Yours truly singing at Festival, 1976 or '77
In July of 1973 I joined my hippie friends one Saturday morning to go up to town and see the Festival Parade, my first.
We had to park a couple of blocks out of town and walk in with other festival goers. That part hasn’t changed in 40 years. The crowds have become bigger and the walks are longer now, going down Beall Road on the east and out Cove and Bank Roads on the west, as well as up and down the main highway.
There were a few marching bands, and cars with a parade marshal, and various pretty girls waving to the crowds, but what most impressed me was the Bacchus Lumber truck. It had a pile of drain field pipe on the back. I knew I wasn’t in California anymore.
In 1974, I sang at the Festival for the first time, by myself, in the patio behind what was then the library and is now the Senior Center. By 1975 festival music was being staged in Ober Park in the little area on the south side of the building, which is still used as a concert stage. The music was all volunteer, and as far as I know all the musicians were local. Some of the ones I remember are Mike Dumovich, Sr., playing raucous slide guitar blues; Mindy Manley playing the banjo and singing old time songs; Steve Fearey and Thea (Teddi) Leyva (now Westcott) performing as Bodacious; Bob Haworth in whatever configuration he had going at the time – perhaps his one-man band; Ron Hook and his Sub Pop group; and Chris Howie, Rick Tuel, and yours truly performing as Kanout Manufacturing. At the end of Saturday afternoon, Zumi and his marimba band played and most of us got up and danced. Many islanders played in the marimba band, swinging and sweating. The marimba is a fitness instrument.
There were many other musicians playing, and I apologize if I have not mentioned you by name. I simply can’t remember everyone.
In the evening there was the traditional street dance. Probably the band was the Doily Brothers.
Now, here is an Island Legend. It happened before I arrived, so call it a fact-related rumor.
In 1971, so the story goes, the Festival street dance was rocking on Saturday night, and everyone was having a good time. Midnight came and the county sheriff who was present told the band the dance was over and it was time to shut down and go home. There was resistance to this suggestion, so the sheriff pulled the plug on the band, and voila, the dance was over. People were not happy, but they dispersed. Everyone went home except for a couple of souls who came back up to town and firebombed the court house.
I made a request on the Facebook page, “Old Vashon Pictures and Stories,” for stories about that incident. People have responded kindly and generously, so you can go to that page to read the stories. My deepest thanks to all who have contributed. Turns out to be a story of redemption for at least one of the people involved. People are still writing, and contacting me outside of Facebook with information, and I may write about that night and its fallout in a future column.
As the years went by the Festival and its music grew. The Portage Fill began doing a different kind of street dance, so we had choices on Saturday evening. The parade started to include Bob Haworth’s kazoo band, and other local groups started doing their own original parade entries. Islewilde brought giant puppets. The Seafair Pirates, who terrified little children, eventually stopped coming. I think.
In the 1980s I would perform at the Festival with the trio Women, Women & Song. We had fun and people came to hear us in droves, which was quite gratifying. Since then my participation in the Festival, and Festival music, has dwindled. Rick was part of the color guard at the beginning of the parade for a few years, but he can’t do that anymore, so he usually stays home during festival and enjoys the quiet in the neighborhood.
Most Festival weekends the last few years I’ve gone up for the Kiwanis pancake breakfast and watched the parade with my friend Becky, and then come home and hung out with Rick. I take our granddaughter up to do the rides sometimes and walk around the booths and admire the crafts people’s wares and see people I haven’t seen for ages.
Festival: an island tradition, the highlight of our summer, and quite a blast before August, when we frantically summer it up before school starts and autumn moves in. Looking out my window I see that there are already some leaves turning yellow on the maple trees. I mentioned this to someone who said, “Don’t look out that window.” Good advice.
Happy Festival, Happy Summer, to all.