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She loves a grand parade

Natalie Bryson knows there’s nothing better than a parade.

That is, unless you’re the parade’s grand marshal.

And that’s just exactly what she is. Bryson, longtime Silverdale resident and community activist, will be the grand marshal of the 2013 Whaling Days parade on July 27.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Bryson said. “I’m really honored.”

Bryson will be in the lead car in the parade that will begin at 10 a.m. and travel along Silverdale Way from Old Town Silverdale to the Kitsap Mall. The parade starts at Kitsap Mall Boulevard and Silverdale Way and ends at Anderson Hill Road, about a mile down Silverdale Way.

“It was an easy decision for the Lions club to make a grand marshal selection this year,” said Roland Arper, co-chair of the Silverdale Lions, sponsors of the Whaling Days Parade. “We wanted to recognize someone that is both respected and active in the community.”

Bryson has lived in Silverdale since 1965.

“I moved away a couple of times,” she said. “But I always came back.”

Bryson worked as a public relations representative for an international travel firm for many years and has traveled to all seven continents. When she retired, she became a full-time volunteer.

She was the first-ever female member of the Rotary Club of Silverdale, joining the Rotary in 1987. She is a founding member of the Paul Linder Educational Foundation which raises funds for educational opportunities for Central Kitsap School District for both students and staff.

She has served on the Central Kitsap Community Council since it was established by the Kitsap County Commission in 1999.

Bryson’s also well-known for her involvement in the Kitsap County HIV/AIDS Foundation. She joined the foundation in 1999 and soon took over as president. When she took over, there was $31 in the foundation’s bank account and she ran the organization from her kitchen table.

She led the foundation for eight years before retiring in 2007.

Bryson lost two sons to HIV/AIDS, one whom battled the disease for 13 years. Those losses compelled her to spend the latter portion of her life helping others.

In 2008, she was honored as a “community treasure” and more than 100 people came out on a hot July evening to celebrate her kindness and giving nature at an ice cream social at the Kitsap Unitarian fellowship in Bremerton.

And, while this is the first time she’s officially been a parade grand marshal, Bryson is quick to point out that, unofficially, she’s done the job before.

“The No Boat Parade,” she said. “Those were the days.”

She referred to the early days of Whaling Days, when the Silverdale community was much less populated and things happened “sort of spur of the moment, without a lot of planning,” she said.

As old timers tell it, in those days folks who didn’t have boats wanted to be a part of the parade. So Bryson and others decided to ride borrowed empty boat trailers and other moveable objects in the parade.

“We had a fleet of them,” she said. “And then, at the very back there was this huge basket of laundry with a chicken on top of it. I’m not sure why. It was just like that. We did whatever came to mind.”

The No Boat Parade drew many strange looks and continued for several years until the parade became more formal as Silverdale began to grow.

“Back then, it was all just kind of a joke,” she said. “That was back when everybody knew each other and so we didn’t have to act normal.”

Although she isn’t sure what kind of vehicle she’ll be riding in this year, she’s ready for anything.

“They gave me a few options,” she said, noting that they were just various kinds of automobiles. “But I told them I’d just wait and be surprised.”

She does admit, however, that she’s been practicing her parade wave.

“I’m just very excited,” she said. “I can’t wait.”

Bryson credits the Silverdale Rotary, Lions and chamber for keeping Whaling Days going.

“Whaling Days is always fun,” she said. “It’s a great way for the community to unite. And with the (Rotary) duck race, they do such an outstanding job of making money to support this community.”

Bryson has a philosophy about that.

“With even a small amount of effort, you can make a difference in your community,” she said. “Participation enables you to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

To find out more about the parade and Whaling Days, go to www.whalingdays.com.

 

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