The 52nd Grand Old 4th of July
A Production of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce
Prior to World War II, the Island’s biggest event was the Strawberry Festival, held each June. However, the unfortunate interment events that sent our Japanese-American neighbors away, many of which were prominent in our local farming community, ended that festival, and although many tried to revive it after the war, it was never the same.
Almost two decades passed before a new summer festival/event would take hold. In 1967, the late Arnie Jackson, an eccentric longtime local, 45 year Volunteer Firefighter, and local businessman, got together with the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce (he was also a member of the BICoC) to organize the first Grand Old 4th celebration. With the help of Kiwanis volunteers, they built 10×10 booth frames that various vendors could rent from the Chamber to use on the parade route, which ran down the center of Winslow Way. The parade and celebration started off small as our population at the time was less than 2,000 residents—the running joke back in those days: “it’s a good thing that people come from other communities to watch, because everyone who lives here is in the parade…” Vicki Rauh, longtime Chamber staff and licensing agent, remembers back in the 1970s, “the parade was so short it went around twice”.
In 1991, when the entire island was incorporated into the City of Bainbridge Island the new city government had concerns about safety issues in regards to having both the vendor booths and parade route on the same street. It was then decided to move the street fair portion of the event to Bjune and Brien Drives, which also allowed more use of Waterfront Park as part of the celebration.
Today our island boasts a robust population of approximately 24,000 residents, and although many of those residents use the holiday weekend to vacation elsewhere, the Grand Old 4th celebration draws crowds from near and afar, an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 attendees are expected this year. This year’s festivities include a Traditional Pancake Breakfast, the Street Fair (which includes arts & crafts, food, information booths, live music, photo exhibit, Young Artisan Market, and Kid’s Zone), Bainbridge Youth Services Family Fun Run, the Classic Antique and Special Interest Car Show, the Stars & Strikes Old Timers’ Baseball Game (held at Bainbridge High School field), the Ranger and the Re-Arrangers Gypsy Jazz Band, Clay Martin’s Puppets, a Beer & Wine Garden, That’s A Some Pizza Eating Contest, the Home Town Band, Alleyoop! Children’s Musical Games, the MILE-LONG PARADE and Soul Siren (Band) Rhythm & Blues, Soul & Rock. For more information on the times and exact locations of these events, click here.
There are some fantastic local vendors this year, many of which have participated over the years, as well as some wonderful new vendors. Click here to learn more about them.
We love our pets, but due to the large crowds, the event producers ask that you leave Fido at home. Of course, service dogs are always welcome.
The Grand Old 4th celebration happens in downtown Bainbridge Island (steps from the ferry terminal), making it an ideal day out for locals, as well as those coming in by ferry from Seattle. Parking is limited downtown, to find out about parking limitations, bicycle parking, and shuttle services, click here.
A few fun FAQs:
What made Arnie Jackson so eccentric? Arnie was a unique man with an incredible ability to get people motivated. He was fondly remembered as “Growly” and could be seen zipping around the parade route on his Honda 80 motorcycle, decked out in an American Flag vest, barking orders to everyone and anyone (although, the majority of the work and organization in those days was handled by the Kiwanis Parade Marshals). His contributions to the island are well remembered and appreciated, so much so, that Bainbridge Fireworks dedicated one of their 4th firework shows to Arnie’s memory (unfortunately, fireworks will not be available this year).
Where did that amazing poster come from? For the third year in row, the Chamber of Commerce has held a contest to create the Grand Old 4th Poster, the contestants must be students from any of our public and private elementary, middle or high schools, and the winner is awarded a $1,000.00 scholarship, sponsored by Puget Sound Energy. This year’s winner is Addi Herb, a 7th grader at Madrona School, to read more about her submission, click here. To learn about how your child can enter next year, click here.
Why are the politicians always at the back of the parade? No, it’s not because we don’t like them…many of our politicians participate in several 4th of July events all over the county and need time to get from one event to the next. Giving them the “finale” float allows them time to get to us and participate in the parade.
Can you really “save your seat” the day before the parade on the route? We’re a small community and we respect each other, so yes, bring a chair (and we mean just about any chair: lawn, dining, beanbag, you name it, or just a nice blanket) and stake out your spot on July 3rd, and don’t worry, it will still be there when you arrive on the 4th!
The Grand Old 4th is just one of the many events happening during the first week of July. Make a long weekend of it and join us for the First Friday Art Walk on Friday, July 5th held on Winslow Way and the surrounding area from 6pm to 8pm and the Rotary Auction & Rummage Sale on Saturday, July 6th from 8am to 2pm at Woodward Middle School.
*Logos and images used with permission from the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce. Pictures by David Lane and Kris Rothert.