Friday Harbor was buzzing with excitement as the town received last-minute approval to hold the longstanding Fourth of July parade tradition.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the town was not allowed a full reopening until June 30. They uncertain as to if they could pull together the parade, but they decided the show must go on. Town Administrator Duncan Wilson issued the permit.
“At that point, we had no entries lined up, no bands, no nothing,” Wilson said “It was important that we moved quickly. [Davis] got about 30 entries in.”
They were motivated enough to move quickly because the town didn’t want to go another year without having the parade, Wilson explained.
“People really missed it. It is one of the best parades in the country for a small town and we are very proud of the fact that people will come for July 4 just to see that parade,” he said. “Our number one concern was that we had been checking with the folks at the county health department so that we could do it with their blessing. Once we got the clearance from the government, we were all in.”
While in the past they’ve had up to 90 entries, 2021 was a small, but mighty parade, filled with people who were happy to be back, Wilson said.
Island resident Kristina Stucki was one of those in the crowd who was happy to have the experience.
Stucki moved to San Juan Island in October. While she wanted to make friends and meet new people, the timing wasn’t quite right, she said, while any interaction with other islanders had remained masked and distanced.
“This has been our very first large community event since moving and it felt so good,” she said.
Stucki found this to be a relief from last year’s Fourth of July when she couldn’t even see her family.
Not only was the parade enjoyed by Stucki, but she was thrilled to have gotten to bring her children, ages 3 and 5, to the parade and give them an experience that they had been missing from their childhoods.
“My 3-year-old has no memories of life before masks and distance and separation,” Stucki said. “She doesn’t remember what it’s like to go to a movie, the library, a play date, visit grandma and grandpa.”
In fact, Stucki said her daughter had gotten so used to quarantine that she didn’t even know what a parade was.
“It was pretty magical to witness it all click in her mind — the excitement and energy of being around other people and celebrating something bigger than us,” she said.
The parade was not only enjoyed by locals but visitors as well. Maddie Moe and her family were among those visiting, after purchasing a vacation home on the island in 2020.
Attending the parade allowed Moe and her family the opportunity to meet their neighbors, which they haven’t gotten to do since purchasing the home over a year ago.
Moe said she felt as if the parade was marking a new beginning after over a year of isolation.
“It’s so nice to have something to celebrate together, after so many tragic deaths, stress, and political tension,” she said. “It seemed as if the whole island was there to watch.”
For all spectators, chances are you could hear the voice of former STAR 101.5 morning radio co-host, Alan Budwill, announcing throughout the parade from the Palace Theatre.
Budwill has been on the island for five years, and, excluding 2020, has enjoyed the parade for each of those years.
Watching the reaction of the community is his favorite part of the parade.
“This one, in particular, I told Becky, ‘I think this was the best parade ever,’” he said. “I was so impressed with how enthusiastic the crowd was.”
After experiencing the energy of the crowds, Budwill said he felt so happy at the end of the day.
“They turned this around so quickly and I think that just shows the spirit of Friday Harbor,” Budwill said.