return year after year.
Bagpipers, taekwondo schools, violin musical groups, old cars, new cars, tractors — the list goes on and on — expect to see them all, Hoogerwerf said.
Leading the procession is the color guard, represented by marine corps league of South Whidbey, and grand marshal Ward. Many will recognize him as the musician who has for years performed The National Anthem at the parade’s end at Dave Mackie Park.
He’s been doing it for so long — at least 15 years — that neither Hoogerwerf nor Ward could say with certainty when he began. Hoogerwerf said it was clear to the organizing committee, however, that he was their guy. Ward is much deserving and it’s way past due, she said.
Ward had no idea he was even being considered, saying it was a pleasant but unexpected surprise.
“It was kinda shocking, but it’s an honor at the same time,” he said.
Ward is a professional musician who’s been performing since he was 12. He moved to Clinton from the Seattle area 38 years ago to raise his two boys, Benny and Lanny. Like him, they are both professional musicians.
Ward spent about 25 years as substitute music teacher for the South Whidbey School District, regularly performs at the Prima Bistro restaurant in Langley and has spent about 20 years playing at the Whidbey Island Fair. He’s a vocal advocate for paying musicians for the skills, but admits the parade is different.
“I’m an advocate for paying musicians, but the parade is on me,” he said. “The parade is because I’m in love with the South End.”
“And it’s the Fourth of July too,” he added. “I’m a patriot and I love recognizing it.”
Another popular part of the parade is the annual button contest, a pre-event fundraiser where children 14 and under submit custom designs for that year’s souvenir buttons.
They’re sold for a $1 and tend to be pretty popular, Hoogerwerf said. Lots of people buy them.
“We’re talking about lots and lots of people,” she said.
This year’s winner is Bozeman, Mont., resident Brooke Bothner, the 13-year-old granddaughter of long-time Maxwelton residents Darrell and Janyne Slabaugh.
While visiting her grandparents, Brooke enjoys wakeboarding, sewing and gardening, and taking walks on the beach.
“I love the 4th of July at Maxwelton,” she said, in a recent news release.
Bothner will start eighth grade at Sacajawea Middle School in Bozeman this fall. She belongs to a theater group, is an avid reader, belongs to a mountain biking club, loves to ski in the winter and enjoys writing.
This year the community club is also selling shirts screened with a collage of 31 past parade buttons. They’re red, cost $15 and can be purchased with cash, check or card.
The parade will conclude with foot races, which include sprints, sack races and three-legged races. The famous egg tosses will follow.