Frightful weather doesn’t deter holiday spirit at PO festival

Nothing could contain the merry spirit of Port Orchard Dec. 3 as the city held its first Festival of Chimes and Lights since the end of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The event, directed by city councilwoman Cindy Lucarelli, had previously been formatted to a drive-thru celebration along Bay Street from 2020-2021 while health concerns remained rampant across the United States. The reformatting kept the holiday season alive, but city officials were looking forward to another step in the direction of normalcy.

“It’s great to have an event like this again,” said Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu, “seeing crowds in our downtown.”

The crows did not disappoint, despite concerns that the weather would create a problem for those traveling to the festival. Fresh snow blanketed the streets the night prior, and morning ice created slippery conditions for vehicles and people alike. Putaansuu said the city’s public works department did a great job not just setting up the event but making sure the city was as accessible as possible.

“Most of these gentlemen have been out for the last 24 hours plowing streets, making our community safe,” he said, “and they’re back here tonight making this event a success.”

Throughout the day, festivalgoers sipped on hot coffee and cocoa while walking the main streets of downtown. Kids played in the snow and enjoyed activities at the Kitsap Regional Library, while families were entertained by various musical groups of the South Kitsap School District. Bay Street was also open for business, with store owners welcoming in crowds that were all but absent in the two years prior.

Returning to the festival were classic events such as the Pooch N’ Purr Pet Parade, where over twenty dog owners walked their festive pups down Bay Street. Simply Irresistible Pets owner Melanie Root, who organized this year’s parade, said she was excited about all those who signed up.

“It was way bigger than I even thought it was going to be,” she said. “It’s a great way to start off the holidays.”

As the sun’s light left the sky, folks packed in front of City Hall for the lighting of Port Orchard’s Christmas tree. Lucarelli introduced honorary tree-lighter Terry Bontrager, who had a bright smile on his face. Bontrager served the community as a volunteer firefighter for over 35 years and was previously a member of the festival planning committee.

Following the lighting, Santa made his grand fire engine entrance, escorted by the South Kitsap High School marching band from city hall to the Waterfront Park for pictures. It was the perfect beginning to the holiday season, and Putaansuu congratulated Lucarelli on a job well done in the festival’s 24th year, saying “She is really the queen of Christmas here in Port Orchard. She makes this event happen year after year.”

A dog waits patiently with its owner before the start of the parade.
A casually-dressed Santa Claus walks to City Hall.
This pet's owner presents a display of present boxes with a dog on top.