Last week we found ourselves in need of restocking the boat. Getting groceries, filling the water tanks, emptying the waste tanks and the trash, all these housekeeping tasks need to be done every week or 10 days. We hadn’t ventured far from Friday Harbor, and we knew that the marina had all the services we were needing, so we returned for a two night stay. Why two nights? Because we had heard that the Fourth of July parade in Friday Harbor ranks among the top ten on someone’s list of small town parades. We decided that we should enter in to the local celebration while we were there.
Sleeping peacefully in the Marina on the morning of the 4th, we were awoken at 6:00 am by cannon shots. Nearby. The Veterans of Foreign Wars building overlooks the marina, and their tradition is to start the day right by firing off a few. I can tell you, it made us come to attention!
Having done our homework, we knew the parade didn’t start until 10:30 am, so we headed out to our favorite bakery to grab a pastry and coffee. On the way, we shook our heads as we saw people setting up chairs along the parade route to stake out their spots. After all, this wasn’t the Rose Parade. There was plenty of time to have a leisurely pastry and go back to the boat to put on shorts and get our sunscreen on. As we left the bakery at about 9:00, it became clear that going back to the boat was out of the question. The borders of the streets were filled with chairs and people. We were very fortunate to find someone who shared her bench with us, and we stayed put, making conversation and wishing we had on sunscreen and shorts as the sun had come out. A marimba band played across the street, which made the waiting pleasant. The atmosphere was celebratory, and I think we were the only ones not fully decked out in the colors of the flag. (Except for our red, sweaty faces and our long, heavy blue jeans).
The parade began with the singing of the National Anthem. As the singer began, a hush fell. I could feel the air of anticipation and respect that was present. Children and adults stood with hands on hearts. A cheer erupted afterward, and the parade began.
First down the street were the Veterans, bearing flags. Behind them came other Veterans, followed by a couple who were unable to walk the whole distance, but participated by being driven. This was the most moving moment of the parade for me. Parade goers were yelling at these Vets. They were yelling, “Thank you!” This was no polite handshake and solemn “Thank you for your service.” This was a heartfelt and yelled with gusto, “Thank you!” I still tear up remembering it, because it was so very appropriate.
The rest of the parade was filled with variety. Some highlights were: A group of dogs dressed in orca costumes, named the Dog Pod; a pirate float which apparently is a regular entry, and which gets further embellishments each year (this year there were 3 bubble blowing machines attached, which blew masses of bubbles into the street); a womens’ boxing class boxing, punching and growling their way fiercely down the street. It was a slice of American pie, and we enjoyed it immensely.
The parade was followed by the Pig War Picnic, put on by the Historical Society. No that’s not a typo: Pig War. America and England very nearly went to war over a pig. I won’t go into it now, but if you’re interested, look it up. It’s a fascinating bit of history. The picnic commemorates the meal shared by British and American troops after the dispute was finally settled. There was live music and games for kids and adults, such as a cake walk, egg toss and “pennies in the hay.”
In the evening, there was a “Rock the Dock” street dance, followed by fireworks in the bay. We sat on top of Voyager as the fireworks burst loud and colorful above us. Cheering and ooooohs could be heard from people in the surrounding boats, and whenever there was a pause in the action, the boaters all honked their boat horns and emergency air horns. There may or may not have even been a little noise coming from our boat – I’ll let you decide.
All in all, it was a wonderful day. It served to restore my hope in the character and general good will of people. It was a great antidote for the cloud of generally bad news that is regularly disseminated over the airwaves. Yes, this 4th of July was a breath of fresh air.
Today is Saturday, and we are at the quaint town of East Sound on Orcas Island. Earlier today, we took our dinghy to the dock and set out to explore the town and guess what? They were having a Fourth of July parade! -Beth