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Swashbucklers on parade

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Youngsters from the Mercer Island Preschool Association festooned as rowdy pirates ride in the annual Summer Celebration! parade on Mercer Island Saturday. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Youngsters from the Mercer Island Preschool Association festooned as rowdy pirates ride in the annual Summer Celebration! parade on Mercer Island Saturday.
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“Know how hot it is, matey, in 85-degree weather wearin’ leather vest, boots and belts, sword-fightin’ and crackin’ whips? Even sunscreen 240 ain’t enough,” said one Seattle Knights pirate in a break at last weekend’s 17th annual Summer Celebration!

Nonetheless, pirates of all stripes delighted as many as 30,000 parade-festival-car-show-fireworks enthusiasts with their two-day invasion that sent kids scattering or staring as they strode costumed and with attitude through the crowds.

The hour-long parade Saturday morning kicked off festivities, to which thousands streamed by car, bicycle, scooter, skateboard to watch 60 groups strut their stuff. Patriots clapped for the veterans and soldiers, timid kids fled when crusty pirates teased toes with swords, and Aug. 19 primary election candidates fought for the vote.

For City Council, Patti Darling was queen of Miss Bardahl; blue balloons signaled Brian Basset; “I Like Mike” buttons touted Mike Cero; “Vote for Mo,” shouted Maureen Judge’s contingent; “What About Bob? [Bersos] read orange placards; and Jon Friedman and company went with the red, white and blue — and merciful cold water handouts.

The Covenant Church featured a convincing Noah’s Ark; Falun Dafa’s float pled for “truth, compassion and tolerance;” and Holy Trinity Lutheran Vacation Bible School marchers wore hats that read “God Rocks.”

While the merchants, organizations, schools and politicos in the parade sought platforms, for the kids it clearly was all about candy. “I brought a bucket instead of a sack this year to hold all the loot,” said one 9-year-old. “It’s okay to eat the bubblegum cause it’s not really candy,” one 5-year-old told her younger sibling. A truckload of tinier pirates had to be reminded — “Hey, guys —throw the candy, don’t eat it!”

A few trends: As many as 15 Brownie and Girl Scout troops are on the Island, compared to just two Boy Scout troops. The Solemates, a group of age 55+ walkers who meet at the CCMV and walk regularly, looked in fine shape — particularly Fran Call, who’s been promoting fitness since she was the Pied Piper of MI teens in the 1970s and ‘80s. Horses on the Island are on the wane — only five this year, compared to the growing numbers of dogs — weiners, Borzois, golden retrievers and lots of mutts. Absent this year: Seafair Royalty, clowns (with the exception of Ronald MacDonald), jazz bands or sports teams.

By 11:10 a.m., noses followed the smells of kettle corn, corndogs, Hawaiian stir fry and elephant ears to the Mercerdale site, where kids jumped to Mutiny on the Bouncer, examined pirate plunder and watched the entertainment. Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center offered a pirate fitness challenge, kids got faces painted and did crafts, and parents cajoled kids from the bounce houses, so they could survey more than 100 booths.

evening at Luther Burbank, where Metro buses shuttled folks from City Hall. Awaiting the fireworks, pirates taught kids to juggle, Uncle Stinky dazzled boys with his magic and novelties, a country band played on the Windermere amphitheater stage and fluorescent wands and bands adorned dogs necks, people’s wrists and hats. A hundred or so small craft and the Summer Celebration Cruiser gathered along shore in time for the fireworks barge to light up at 10:20 p.m. for a 20-minute spectacle.

Sunday’s Rotary Pancake Breakfast fed about 500 — even a few pirates, who beguiled patrons in their cockneyed brogues, while another group of them sang “Shave their Bellies with a Rusty Razor” on the nearby stage. Car hounds drooled over restored vintage autos, exotic convertibles, hot rods, funky rehabilitated trucks and guys hankered for their first cars or their dream-mobiles.

According to Parks director Pete Mayer, the entire Summer Celebration operates from a $140,000 budget, half paid for by sponsors, the other half by the city. Some revenue is garnered through the sale of pins, tee-shirts and other merchandise.

Merchants enjoy increased revenues for the weekend, and Islanders immerse in a cross section of their culture that includes teens text-messaging to one another from across the fields and streets and watching the fireworks on their cell phone screens.

The cleanup crews rest. A whole lot of litter results from such a big party.

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