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We love a parade

The parade begins at 11:15 a.m. with the blare of a fire truck and firefighters hand out candy from their helmets.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
The parade begins at 11:15 a.m. with the blare of a fire truck and firefighters hand out candy from their helmets.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

In 1776 John Adams decreed the day the most memorable epoch in the history of America. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Nevermind that he set the date at July 2 instead of July 4, the message of patriotism remains. And the Fourth of July parade has provided the nostalgia of childhood to millions of Americans — sunshine, sitting on a curb, risking being trampled by synchronized tractors to nab candy.

At Oak Harbor’s Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration, the Grand Parade is relatively unchanged, just a little longer each year. Out-of-towners and local families jammed the sidewalks, some hoping to recapture the past.

“It’s like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting,” attendee Connie Lundgren said.

Leisurely, locals and visitors began to trek toward the parade route on Pioneer Way, with coffee and donuts. Many were pushing the baby in a stroller or carrying the ice chest between two friends.

In the muggy pre-noon hours, all the subtleties of a community driven by a fervent love of America surrounded the asphalt stage. There were holiday T-shirts, stove pipe hats, temporary red, white and blue hair dye, children in face paint and nearly everyone was waving a miniature American flag.

“For my children, this is the best holiday other than Christmas,” Lundgren said.

At 11:15 a.m. a blaring fire truck signified the opening. Firefighters filled their helmets with candy and generously handed it to children, instead of pelting them.

Local dignitaries, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, Oak Harbor Councilman Rick Almberg, Island County Commissioner John Dean sat in the flatbed of 2008 pick-ups waving, smiling. Military vehicles preceded.

Sgt. Thomas Herrera rode in a white, Dodge convertible as “Marine of the Year.” He came from Cherry Point, N.C., and it was his first time at the parade.

“This county really gives back to Marines. And in a big city, you won’t see things like this. You wouldn’t see that Little League team because there are 15 of them in a city,” Herrera said.

For many in the community, such as Ricky and Tammy Jenkins, the day is a precious routine. Parade in the morning, carnival rides in the afternoon and 10 p.m. fireworks at Windjammer Park. The Jenkins have been doing it for 20 years.

And Carmella Quinn has followed the format since childhood. She would walk down from 60th St. NW after being on good behavior all week. Even after moving to Colorado years ago, she schedules her vacation time from work around the festivities so she can take her grandkids to Oak Harbor.

“There’s nothing like this there,” she said. “When you live in a small town, the first thing you want to do is run away. As a parent and grandparent, all you want to do is come back.”

The parade shifted from images of 1920’s flapper girls, Batman, pirate ships, Arabian shriners and antique cars. For children and adults, the very young and the very old, there’s the kaleidoscope of colors, exotic sounds and dedicated people. The essence of the parade.

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