It was 1989 when “new kid on the block” Sharron King, who had just moved to South Kitsap, got involved with the festivals produced by the community service organization Fathoms O’ Fun.
Now, after 34 years, King plans to close the book on her lengthy chapter with the organization, leaving many to wonder who will take her place and what the future holds for the remaining volunteers.
King said this would be her last year as chair of the Fathoms board, a position she has held for 13 years. In addition to her work putting together the Grand Parade and serving as a judge in all her years of involvement, she also works on the Festival by the Bay Concerts series and the Easter Egg Hunt, among other projects.
King admitted she has taken on more projects than she anticipated the past few years. “I carried the burden and the load because there was no one else on the board that could do it or would do it,” she said.
She did it out of love for a community that warmly embraced her in her first years in the area and continued to support her and Fathoms. So when it came time to retire, it was hard to accept her time with Fathoms would be ending.
“The driving force I guess is just simply the fact that I like doing what I do, but it’s time,” she said. “It’s time because I would love to have gone out with the best, biggest parade ever and the best fireworks show ever — to go out on a high rather than a low.”
Fighting back tears, she fears the latter is more likely to occur. For the past decade, she has seen support for Fathoms drop significantly. Obstacles stemming from the coronavirus pandemic stalled celebrations briefly, signature events such as Pirates Rendezvous and the Dinghy Derby gradually lost popularity, and now King said it’s getting harder to meet modern conditions and standards.
“Things are changing in Port Orchard. New rules, new regulations, and right now I’m frantically working on getting our parade going…and we have worked hard to meet those changes,” she said.
Even the parade is taking a hit. The annual event has been consistently made up of up to 100 units. As of June 1, with just weeks to go, she shared that around 35 units were secured. “I even extended the deadline to June 15 this year,” she said. “The deadline’s always been June 1 for the past 33 years.”
King said support of locals, both in parade and volunteer numbers, has fallen. “The board has talked about it, and recruiting volunteers to step in is really difficult because people just don’t want to volunteer anymore. They want to do some things, but they don’t want the major responsibility of doing it all.”
Since the death of longtime Fathoms volunteer Jessie Turner in 2017, turnover and looming retirements on the board have become a reality. So the future of Fathoms also is in question unless some new people step up.
For now, the focus remains on recruiting volunteers and working to put on another spectacle of a parade. King said she would rather focus on the positives and, when asked what her favorite moments with Fathoms have been, she said she couldn’t pick just one. “There hasn’t been anything that hasn’t been fun,” she said with a smile. “It’s just been great, and my board members are great. It’s like a second family that I have.”