SILVERDALE — If you’re looking for a “whale of a good time,” you’re in luck. On July 28-30, Whaling Days takes over Old Town Silverdale.
The annual festival, started in 1974, brings an average of about 30,000 people to Old Town every year. It starts with carnival rides and a beer-and-wine garden at 5 p.m. July 28, and ending with the last main-stage entertainment at 6 p.m. July 30.
“Whaling Days is a community festival focused on bringing people together for a ‘whale of a good time,’ ” said Keri Roberts, a Whaling Days board member.
“Whaling Days is a family-oriented, nonprofit, volunteer-run community festival held in Old Town Silverdale. Since 1972, thousands of people have enjoyed the events and entertainment Whaling Days has to offer.”
One of the biggest draws of the festival? Of course, it’s the First Federal Lions/Kiwanis Grand Parade, which starts at 10 a.m. July 29. The route begins at the intersection of Silverdale Way NW and Kitsap Mall Boulevard NW, and ends at the intersection of Silverdale Way NW and NW Anderson Hill Road.
“The parade changes a bit each year as more people/organizations want to participate,” said Carla Larson, Whaling Days safety director.
Larson said the parade is generally around two hours long, “without too many gaps,” and has around 100 entries each year.
“Starting with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department Color Guard,” she said, “and ending with the Kitsap D-Derby cars who are on their way to the fairgrounds for an action-packed afternoon/evening.”
But the festival itself is much more than just a parade, as Old Town Silverdale is crowded with vendors, games and other entertainment.
“It’s hard to say how the festival has grown since its inception,” Roberts said. “It is easier to talk about how it has changed. In years past, there have been different activities for families to enjoy, everything from water-ball fights to hydroplane races. We had a community performance stage and children’s entertainment stage.”
Roberts said changing regulations required some changes in the lineup over the years, as did the wants of the community and financial constraints, the latter of which meant losing the family stage and VIP.
“Instead of a dedicated area for kids’ activities, (now) activities can be found throughout the festival,” she said, “ranging from small activities at vendor booths to organized festival sponsored events.”
Whaling Days is not without its challenges, though.
Roberts said one of the biggest challenges of the festival is supporting the permanent Old Town Silverdale businesses “who often are impacted by the road closures for the festival.”
“This can make for challenges in getting their customers to their businesses,” Roberts said. “It can also affect the amount of business they have, both positively and negatively. As a committee, we are really working to find ways to show our support for local businesses, and find more ways to support and include them in the festival.”
The organizing committee also has to deal with rising costs of entertainment and fireworks; the fickleness of weather; getting sponsorship opportunities to help fund festival costs; getting enough volunteers; and making sure there is enough community awareness.
Vicky Webb, another board member for Whaling Days, said getting enough sponsorship money is probably the biggest challenge, though. She said often people will donate directly to the Silverdale Rotary, thinking they’re donating to Whaling Days as a whole, but they’re not.
“Everything part of the festival is an event at the festival,” Webb said, “but we generally don’t get financial help from that. Our biggest struggle is finding businesses who are willing to sponsor us and help pay for the things that are horribly expensive.”
She said the fireworks alone cost about $12,000, and that doesn’t include renting a barge from which to light the fireworks.
“It’s tough because we all volunteer, nobody gets paid for this,” Webb said. “We’re working on it, but any way (they) can let people know, if you have a business, we’d love to have you on board … every year, we just hope we have enough to pay for next year.”
Webb explained that usually, festivals like Whaling Days are put on by the host city, but Silverdale is not a city, and thus there are no city funds to draw from to pay for the event.
“It’s one weekend a year, and the people in Old Town are wonderful to let us use the space they normally use for their business,” Webb said. “They’ve all been very supportive of us.”
Even with those difficulties, Whaling Days is always a smash, and the committee goes out of their way to return that support to the community.
“It is through your generous donations and attendance at the yearly festival that Whaling Days is able to support the greater Kitsap County community,” Roberts said. “Whaling Days gives back to the local community by donating proceeds to local charitable organizations and through scholarships for local high school graduates.”
For example, the tips and donations given in the 21-and-older beer gardens are donated to local charities. This year, those charities are Kitsap Backpack for Kids, Kitsap Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity Kitsap and the CK Food Bank.
Plus, individually run events at Whaling Days, like the Whale of a Run and the Duck Race, also give proceeds to charities. The Whale of a Run supports Meals on Wheels; the pancake breakfast and duck race support the Silverdale Rotary; the canoe races support Hui Heihei Wa’a Outrigger Canoe Club; funds from the destruction derby support the Kitsap Demolition Derby Association; and funds from the parade support the Silverdale Dandy Lions.
“The Whaling Days committee has made it a priority to support local Kitsap businesses as best as we can,” Roberts said. “We find ways to purchase needed items from local sources … we are also finding ways to partner with Old Town Silverdale businesses.”
Online: www.whaling days.com.