Bang-up time!

Jeff Brein, Bill Beck, Jack MacArthur and Ed Johnson (L-R) – starting in the spring and working up to the minute, these and other stalwart members of the Chamber of Commerce’s “grand old guard” help make the Grand Old Fourth possible.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Jeff Brein, Bill Beck, Jack MacArthur and Ed Johnson (L-R) – starting in the spring and working up to the minute, these and other stalwart members of the Chamber of Commerce’s “grand old guard” help make the Grand Old Fourth possible.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Parade ‘old guard’ looks back on the Grand Old Fourth’s signature attraction.

From the sidewalk, a parade looks easy. Carefree. Seamless, even.

But ask any long-time Grand Old Fourth organizer what it really takes to stage the island’s beloved parade, and you’ll get an earful. Over the years – 40 in fact – it’s animals, vehicles and unexplainable gaps that have been both the bane of planners’ existence and the richest source of storytelling.

And members of this “grand old guard” have some stories to tell.

Arnie Jackson, a retired volunteer fire fighter who’s lived on the island for all of his 71 years and worked on the parade for more of them than he can remember, said that one year the planning committee was having trouble deciding on a Grand Marshal.

“An old dog wandered through town, all the way from Yeomalt and back,” Jackson said. “George.”

George regularly strolled into Winslow to make his rounds and beg for scraps. And Jackson said that in the absence of any other worthy contenders, George was as good a choice as any.

“He sat in that convertible. He really took to it,” Jackson said. “He was probably one of the best Grand Marshals we’ve ever had.”

Bill Beck, Commander of the American Legion’s Colin Hyde Post, joined the parade committee in 1981. He marched for 18 years with the Legion’s color guard until he said “the old bones got tired,” but he’s continued to coordinate parade participation from the U.S. Navy and Marines and sometimes the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard as well. True to form, his wildest parade memory involves a large military vehicle.

“One year, we had a National Guard tank. And of course, the tank did a number on the blacktop,” Beck said. “But it was also funny because some kid climbed up and stuck a rose in there. We left it up there. After all, this was Bainbridge.”

Jeff Brein, who at 14 years of parade service describes himself as a “relative newcomer to this crowd,” offered his public relations and entertainment expertise to the Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Old Fourth effort shortly after moving to Bainbridge. His company, Quinn/Brein Public Relations, has primarily handled PR and media outreach for the celebration, but he says that it’s been hard to escape hands-on involvement over the years.

“Somehow I got hoodwinked into ‘well, as long as you’re here waiting for this reporter, would you mind helping this guy with his booth?’” he said.

That spirit of community, cooperation and just getting the job done – from anticipating public safety measures to orchestrating parade participants to setting up booths to picking up trash – is what keeps planners coming back year after year.

“We’ve dealt with everything from lost children to people who want to move their name it, it’s probably happened,” Brein said. “And we’ve all been able to manage every problem quickly and efficiently. The show must go on.”

Beck has particular memories of contributions from former fire chief Don Beach, who passed away Monday. Beck said that thanks to Beach and his famous chalk marks, everyone who rented a booth knew exactly where they needed to be year after year.

“He even invented this little chalk marker on wheels,” Beck said.

“The organization, the committee members, it’s amazing,” Ed Johnson said. “Everybody takes their piece of the pie and just handles it. And (Don) always did that.”

Johnson, having been with the parade since the 1970s has the longest tenure among old guard members. He said that back when he started, the parade was primarily a fund-raiser, with few off-island participants. He and the others have seen big changes since then, partly because of the island’s population growth and partly because of interest in the event from off-islanders.

Johnson said there used to be an impromptu Scotch broom parade every year, but that those sorts of last-minute pick-up activities now aren’t an option because they can’t be regulated. And he remembers when the Fourth celebration included fireworks over Eagle Harbor, an activity he said is now out of reach because of the expense and potential liability.

“The size and the dimension of (the celebration) is toally different,” he said. “I think that’s what happens. Things progress, and things grow as they’s not better or worse, it’s just different.”

Jackson said that while he’ll ride this year with the fire department, his days of getting the parade off the ground are probably over; he’d like to devote more time to his family. Beck, for his part, says he’ll keep at it, to a point.

“The Fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday. That’s why I’m involved,” Beck said. “But by the same token, I think we should put in a plug that younger people are always welcome. We’re not getting any younger, this old guard.”


Bainbridge celebrates the Grand Old Fourth

...Or shall we say Rockin’ 40th Fourth? This Bainbridge tradition, now officially entering its fourth decade, includes a pancake breakfast and fun run along with an all-day street fair, classic car show and historic baseball game. There’ll be enough music, food and entertainment to keep the family celebrating all day.

The fun run, benefiting Bainbridge Youth Services, starts with a one-mile run through downtown Winslow at 9 a.m. followed by a 5K at 9:15 a.m. Kids ages four to eight can also register for the Kid’s Dash, a hopping and skipping event at the Winslow Green. Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. in Winslow Mall; proceeds benefit BYS’ no-cost counseling and jobs services for youth ages 12 to 19.

The Pancake Breakfast, benefiting the Bainbridge High School Boosters Club, starts at 7 a.m. in the Town & Country parking lot. The street fair, held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will spill from the T&C parking lot across the street and into Waterfront Park. This year, it will feature more than 130 food, arts and crafts, non-profit and information booths.

The day’s centerpiece event will be the mile-long parade through Winslow, a.k.a. “the best small-town parade in America.” Get your chairs out early; the parade starts at 1 p.m. sharp.

Winslow Way entertainment will include conductor Jas Linford’s Hometown Band playing traditional John Philip Sousa-style music at Winslow Mall and the island’s own Corinna Munter singing the National Anthem at 12:55 p.m., just prior to the start of the parade.

The annual classic car show runs throughout the day in the parking lots between American Marine Bank, Washington Mutual Bank and other nearby lots. At the Waterfront Park stage, look for Thistle Theatre’s “Yo Ho Ho Pirate Show” at 11 a.m. and Locust Street Taxi from 2:15 to 4:15 p.m. Other entertainment will take place at the Harbour Public House’s beer garden on Bjune, at the classic car show lots and in other areas throughout downtown. There will also be plenty of activities for kids, including face painting, pony rides and other family fun.

Free parking is available at First Baptist Church at the corner of State Route 305 and Madison Avenue as well as at Ace Hardware, Kitsap Bank and Ordway Elementary School. Free shuttles run from the lots to the police station on Winslow Way from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Rockin’ 40th Fouth is presented by the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce. For more information, see

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