The 100th Maxwelton Fourth of July Parade

Posted in Community, Feature, More Stories

Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
July 1, 2015

What image does your mind conjure up when you hear the words, “a parade straight out of the 1950s”?

  • Kids on red, white, and blue-decorated bicycles riding down a two-lane road?
  • Tractors bedecked with patriotic crepe paper?
  • Costumed people on stilts?
  • Politicians in fancy convertibles throwing candy to the crowd?
  • Various kinds of marching musicians?

The annual Maxwelton Fourth of July parade is all of this and a lot more. It is hot dogs and buttons. It is past-Grand Marshals sitting in the VIP area, and egg-toss and three-legged races on the ball field afterwards. It is summer Puget Sound breezes and friends seeing each other. It is a Whidbey Island experience not to be missed!

Colorful costumes abound, such as shimmering butterflies

Colorful costumes abound, such as these delightful young women dressed as shimmering butterflies. (photo courtesy of Nancy Waddell)

At 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, the Maxwelton Community Club will host their annual Fourth of July parade for the 100th time. It is the single event Whidbey Island folks most associate with this beachside community. Its longevity is a tribute to the deeply held sense of place of Maxwelton residents.

The community was settled in 1905 when the Mackie brothers and their large families arrived on the wilderness beach at the mouth of the Maxwelton salmon stream. The Mackies brought an enterprising spirit. Within five years they had organized a summer Chautauqua for 4,000 people, despite the fact that the community had only 20 families in residence! In 1912 they organized a Fourth of July parade that has been held every year since, except for some years during World Wars I and II.

This year’s parade coordinator is Bob Brooks, strongly supported by his wife, Trish. “The first parade my wife and I attended was 1978 or 1979 when we came out and camped in a tent on a friend’s lot. Over the years I’ve had a host of parade jobs ranging from selling hot dogs to being a parking attendant to now being the overall coordinator,” said Brooks.

When asked to share a favorite parade entry, Brooks talked about the Weber marching drill team. “About 25 years ago a bunch of guys brought their rolling Weber grills and had this clever marching drill. It was such a kick to watch!”

Grand Marshal Just Announced!

The South Whidbey Record announced on Saturday, June 27 that the Grand Marshals for the 2015 parade will be Dana and Ken Gilroy. (The paper has the exclusive right to be the first to make the Grand Marshal announcement.) The Gilroys claim a Maxwelton Beach residence since 1976 and have been participants, volunteers and, finally, parade coordinator (Dana) from 1996-2008. They will ride in Ray Gabelein’s 1955 red convertible and wave to crowds before joining past VIPs in the grandstand. To commemorate the 100th year, there will be photos and other memorabilia near the VIP area.

Matt Hoar, the very, very tall pirate, can walk on stilts and juggle at the same time!  (photo courtesy of Nancy Waddell)

Matt Hoar, the very, very tall pirate, can walk on stilts and juggle at the same time! (photo courtesy of Nancy Waddell)

There is no entry fee to participate in the parade and no need to pre-register. Whoever shows up is welcome, as long as your vehicle is not over 5000 pounds GVW (the size of a Ford Explorer). Registration on site begins at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of Maxwelton and Swede Hill Roads.

Even though the parade is only two blocks long and ends at the Dave Mackie Park boat ramp, Brooks estimates that it is witnessed (or participated in) by nearly 2,000 people. “We have better parking than in the past because the Vander Pols let us use their farm field down near the parade site at the corner of Swede Hill and Maxwelton Roads. Two to three hundred cars can be parked there. And then there is that shuttle from the Little Brown Church at French Road we’ve set up for years.”

Parking is free but bring your cash to purchase this year’s parade button for a dollar, designed by Seattle fifth grader Kate Okerstrom. In an improvement the Mackie brothers could never imagine, this year—for the first time—hot dogs, chips, pie, pop, and t-shirts can be charged with a credit card using the “square” phenomenon on smart phones.

“Really we don’t need too much publicity,” said Brooks. “We welcome anyone but we have been having about as many folks as we can handle. What we really need are volunteers to help the Maxwelton Community Club put this event on.” Call Brooks at 579-2030 to volunteer or email

Image at top: Toni Talia Marcus is happiest when she’s in the midst of a parade.  (photo credit David Welton).

Ann Linnea is the author of “A Journey Through the Mawelton Watershed—A Natural and Social History” published in 2002 by Maxwelton Salmon Adventure and a person who cherishes the spirit of the Maxwelton Valley.


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