If Mercy Speth was still feeling any lingering effects from a nasty cold last week, her email inbox perked her up and put a smile on her face Monday.
Speth was tasked with chairing a Downtown Merchants Association committee that only had six weeks to organize an event titled Spring Fling.
Sunshine and a larger than expected crowd spilled on to the streets of downtown Oak Harbor Saturday, and that led to a flood of emails thanking Speth and others for their efforts.
“We pulled it off,” said Speth, owner of Bayview Embroidery ‘N Print in downtown. “The community was so willing to help. I’m so proud of the community.”
The downtown merchants had held Spring Fling before in recent years.
This year, they expanded the programs with a focus on kid-friendly events, including an Easter Egg hunt, chalk art contest and other street games. Bottles of bubbles and hula hoops were provided to children.
To make this possible, the merchants agreed to close Southeast Pioneer Way to motor vehicle traffic, from Ely Street to Ilwaco Alley, for four hours.
Spring Fling started with a kids’ scramble for 2,000 colored Easter eggs at 11 a.m., which was the biggest draw. The event also featured a bridal show and a flash mob street dancing performance in the afternoon.
Margaret Livermore, president of the Downtown Merchants Association, estimates 1,000 people attended Spring Fling with the bulk arriving early for the Easter Egg hunt. She said she heard positive comments all day.
“They were so excited that something was happening in Oak Harbor for them to come to,” Livermore said.
“It was a good turnout. It was way more than we’ve had before in the little event we called Spring Fling. We’re trying to make it big. I think we had good success this year and we’re going to build on that for next year.”
With historic downtown tucked away from Oak Harbor’s busiest traffic flow along State Highway 20, the downtown merchants try to hold special events such as Spring Fling to attract crowds to their businesses.
“If they do more events like this, we’d always come,” said Blake Weldon, a Naval hospital optician who came to Spring Fling with his wife Tiffany, 6-year-old son Tristan and his friend Lizzy Degroat.
Some merchants brought their business on to the street. Off The Hook, a restaurant and nightclub, held a pig barbecue and provided music and an aquarium full of lobsters that attracted gawkers.
Livermore said that this was the first time they shut down Pioneer Way for Spring Fling with the kids’ activities being the main influence.
This also was the first time an egg hunt was held.
“I like it,” said Joseph Glasgow, who came with his wife Anjelica and their children Aedyn, 2, and Journey, 3. “I like not worrying about cars.”
Reach Whidbey News-Times staff reporter Ron Newberry at 360-676-6611, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org