It wasn't that long ago that Kirkland didn't have its big parade and fireworks celebration. I have to admit that we've always taken for granted that there is this day of community camaraderie exploding with patriotism and good cheer. Everything magically comes together, it seems, as the children all pedal their decorated bikes, the drum beat moves your body and each creative float glides by tossing treats at the thousands of bystanders.
Steve and I lucked out this year. After a fun and exhausting (and a bit chilly!) morning with the kids at the parade, we had a babysitter for the evening and rallied for the fireworks show at Marina Park. We slid onto the outdoor patio of The Grape Choice for a glass of wine and some conversation with Penny Sweet (photo left), who owns the shop with her husband, Larry Springer, who is a State Representative. If you don't already know Penny, she is like an omniscient queen of Kirkland-in the know on everything and everyone-- and how and why and where.
And it turns out it is not actually magic that makes our 4th of July happen. Penny started the idea back in 2000 when the city government was a bit divided (uh, kinda like now? Did you see the city council's divided float?) and it seemed like a great way to re-infuse the city with a sense of community. As first lady to the mayor at the time, she was ready to step it up a notch, not to mention it was also the millennium and something special was in order! After ten years at it, Penny says she thinks it's still 'the best thing we do in Kirkland all year." This time around, we had approximately 40,000 people at our NASA themed celebration. All in, the day costs about $80K. A majority of the funding is covered by grants and donations. The city funds most of the fireworks--about $35k of the total number.
Penny had some extra dock passes so we were able to watch the fireworks show from the city dock which was pretty spectacular. What an amazing show! And part of the delight for me was hearing Penny's commentary that went something like this as our chests thumped with the sounds of the explosions: "That's my favorite part, when all the kids go ooooohhhhhhhh!" and then "That one was so pretty! I ordered that one!" she squealed. Her enthusiasm was that of an eight year old and you couldn't help but share her excitement. It really put a new spin on it for me, to realize how vested she is in that day, the efforts that she and her team (Dan, Kellie, Elke and many volunteers) put in and how much they all care about Kirkland. It's a really big job, so I thought I'd take a minute to publicly say "THANK YOU" to Penny and all of those that helped in making the Fourth of July so special for Kirkland! By the way, she's already thinking about ideas for next year's theme, so if you have some ideas go ahead and comment or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org . ~j