This story originally appeared in the Armed Forces 2016 Festival Guide, published May 20, 2016.
The 68th annual Armed Forces Day Parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 21 in Bremerton.
Just how do you get 100-plus floats, bands, horse patrols, military ensembles and various princesses to line up in order?
Ask Chris Funke.
Funke, a member of the Bremerton Kiwanis, is in charge of the Kiwanis Parade Marshals for this year’s Armed Forces Day Parade.
For more than 15 years, Kiwanis members have volunteered their time as parade marshals, making sure that the parade goes off without a hitch.
“Some people call it ‘organized chaos,’” Funke said. “But we take this job pretty seriously. It’s a great opportunity to show those who serve, those who have served, and their families who have sacrificed so much, how much they mean to us.”
According to Funke, it takes from 35 to 40 volunteers to get parade entrants lined up on Saturday morning. Along with Kiwanis, several members of the Key Club at Bremerton High School, arrive as early at 7 a.m. The parade begins at 10 a.m.
“We’re standing by at the staging area where all entrants show up between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m.,” he said. “It’s a complex project to get everybody lined up and for them to know who they follow.”
Assigned by numbers, the parade participants begin to take order. The number tags are important, too, because that’s what the judges use to give out awards.
This year, the staging area is along Sixth Street, between Naval Avenue to almost Chester Avenue, where the parade begins. Bands stage at the Kiwanis Park on Fifth Avenue.
“This is going to be easier than last year when we assembled at Olympic College and Evergreen Park and then converged together,” Funke said. “That was a challenge.”
Funke admits that getting all the bands lined up is one of the toughest jobs of the day because there are so many members in each band. But he said, they follow orders well.
The Kiwanis Parade Marshals work in tandem with Bremerton Police officers. Funke said the police act as parade control and make sure that the crowd is up and out of the street as the parade progresses down its route. After the parade gets going, some of the marshals walk the route to see if they can be of any help.
“At the corner of Park and Pacific, where we make that turn, that’s where the police always have to move the crowd back so the parade can go by,” he said. “Those large boats and military vehicles, they need room.”
Funke is in awe of the bands and others who perform in the Bremerton Armed Forces Day parade in the morning, and then, do it all over again in the Poulsbo Viking Fest parade in the afternoon.
“Some of these bands travel from outside Kitsap County to be in these parades,” he said. “I can’t imagine how tired they are at the end of the day.”
And, just incase you’re wondering, parade marshals don’t scoop poop.
“The equestrian groups supply their own pooper-scoopers,” he said. “We’re happy about that.”
While the job only lasts a few hours, Funke said Kiwanianss are happy to provide the service. “It’s pretty neat. We get to see the parade from behind the scenes. But we are relieved when it’s over.”