Feeling upbeat, not beat up, about this year’s celebration

Emotions were running high and the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife at the staging area of the Bainbridge Annual Grande Olde Fourthe of Julye Parade last Fridaye afternoone. Anxious paraders milled about anxiously and anxiously glanced at their watches, all waiting anxiously for the parade to begin. One sign of the rampant pre-parade nervousness was the long line outside the two staging area Porta Potties located on the corner of Madison and Wallace Way. The line outside these Porta Potties was among the longest I saw all day, second perhaps only to the line in front of the booth offering free Obama stickers and the queue in front of the American Marine Bank ATM on Winslow Way.

I haven’t missed a parade in 17 years, nor have I ever viewed it from quite the same vantage point twice. Like most islanders, I’ve seen the parade from both sides of Madison and Winslow Way, and from inside the parade itself while marching in support of various groups and causes such as the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, various Little League teams and the Indian Guides, which I noticed has been renamed Adventure Guides for obvious reasons. I like the new name, and if you’ve ever been to Camp Orkila with a couple hundred first and second graders, you’d no doubt agree that the experience is way more about adventure than guiding.

The parade started right on time this year and lasted almost exactly one hour, which seemed just about right. In recent years the parade had seemed to be getting longer and longer, which was a decidedly mixed blessing. This year there seemed to be fewer dogs and neighborhood groups, and about the right mix of horses, old cars, bands and local businesses.

The predicted rain held off, which was good for the parade but made me feel a little silly for carrying around a jacket. Everyone around us stood and cheered for the color guard, and no one in the parade was booed this year as far as I could tell, which will spare us all the pain of having to read a flurry of outraged letters to the editor over the next few weeks.

I didn’t run the 5K this year, which I know was a source of disappointment to the dozens of men, women, children, pets, strollers and speed walkers who count on having me in the race so they can pass me on the way up the hill at High School Road.

Maybe it’s just me, but I thought this year’s parade and Grande Olde Fourth celebration had a particularly positive and upbeat feel to it. I did miss the inflatable eagle near T&C, but otherwise I thought the quality of the booths was even better than usual. This year I decided to discontinue my historic practice of consuming at least one food item from every booth I passed, which made for a less gastronomically exciting but generally more comfortable parade viewing situation. The food item I enjoyed not eating the most was one of those homemade ice cream sandwiches made with two chocolate chip cookies the size of hubcaps separated by about a quart of vanilla ice cream.

A community event like the Grande Olde Fourth Parade is really less about the parade itself, of course, and more about creating an opportunity to get together and see old friends and neighbors. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t help but notice how many of my old friends and neighbors are starting to turn gray and look a little older. Thank God that’s not a problem for me. I’ll be back at the parade again next year, scouting out a new vantage point from which to view the festivities. And if I start training now, I’ll be ready to both not run the 5K and take on one of those ice cream sandwiches next year.

Islander Tom Tyner is an attorney

for the Trust for Public Land. He is author

of “Skeletons From Our Closet,”

a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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