Life on Whidbey: Little parade comes of age

Just when things were humming along nicely in the city of Oak Harbor, a local Dutchman named ED BOONSTRA dared to hang an Irish flag from the windmill in what was then known as City Beach Park. Boonstra’s bold tribute acknowledged that many Irish, as well as Dutch, were among North Whidbey’s early founders.

As the news spread around town, a few storekeepers quietly closed up shop while others dashed home for their headache powder.

Next thing you know, GEORGE KONOPIK invited some members of the all-community band to jump onto the bed of his green pickup truck and play Irish melodies while riding up and down Pioneer Way. And that is how Oak Harbor’s annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations began in the early 1970s.

That was 34 years ago, and today, leprechauns still plant green shamrocks around town to bring businesses good luck in the coming year. Hilarity and fun make up the parade that forms at Smith Park on Midway Boulevard and winds up at the Blarney Stone in the windmill’s shadow.

ROBY McGEE reports participants in the anniversary celebration include the classic car Whidbey Cruzers, members of the Oak Harbor Garden Club, Mayor Patty Cohen and city council members and the mysterious Crab Queens in their tiaras and tulle gowns.

“This is the first year it’s on a Saturday,” Roby said excitedly, “so we want families and children to get involved, get a spot along the parade route and gather at the Blarney Stone. Later, we’ll have a free sing-along at the Yacht Club.” The parade kicks off at 3 p.m. on SE Pioneer Way near Pasek on Saturday, March 17.

At 6 p.m., corned beef and cabbage will be served for $15 per person, upstairs at the Yacht Club, but you must reserve by March 14.

Honored this year will be SEAN MURPHY who will wear the little brimmed hat his grandfather wore when he came here from Ireland. Sean works with Servicemaster. Honors will be given to the best Irish kid and best Irish dog, among others.

Roby and her husband DUTCH (his real nickname) STREHLE, proud members of the Irish Wildlife Society, wish to correct any notion that all the group does is pub-crawl.

“That’s not who we are today,” said Roby. “Our celebration is suitable for the entire family, so get out your green clothes and join us on Saturday, March 17.”

It’s for the kids …

Boys and Girls Club “Bids for Kids” dinner and auction is Saturday, March 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the club site, the Roller Barn. Tickets cost $60 and are still available.

One day earlier, there will be a free garden preview on Friday, March 2, from 5 to 8 p.m. with wine and hors d’oeuvres. The garden creations are incredible and you won’t believe what local businesses have donated.

Swing by The Jewelry Gallery to get a peak at the diamond pendant, valued at over $9,000, set to be raffled off on Saturday night. There will be many live and silent auction items up for bid.

Call KATHY or DUNCAN CHALFANT at 679-4641.

One hundred and three …

Oh my, oh me.

That’s how old young Ted would be.

He had this tricky gift of rhyme, which he did daily, in fact, all the time.

Green eggs and ham made an odd looking meal, but his Cat in the Hat had wide appeal.

Children and grown ups and old people too wish Dr. Seuss a happy birthday on March 2.

At the invitation of Hillcrest Elementary School teacher and librarian JOANN CHAMBERLIN, several Red Hat ladies will come and read Dr. Seuss stories to the children on March 2. The local event is but one reading tribute taking place across the country.

Take a minute to look up Theodor (“Ted”) Geisel, originator of Dr. Seuss classics. What a remarkable fellow!

Step into the garden when you need to slow down. Remind yourself that to everything there is a beginning and an end. Tiny buds on the maple tree hint at what’s to come and before you know it, scarlet leaves will be waiting to be raked before another winter. Don’t miss the in-between. See you on March 7. Call me at 675-6611 or write to