Memorial Day parade route trimmed in Coupeville

Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue Captain Jerry Helm plays bagpipes down the parade route. 2016 File Photo by Pam Headridge.

Popularity of Coupeville’s Memorial Day parade has created big concerns for the little town.

Organizers are making significant changes to the parade route this year, hoping that it will allow everything to operate more smoothly around town.

Saturday’s parade, which starts just after 11 a.m., will be much abbreviated from the past and be contained to only the north side of State Highway 20, eliminating traffic congestion at the town’s busiest intersection and any worries about access to WhidbeyHealth Medical Center.

One downside to the change is that it cuts South Main Street from the festivities.

“We’re just trying it out this year to see if it works,” said Lynda Eccles, executive director of the Central Whidbey Chamber of Commerce, the parade organizer.

“Because the parade has grown so much over the past number of years, we suffer sadly from the backup of holding up traffic while we cross the highway. It had gotten to the point where we needed to look at it.”

Discussions with Town Marshal Chris Garden and Mayor Molly Hughes shaped the plan to dramatically alter the route, Eccles said. The change chops the length of the parade nearly in half.

Instead of beginning near Prairie Center, the parade this year starts at the intersection of First and Main streets and continues its usual route down North Main to Front Street, Alexander and up to Coveland to Town Park.

Wilkes Street, where entries will line up, is closed 9-11:30 a.m. between the intersection of First and Sixth. First will be partially closed during that time, allowing only one lane of traffic.

The other streets involved in the parade route will have rolling closures between 11:15-11:45 a.m.

Coupeville’s Memorial Day parade has been a tradition for more than 40 years.

This year, Tony Popp will serve as grand marshal. Popp recently retired after 32 years as a public affairs officer for Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. He is also a past co-editor of The Crosswind.

Among honored guests scheduled to attend is Coupeville resident Don Clapsaddle, a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

He was aboard the USS Franklin aircraft carrier in March 1945, when it was bombed by a Japanese plane, killing more than 700 of its crew.

Immediately following the parade, a remembrance ceremony and concert will take place at Town Park. The ceremony will be attended by Capt. Geoff Moore, commanding officer at NAS Whidbey.

Two Memorial Day ceremonies will be held Monday, hosted by George Morris Post No. 129 American Legion. The first is 10:30 a.m. at Maple Leaf Cemetery in Oak Harbor. It will be followed by a second ceremony at Sunnyside Cemetery in Coupeville at 11:30 p.m.

The public is invited to both. A potluck luncheon will be held after the event by the American Legion.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, a guided tour will take place at Sunnyside Cemetery, hosted by the Island County Historical Society. Passes are $8 for the tour, which will be led by Sarah Steen, preservation coordinator at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Call 360-678-3310 to reserve a pass.