What keeps Grand Old Fourth going? Lots of volunteers | In Our Opinion | July 2

The Fourth of July is one of those venerable American holidays that hasn’t changed much over the years, at least since the end of World War II, and especially on Bainbridge Island since the community began celebrating it in1968 with a street fair, parade and fireworks display. Other than the fireworks coming and going (they’re back) over the years, the annual event closely mirrors the inaugural event held 43 years ago.

Rivaled only by the late-June Rotary Auction, perhaps, the Grand Old Fourth Celebration has become known as the community’s premier annual blowout. It’s fun, a little funky, and occasionally the first opportunity for many people to get a sunburn. Attendance is always somewhat dependent on our fickle early-July weather, but if rain is not in the forecast it’s generally a party that shouldn’t be missed.

The Fourth – and the Street Dance held the night before for the last 24 years – has been successful because it remains relatively small, non-commercial and driven by many volunteer-based organizations, especially the Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club. In fact, without the hundreds of islanders who donate their time and effort year after year, there wouldn’t be a Grand Old Fourth on Bainbridge.

Some organizers say it’s getting more difficult every year to stage the event at the current level because many of those original, devoted volunteers are no longer with us and the next generation isn’t quite as interested in volunteering. And the city, which in the past has generously provided funding and in-kind donations, such as off-duty police security, says it can’t afford to do as much these days.

There’s no doubt that islanders love the event and generally don’t want to see it diminished. But if more volunteers are needed to keep it going, then it’s up to the community to step up and ensure that it continues. With that in mind, organizers say that volunteers can sign up Monday for next year’s event.

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