A Fourth to remember

The community funneled into downtown Oak Harbor on Tuesday morning, lining the streets for the Peoples Bank Grand Parade, a fitting kickoff to the day’s festivities.

In stark contrast to April’s Holland Happening parade, sunny weather and a cool breeze added a nice level of comfort at the event.

“We had great attendance,” said Curtis Shumate, Peoples Bank Oak Harbor branch manager and vice president. “It was a great event and a fun time for all.”

Shumate said the community is tailor-made for events like the Fourth of July happenings. Support and solid coordination have always been abundant. Some of the Navy’s finest signaled the start of the parade with their crowd-pleasing flyover.

“It’s a fun community for the Fourth of July,” he said. “The Navy and the community pulled together very well.”

Later in the afternoon, Windjammer Park was filled for the Navy Federal Credit Union’s Rubber Ducky Regatta, the aptly named “Red, White, and Blue” team taking the title for the second year in a row. Kristine Bouchard and Brittany Milliron navigated their makeshift vessel to victory.

In a show of good sportsmanship, the crowd was delighted when the winning pair of Oak Harbor Middle School students provided a tow for their competition, Kristin Knippers and Erin Hartt.

The Koetje Agency Chili Cook-Off followed the regatta, with the throngs migrating to the spicy smells wafting over from the group of tents.

“The cook-off grew in popularity again this year,” said Jill Johnson, Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce executive director. “The panel of celebrity judges voted Anita Colombo of Momma Colombo’s Famous Colorado Chili the Best in Show. Second place went to Big-N Chili prepared by chef Jennifer Hartt and chef Scott Sullivan of Harbor Tower Village took third.”

The most popular category of the day, The People’s Choice Award, was awarded to chef Kylee Allen of Chili, Chili Bang Bang.

“The chili cook-off is always a crowd favorite and this year was no exception,” Johnson said.

Punctuating a day of celebration, the highly anticipated fireworks display held viewers rapt.

“The fireworks were spectacular,” Johnson said. “The extra money raised by the business community really made a difference in the quality of the show. And, of course we are all deeply appreciative of pyrotechnician Russ Mudder and his crew for keeping the fireworks dry during the evening’s brief downpour. Thanks to his team, this year’s Independence Day went out with a bang!”

Johnson speculated that the mid-week holiday helped bolster local attendance.

“With this year’s Fourth of July falling on a Tuesday, fewer local families left the island and that was reflected in the number of attendees,” Johnson said. “It was great to see such a large, local crowd turn out for all the festivities.”

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