Fathoms O’ Fun’s grand parade is celebrating its 50th year

Fathoms O’ Fun’s grand parade is celebrating its 50th year

PORT ORCHARD — Fathoms O’ Fun — as its name strongly implies — is all about the “fun” for residents of Port Orchard and South Kitsap each summer.

(A Fathoms O’ Fun special section is included inside the Port Orchard Independent print edition this week. It’s a guide for all the activities planned during the festival through this weekend, June 23-25.)

But this year, however, the “fun” part has been tamped down a bit. A longtime community volunteer and Fathoms O’ Fun mainstay, Jessie Turner, isn’t part of the festivities this time around. Turner died suddenly of cardiac arrest earlier this year. Her absence as a volunteer — and as a dear friend — has hit Fathoms chairman Sharron King quite hard.

“I miss her very much,” King said while preparing for the event earlier this month. “We were glued at the hip for 26 years working on the parade.”

Turner was the heart and soul of the parade. She chaired its preparations each year over the last 25 years. To honor her contributions and memory, the Fathoms O’ Fun parade float will feature her photograph prominently as it travels down Bay Street.

“We’ll make it happen without her,” King said of the parade, “but it will be hard. We’ll carry on and have a fine parade — something Jessie would be proud of.”

But for those who knew Turner well, there’s no doubt the self-effacing “do-er” would rather the attention be redirected to the “fun” in Fathoms.

So, in that spirit, here are some of the details of parade day: At 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 24, more than 85 units will begin the procession from Port Orchard Boulevard and along Bay Street to Bethel Avenue.

The two-hour parade may appear to flow along the route effortlessly, but King said about 1,200 people are somehow involved in making it happen that way. The parade, King added, also is a popular stop for other floats representing cities in the region, including one from the Marysville Strawberry Festival and another from the Tacoma Daffodil Festival.

The Fathoms O’ Fun grand parade this year is noteworthy for something other than balloons, bands and fire engines. This is the 50th Fathoms parade to travel through downtown. And because it’s the gold anniversary of the parade, the theme this year is “50 Years of Rock ‘N Around The Sound.”

As part of the Fathoms’ blast of the past, about 30 former members of the royalty court over the years, one dating back to 1968, will wave to onlookers from convertibles. These royalty guests will be honored at a hospitality suite event before the parade, sponsored by Fathoms O’ Fun at Bethany Lutheran Church in Port Orchard.

A new activity this year, King said, will be crew races on Sinclair Inlet by members of the South Kitsap High School’s crew team. Also new will be a dinghy derby on Sunday, June 25, beginning at the end of the pathway near Westbay Center and ending next to the shore at the Waterfront Park’s gazebo area.

When the parade concludes Saturday evening, Fathoms O’ Fun organizers will quickly turn their attention to the annual Fourth of July fireworks event over Sinclair Inlet, which takes place just 10 days later.

— Leslie Kelly, special sections editor for Kitsap News Group, contributed to this story.

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