Everybody loves a parade of red, white and blue

The “Marching Eagles” of Klahowyah Secondary School, strut their stuff on Pacific Avenue in front of the venerable Admiral Theatre during the 55th Armed Forced Day Parade in downtown Bremerton on May 17. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
The “Marching Eagles” of Klahowyah Secondary School, strut their stuff on Pacific Avenue in front of the venerable Admiral Theatre during the 55th Armed Forced Day Parade in downtown Bremerton on May 17.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

From sunny weather to record crowds, organizers of last Saturday’s 55th Armed Forces Day Parade are calling it a roaring, patriotic success.

“That was the best parade we have ever had,” Silvia Klatman, executive director of the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, said in a Monday interview. The chamber has been organizing the Armed Forces Day Festival since its inception.

Klatman, along with Fred Miles Watson, had a bird’s eye view of the action from a balcony of the Washington Mutual Bank building where they broadcast to the crowd below. (Watson is managing editor of the Northwest Navigator, a sister publication of the Central Kitsap Reporter.)

“With 20 marching bands, you can’t go wrong,” Klatman said. One band traveled from Kennewick, Wash. to join about 150 other entries which filled out the two-hour parade sponsored by American Financial Solutions. There were clowns, gymnasts and beauty queens, but the stars of the show were undoubtedly the numerous military personnel who captured the patriotic spirit of the day.

Klatman attributed the parade’s high attendance rates to the recent return of the USS Camden.

“A lot of people knew this was going to be the welcome — unofficially — for the Camden,” Klatman said.

“We have never seen crowds like this,” Pat Wright, Armed Forces Festival Chairman, said as he continued to work out minor details just before the parade got under way at 10 a.m. “I would estimate (the crowd) at about 30,000,” Wright said later.

Bremerton’s is the oldest Armed Forces Day parade in the nation, and the preceding breakfast put on by the Bremerton Central Lions has been happening nearly as long.

Members of the local service club began flipping flapjacks and serving up hot coffee to early parade watchers 43 years ago. Navy and other Armed Forces personnel, including Military Grand Marshall Vice Adm. Phillip Balisle, also attended the breakfast on a closed section of Fourth Street.

“We received a very special invitation from the organizers of the parade to be here, so we traveled all the way from Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C. We enjoy meeting the people because our Navy works for the taxpayers of America, the people we support. Its a great opportunity to meet the local community, shake their hands and talk to them and tell them a little bit about the Navy and what we do and to hear what’s on their minds, so we can make sure that we’re serving their interests to the best of our ability,” said Balisle.

Another Navy officer just back from Operation Iraqi Freedom was also happy to be in Bremerton Saturday.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to meet with the public and express our gratitude for their support over the last nine months,” said USS Abraham Lincoln Commanding Officer Capt. Kendal Card. “They express gratitude for our service, and in turn we thank them for their support, so it’s a give and take relationship.”

The parade ran almost precisely according to schedule, apart from one protester who was later arrested for disorderly conduct. A 54-year-old woman wearing all black clothing and a black veil over her face came close to interrupting the parade when she knelt on the street eight feet in front of one of the moving tanks as it rolled down the 300 block of Pacific Avenue.

“She didn’t give any reasons why,” said Detective Wendy Davis of the Bremerton Police Department.

A witness escorted her out of the way with the help of two other people. The woman then proceeded to lie down on the side of the road. She did not appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

“I don’t think anything was ever said about protesting the war, but one could assume,” Davis said.

The Armed Forces Festival also included the Pepsi Armed Forces Festival Golf Tournament, a pancake breakfast by the Bremerton Masonic Lodge, tours of the decommissioned Navy destroyer USS Turner Joy, the Military Culinary Arts Competition at Olympic College and a final Navy League Spectacular on Saturday night.

“We are a Navy town and we love celebrating that heritage,” said Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman. “The shipyard has been here for 100 years, and it’s a part of our life and culture. This town loves celebrating its heritage.”

(Navy Journalist 2nd Class Petty Officer Mary Popejoy contributed to this story.)

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