Kitsap’s pride in the men and women of the United States military is equal to, if not greater than the power of the nuclear reactors which fuel the Navy’s largest aircraft carriers.
Bremerton’s annual Armed Forces Festival — the “ultimate ‘thank you’ party,” Sylvia Klatman said — puts that appreciation on display. The Bremerton Patriot estimated last year’s Armed Forces Day attendance at 45,000, this year Klatman, executive director of the Bremerton chamber of Commerce (which has orchestrated the event since its inception), said 2007’s organizers are poised for even more.
Twenty marching bands from around the state will be featured in the 59th Annual Armed Forces Day parade May 19, students from Olympic, Central and South Kitsap high schools will be honoring veterans with a heroes barbecue directly afterward, while members of different branches will also be facing off in a military culinary art competition.
“It started as a chili cook-off now it’s turned into a whole ‘Iron Chef’ event at Olympic College,” Armed Forces Festival Committee chairman Cris Larsen said of the competition.
Adding to the allure, Washington State Ferries will offer free rides from Seattle to Bremerton for military personnel (active and retired) with ID and former Seattle Mariners’ slugger Edgar Martinez will be sharing grand marshal duties as a civilian with the Military Grand Marshall Admiral Kirkland H. Donald — director of naval nuclear propulsion.
A total of 200 entries — including a fighter jet, an Abrams Main Battle Tank and a Vietnam veterans’ river boat — will be make their way through downtown Bremerton with those two dignitaries, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“We can do this, watch this parade and invite out all of our friends and family because we are free … these men and women have stood on front lines around the world and because they did, we are free,” Larsen said. “They did theirs, let’s do ours … let’s keep thinking of new ways to say thanks.”
In addition to designing a new route — due to downtown construction — for the longest running Armed Forces Day Parade in the country, Bremerton’s AFF committee is also saying thanks with two-day events like the Kitsap HydroFest races at Kitsap Lake and a Soap Box Derby on Fourth Street.
Adding the proverbial icing on the cake, the Kitsap County Historical Society offers its gratitude with an exhibit entitled “Armed Forces Day Parades on Parade” on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the museum — 280 4th St.