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Bainbridge's Grand Old Fourth to pay homage to Strawberry Festival
Picture a near-summer Saturday on which, the Bainbridge Review subsequently reported, “Cloudy skies and a brisk south wind kept marchers cool, but threatening rain did not appear.”
On June 17, 1950, the Bainbridge Island Strawberry Court made its way from Bainbridge High School’s Memorial Field into Winslow for a mile-long parade.
“It was really a beautiful time to live there,” said Strawberry Queen Carolyn Lawrey. “It really was.”
Preceded by the Bainbridge High School Band, the Bainbridge Island Saddle Club and the Ellensburg Rodeo Posse, Lawrey – then Carolyn Hanson – cruised along Winslow Way in a convertible accompanied by princesses Gloria Dixon and Ann Ove plus a handful of train bearers and pages.
“It was exciting for us,” Lawrey said. “It was a big deal in Winslow. There was no bridge to the island yet, so naturally everybody on the island took part in what came along.”
That much hasn’t changed, as is evidenced by the hordes – 20,000 to 30,000 – who attend the Strawberry Festival’s summer successor, the annual Grand Old Fourth of July parade and street fair, happening all day this Friday in Winslow.
Following this year’s theme, a tribute to the Fabulous Fifties, the parade will feature members of th 1950 Strawberry Court along with members of many of the BHS graduating classes from the 1950s. As always, the parade will be accompanied by a classic car show, a street fair and all manner of all-day festivities. (See box, Page 3, for the full lineup of events.)
On that June day in 1950, the parade, organized by the American Legion Colin Hyde Post No. 172, boasted the same range of themed, topical floats that give every American small-town summer parade its local flavor and, according to Bainbridge organizers, helps make today’s version “the zaniest small-town parade in America.”
The Bainbridge Garden Club had constructed a miniature of the soon-to-open Agate Pass Bridge; Rodal Motors of Rolling Bay put together a display of tires and tubes, with a sign targeting the state’s efforts to build an underwater tube to cross the Sound.
“It was a Swell Festival, Wasn’t It?” read the Review’s post-event photo kicker.
Back then, both Lawrey and Ann Ove Hahn recall, Bainbridge offered a sweet and far simpler take on life.
The island was lined with dirt roads; their graduating class had just 50 people; and only a few families had television sets. Lawrey recalls trooping over to Hahn’s house to watch theirs.
Other fun consisted of movies at the Lynwood Theatre, dances at the high school, sports events and the pie shop on Winslow Way, where you could get a milkshake, fish and chips, or a burger.
There just wasn’t a lot to do, Hahn said, “except be people, and talk to each other.”
To prepare for their duties as Strawberry royalty, the three members of the court were sent to charm school in Seattle, where they received indoctrination into the finer points of nail care, makeup, “and mainly how to walk and stand,” Lawrey said.
They only got one lesson, though, at least as Lawrey remembers. When they later attended an official function on the island, she tried her utmost to re-create the required standing position, with one foot behind the other and a bent knee in front.
“And the three of us were standing on the stage, and I bent the right knee way too far,” she said. “It was bent way over. And my mother was in the audience. And she said 'Carolyn! Why were you standing like that! Did you have to go to the bathroom!?’
“Obviously that one lesson wasn’t enough.”
When Hahn looks at the picture of herself in the court, when she was just shy of 18 years old, she thinks, simply, “A long time.”
But chances are, the same small-town spirit she remembers will permeate this July Fourth, when Hahn will gamely join her 1950s cohorts as they cruise down Winslow Way. She’ll be joined by her granddaughter, Brianna Bjolstad of Seattle, who apparently is serious about her hula dancing.
“She’ll perform on anything,” Hahn said. “This is right up her alley.”
The 41st Annual Grand Old Fourth of July goes retro this year with a Tribute to the Fabulous Fifties. Here’s the lineup:
7 a.m.: Pancake breakfast in the T & C Parking Lot.
7:30 a.m.: Registration begins for a Fun Run to benefit Bainbridge Youth Services. Registration for the 1-mile, 5K and Kids Dashes takes place at Winslow Mall. The 1-mile begins at 9 a.m.; the 5K at 9:15 a.m.; and the Kids Dashes 10:30 a.m., on the Winslow Green.
9 a.m.: The historic baseball game, complete with vintage uniforms, at Bainbridge High School.
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: All-day street fair with family fun, games and food booths at Waterfront Park. Also visit the Bohemian Village Arts & Crafts fair at Winslow Green.
11 a.m.: Valentines Performing Pigs at the Waterfront Park stage, followed by juggler Curtis Carlyle at noon and Ranger and the Re-Arrangers at 2:30 p.m.
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Beer and Wine Garden with music and square dancing at the corner of Shannon and Bjune.
1-2:30 p.m.: The Zaniest Small-Town Parade in America.
10 a.m to 3 p.m.: Classic Car Show ion the American Marine Bank Parking Lot
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Teen Take Over at Winslow Mall, featuring music by Army Corp of Architects and a pie-eating contest.
For more information, contact the Chamber of Commerce at (206) 842-3700.
In conjunction with the Grand Old Fourth of July Festivities, many streets in and around Downtown Winslow will be closed or have restricted access. The Chamber of Commerce encourages participants and visitors to park at any of the following remote locations and take a shuttle into Winslow:
*Kitsap Bank Parking Lot on High School Road
*Ace Hardware Parking Lot on High School Road
*Woodward Middle School Parking Lot on Sportsman Club Road
*Sakai Elementary Parking Lot on Sportsman Club Road
Shuttle service, provided by Kitsap Transit, will run every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 4, making drop-offs and pick-ups at the Bainbridge Island Police Department headquarters, corner of Winslow Way and State Route 305.