It was the early 1960s, when Bainbridge Island was barely a blip on the “tourist” radar, Kiwanis member John Rudolph was contacted by someone putting together a Washington State Guide on festivals and fairs throughout state. Without missing a beat, Rudolph made something up – he called it the Scotch-Broom Festival, jokingly espousing a celebration around one of the most noxious weed species in Washington State. Of course, there was no such festival, and then there was…
Some months later, someone came to the island on the supposed “day of” the festival and asked around, wondering where and when it was. Just like before, Rudolph didn’t miss a beat and within the hour he’d managed to gather a large group of participants, filling the streets of Downtown Winslow with weed-waving revelers.
So, what is it? It’s a spontaneous parade and (sort of) festival, it’s silly, light-hearted and a lot of fun. It starts off with a tiddlywinks match, a newly crowned queen, a parade, and a lot of Scotch-broom.
The festival has, for the most part, has been considered an “underground” event, there’s little to no advance notice, but there’s always a fun crowd of island residents in attendance, and this year we had some great visitors from Atlanta, GA and Southern California who just happened to be here when it broke out and decided to join in the fun.
As Michael Schrader, teen director of the BI Boys and Girls Club (a previous year’s Scotch-broom organizer) noted in an interview with the Bainbridge Review, “It’s definitely not a parade. It’s not actually an event. Because it’s kind of like more of a flash mob format…”
“It’s fun to have an event that’s purposely not publicized,” said Mickey Molnaire, Director of Member and Visitor Services at the Chamber of Commerce, whose husband Ron Konzak was one of the original co-creators. Mickey was also a past queen of the parade, and said “the queen is randomly grabbed out the crowd” on the street.
This year Stefan Goldby, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Jim Copen of the Kiwanis squared off in the tiddlywinks match, while Natassja Haynes, Outreach and Move-In Coordinator at Bainbridge Senior Living was crowned the queen and Carrie Chavez was crowned co-queen.
Watch this year’s parade here: Scotch-Broom Video 2022
It happens each year around the end of May, if you’d like to attend and/or participate next year, keep your ears and eyes open and get there on time, because it happens fast and its gone as quickly as it comes (hint, hint: we share on our Facebook page when we get word of it, so follow us on Facebook).
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