Happy Third of July? Yep. That’s right. Sure, the island celebrates the Fourth of July with fireworks, general mayhem (some of which is even legal), and a noisy crowd of vacationers; but there’s also a lot that happens on the third. Sounds strange? Only at first.
Whidbey’s Fourth of July night-time celebrations are worth the trip, especially with the inevitable small-town/city flair. But, there are dozens of even larger cities that have even larger displays on the Fourth. Physics makes it difficult to be in more than one place at a time, so some places pick a different time.
Welcome to the Third of July. Several neighborhoods, and particularly the town/city of Freeland, are known for their shows that happen the day before the Fourth. They may not be as grandiose as those in downtown Seattle, but they may be more than enough for most. The parking is easier, the crowds are friendlier because they know each other, and the drive back home is much shorter or non-existent. If the local display isn’t enough to satisfy, jump in the car, drive onto the ferry, and dive into Seattle’s, or Bellevue’s, or wherever’s traffic on the Fourth. Two shows in two days. Nice.
Whidbey Island also has a great location for watching dozens of different (and distant) shows. Get down to the shoreline and look across to Seattle, Everett, Port Townsend, etc. They aren’t as immediate, but they’re a lot quieter that way.
And then there’s the illegal fireworks. It is a modern irony that people have to be reminded that “illegal” means “prohibited”; but the surge in population overwhelms the local enforcement. Tons, tons of extreme fireworks come onto the island and get turned into light, noise, smoke, and tons of shrapnel. Rumor has it that one beach alone had five tons of debris to pick up after the Third and the Fourth.
For those who feel that celebrating the nation means obeying its laws, here are a couple of links to what can be fired off when.
From Sheriff Mark Brown (comprehensive list)
Basically, check the locality and local authorities. Also, note the irony that the largest place that prohibits the use of any fireworks is the military base.
The Fourth, and the Third, is about more than the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. There are parades, arcades, fairs, music, and if we’re lucky, good weather to enjoy all of it.
For some historic and small town flair, consider dropping into the Maxwelton Parade on the Fourth. It’s fun to watch, but the parade is one of the oldest in the state, and one of the easiest to become part of.
“The parade is a refreshing spur-of-the-moment unplanned affair. It only accepts entries for 90 minutes before its noon start. Last year, 233 entries ambled down the road for the hour-long procession of flag-waving organizations, floats, vehicles, bicycles and walking groups.” – South Whidbey Record
The parade is just the start. Like so many events, stay after for the games, maybe a picnic, probably classic cars on display, and a wonderful feeling of neighborhood by the beach. It’s worth nothing, however, that, while Maxwelton was one of the largest towns on Whidbey Island a hundred years ago, it has comfortably settled into quiet demeanor, (except for the week of the Fourth). That means parking for the parade may mean walking or bicycling far longer than the parade route just to get there.
It’s summer, and time to celebrate; not just the Fourth, but the Third, too.