No one knows exactly when it will happen, or what its exact origin is, but one thing is for certain, the Scotch Broom Parade is a uniquely Bainbridge event.
This year’s spontaneous parade occurred on Tuesday May 14 on Winslow Way. There was no plan per se, no permitting that we know of, just a fancy car or two chugging down the island’s main drag in the middle of a sunny afternoon, with a number of folks following behind carrying Scotch Broom branches in their hands.
The Tiddlywinks Faceoff between the Chamber and Kiwanis.

The mysterious parade has been put on for years by the Kiwanis Club of Bainbridge Island. The club identifies a Queen to celebrate the special day and she drives in the lead car in the parade. This year’s winner of this odd and quirky event was Debra Gillis of Calico Cat, the iconic Downtown Winslow toy store. Kiwanis Club Co-President Hank Keaton had the honor of driving Ms. Gillis in a trick outed Triumph.

Adding to the fun, was a “heated” game of Tiddlywinks played between Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce President Matt Grady, owner of Pegasus Coffee Shop and Kiwanis Co-President Jim Copen. The competition was apparently very fierce and to date we have not heard the final results.
So how did all this craziness get started?  According to Kiwanis legend, in the early 1960s, when Bainbridge Island was barely a blip on the “tourism” radar, former Kiwanis member John Rudolph (now deceased) was contacted by someone putting together a Washington State Guide on festivals and fairs throughout the state.
Rudolph was working as a volunteer at the chamber at the time, and according to lore, and without missing a beat, he 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 as 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.
The festival, 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 – and visitors- taking in the scene!
It happens each year around mid-to-late 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 it’s gone as quickly as it comes. To learn more about the Kiwanis Club visit: Kiwanis Club of Bainbridge Island – Kids Need Kiwanis.
Former Editor and Publisher of The Island Wanderer Margaret Millmore contributed to this report. Photos contributed by Chris Miller. 

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