Summer Celebration!

Any Puget Sounder knows that true summer doesn’t arrive here until after July 4. On Mercer Island, true summer is heralded by Summer Celebration!, held each year on the second weekend of July. It is our hometown carnival — a celebration of all things Island.

The event began as MercerFair at the dawn of the 1960s, just as the North and South ends of Mercer Island were merged into one municipal government. The Kiwanis-sponsored MercerFair lasted just a few years but had all the workings of a major regional event. The event had a horse show, fireworks, foot races, a bicycle race, dances for teens and, of course, all kinds of food and music. It even included a Miss Mercer Island contest, whose winner competed in the Miss Washington contest.

Around the same time, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Concours d’ Elegance at the high school, which included a car show and other events. In the social and political turbulence of the late 1960s, interest in the fairs faded. But in 1976, the United States Bicentennial celebration brought the idea of the community festival back in vogue. In 1985, the 25th anniversary of the incorporation of Mercer Island inspired another celebration dubbed Mercerversary. Later, the Washington State Centennial in 1989 found thousands of Islanders gathered to party on the bridge deck of the old I-90, just as it was taken out of service when the new floating bridge was opened. Organizers estimated that 25,000 people gathered on the Island and the bridge to celebrate.

These early events were planned and presented largely by Island residents who volunteered their time and talents. The tradition of pitching in to help has endured. Dozens and dozens of Island volunteers and groups are involved. Island merchants also step up to help sponsor the weekend. And at the heart of it all are the employees of the city — from event planners and organizers at the Parks and Recreation Department to police, fire and maintenance workers who keep it safe and orderly.

In the July issue of Seattle Magazine, Mercer Island is ranked number one out of 50 suburban neighborhoods in the greater Puget Sound region. No surprise to us. And the rankings did not even consider whether or not the community had a fine summer festival.

We’ll see you this weekend at Summer Celebration!

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