Community News

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays, we celebrate the birth of our nation, with family and friends. Today I am sharing some of the history of the 4th of July celebrations written by Elaine Walker, Wallie Funk, Captain John See, and our Founding Fathers.

COVID-19 Update July 1, 2020

As of June 30th Island Hospital has tested 2,082 people and currently reports 37 positive cases. The total positive hospitalized cases is 7 and there have been no deaths. COVID-19 testing is happening at Skagit Valley College Monday –Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Across Skagit County, as of July 1st there have been 526 reported cases, 56 hospitalizations, 15 deaths and 434 recovered cases of COVID-19. The Governor’s Mask Mandate is in effect as of Friday, June 26th, to read more about his mandate please review Secretary of Health, John Wiesman’s order.

Mayor Gere’s Patriotic Address will air Wednesday July 1, 2020 at 4PM. It will play on Channel 10 on July 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at 9AM, 2PM, and 6PM. It will be available via the City’s YouTube Channel.   

Mayor Gere’s Patriotic Address

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays, we celebrate the birth of our nation, with family and friends. Today I am sharing some of the history of the 4th of July celebrations written by Elaine Walker, Wallie Funk, Captain John See, and our Founding Fathers.

A Long History of July 4 Festivities

Anacortes has a long history of hosting grand Independence Day celebrations. In fact, one of the first acts of the city’s founders was to throw an elaborate Fourth of July bash and invite all of Puget Sound. That was in 1890 – 10 months before the boomtown officially became a city.

Patriotic celebrations have had their ups and downs over the decades, but thanks to the work of many volunteers in our community, our 4th of July festivities are more popular than ever.

View a slide presentation from the past.

View Mayor Gere's Patriotic Address online.

Still, it would take quite an effort to top the Fourth celebrated in Anacortes in 1890. Wallie Funk, in his book, “Pictures of the Past,” describes it:

“The town marked the Fourth of July with a celebration that drew thousands of visitors from as far away as Tacoma and Victoria. At that time, it was the largest such event held on the Sound and won for the boom-driven city great praise for its historic gala. The ‘grand parade,’ including four bands and horse-drawn floats, was photographed by D.B. Ewing as it headed south on planked streets and sidewalks which covered P Avenue (now Commercial). It was a memorable day that concluded with a spectacular fireworks display that priced out at $500 — all of it from local pockets.”

That $500 translates to about $14,000 today, which is not too far off from the estimated $20,000 for the 2020 fireworks. Although we will not be doing them this year on the 4th, instead we will have our fireworks celebration later this year to celebrate our independence and our community.

The 1890 Celebration

During this first grand July 4 celebration in 1890, there were athletic competitions including a baseball game, 100-yard and half-mile races, a 100-yard race just for fat men, a 50-yard sack race, a tug-of-war, catching of a greased pig, a baseball throw, wheelbarrow and potato races, a two-mile canoe race, a yachting competition with more than 20 sailboats and a firemen’s race with hose carts, 12-man teams and $25 to the winner. The community of 3,000 hosted an estimated 5,000 guests that day!

Through the Years

Independence Day parades and events were held regularly in the City, until they were brought to a halt by the Great Depression. Civic activists and merchants such as Paul Luvera who missed the patriotic events – and the economic and morale boost they provided –came up with the Mariners’ Pageant, which was held in late July for several years, starting in 1937.

There were parades, pirate girls, queen coronations, dances, a grand parade and watersports, including world-champion water skiers, hydroplane races, tribal canoe competitions and battleships at anchor. There were also stunts that made national movie newsreels, such as a mass wedding of seven couples, and the unique and hilarious Cat-Putter-Outter-Derby.

The event stopped for World War II, made a couple of comebacks, and then faded away for good in the late 1950s. Events were somewhat less coordinated and less memorable in the next couple of decades, although fireworks at Flounder Bay were a hit with kids. Before Skyline was built, Anacortes Museum Director, Bret Lunsford remembers, organizers with trash cans asked each carload of viewers to toss in donations. In 1976, the Fidalgo Island Bicentennial Committee, chaired by “Mrs. Ben Hughes,” organized a big, old-fashioned patriotic picnic, and the Lions Club hosted the fireworks at Flounder Bay.

Events began to shape up in the 1980s and early ‘90s, largely due to fundraising and organizational efforts led by Felicia Childs, who became known as “Mrs. Firecracker” and “Mother Red White and Blue.” By the time Childs stepped down, the events had grown to include a patriotic picnic, a kiddie parade, and fireworks.

In the early 1990s the Anacortes Women of Today (AWOT) began to play a role in parade organization. In 1994, Childs officially handed the parade and picnic to AWOT, who expanded the parade to include adults, marching bands and community floats, as well as children. After the patriotic speeches at Causland Memorial Park, various service groups presented sack races, pie-eating contests, and other old-fashioned games.

John Curtis of the local business, Bubba Sudz and his family, generously assumed responsibility for the fireworks display. Merchants donated to the show, and, for many years, the Curtis family sold fireworks at a stand at the car wash to raise money for the display. Curtis, who had a pyrotechnics license, supervised the show until his untimely death in an accident in 2009. Today, funds are raised through the Anacortes Parks Foundation, which oversees the fireworks.

The Town Photo and Recent Parades

For 20 years, the Anacortes American has invited everyone in town to gather before the Fourth of July parade for a mass town photo. Although we can’t gather for our town photo this year, the City will be doing a virtual photo along with many other virtual events where you can learn, have fun, and celebrate our independence with close family.  Please upload your photo by tomorrow to participate!

In 2016, the AWOT handed the parade over to the City, and ever since, we have taken on the role of running the parade, coordinating celebration efforts with the Port of Anacortes and their Rock the Dock celebration at the Seafarer’s Memorial. Our Sister City of Sydney, B.C. has a tradition of coming to join our parade and they have promised to be back next year.

We will celebrate this year quietly and safely – because of COVID-19. Commercial Avenue will be lined with flags, we will have family celebrations of picnics, BBQs, Watermelon, and Hot Dogs. Did you know: more hot dogs are eaten on the 4th of July than any other day in the United States!

Declaration of our Independence

The First Independence Day was celebrated as described by John Adams to his wife Abigail in 1776. He described – pomp and parades, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations throughout the United States.

I want to share the story and 4th of July speech by Captain John J See, a Union Veteran of the Civil War, who came to Anacortes in 1890. He came to Anacortes and established a brickyard to build the Wilson Hotel and other Anacortes structures. On May 15, 1890 the Anacortes American printed the following:

'See's New Brick Yard Is to Furnish 1,000,000 Brick for Wilson's New Building' John See, the well-known Tacoma brick mason and builder, reached Anacortes less than ten days ago with a plan for a new brick yard, having previously entered into a contract with David Wilson of Tacoma to furnish the latter with one million brick to be used in the construction of the Wilson Hotel Building on P Avenue near 8th. Contractor See has not wasted a minute's time since his arrival. He selected a site for his new brickyard on the side of the S & N track about 3/4 of a mile from the Ocean Dock and the day following the machinery being discharged from the steamer, had it on the ground.

It was set up complete on Monday last and the clay pit opened. Next Saturday, the construction of a kiln to burn 75,000 brick will be commenced and within a few weeks, the first consignment of the million contract will be ready to be placed in the walls of the contemplated building. Mr. See, who in an expert in the matter, asserts that the clay from which these brick will be burned is the very best for brick making and that there is an ample supply of it on the island."

244 years ago, we first heard these words in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, which among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

23 years after his first article, Captain John J See gave another speech on July 4, 1913, discussing patriotism and the importance of those words in the Declaration of Independence.

“Patriotism is defined by me the passion which serves one’s own country either in defending its rights and maintaining its laws and institutions in vigor and purity. Patriotism is the characteristic of a good citizen. When we examine that dedication that you have just heard, and which was the first concreate statement of individual rights, we are forced to the conclusion that the men who wrote that document was a patriot indeed and those who signed it with him were glad that he was so inspired by his love for his fellow man and blessed with wisdom from the source of all power as to be able to give expression to those feeling which animate the hearts of those in whom the spirit of justice abides.”

The Declaration was approved by the continental congress July, 4 1776 announcing the separation of the 13 colonies from Great Britain. On July 2 the Congress unanimously voted to be free and independent states. However, because the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4 it has always been celebrated as our national holiday – our independence day.

This journey to independence started in earnest, in April of 1775, when the battle of Lexington and Concord erupted in armed conflict between Britain and the 13 colonies. They sought only their rights, and few colonist consciously desired to separate from Britain. As the American Revolution proceeded into 1776 – American came to believe, they must secure their rights outside the empire. They losses and restrictions that come from war widened the gap, and it was necessary to seek independence.

The Declaration of Independence was largely written by Thomas Jefferson who was considered a Political Philosopher. He wrote the first draft the congress made substantial changes and then approve it. This document has served as our declaration of American political and social democracy. The Declaration of Independence has been a source of inspiration across the world. Marquie De Maribeau, during the French revolution said it remains a great historical landmark that it was the first formal assertion by a whole people to be self-governing.

As we honor our history and independence we have some special activities for this year’s 4th of July Celebration.

Virtual Events

I want to share with you the Virtual Events at the City for you and your families to enjoy. This year we will be celebrating our independence differently than we have before. I recognize the importance of sharing the history of our community and the independence of our nation. That is why we have many virtual events for child and adults to participate in.

Library

At the Library we have options for all ages, this weeks’ Digital Dive highlighting a transcribing project at the Boston Public Library. This project allows people to help transcribe archival early anti-slavery documents into digital searchable documents.

In this week’s Digital Dive we also highlight a book on antislavery or the civil rights movement for each age group! If you find yourself interested in any of these books you can reserve them for pick-up at the library though our new curbside pickup! This year, for the 4th of July the libraries focus is to invite people to learn and contribute to history while celebrating and reflecting on independence for all, an important topic for this moment.

4th of July learning opportunities for Children are available virtually as well! For Leslie’s Storyime she is reading a special book and highlighting a digital tour of the Statue of Liberty. For Pajama storytime the stories will also focus on American history and equality.

For teens and young adults – the library is promoting the release of Hamilton and other items and information surrounding the play. You can learn how this important play influenced a new generation to look at the founding of our nation. We are also announcing our new book club reading Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

We will also be posting a storytime adventure kit online Thursday. This kit includes a virtual tour of each state for kids to visit and explore Children can participate in an activity to make their own family flag and post it in their window for people to see. We will also encourage our community’s children to dress up their favorite stuffed animal in their windows for the bear hunt in patriotic gear!

Parks Department

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we are not going to gather on the 4th of July for our usual town photo, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have one.  We love this fun tradition and we at the City want to keep it going this year– virtually!

We have a great photo of the 5th and commercial intersection taken by our water maintenance crew, which we can use it as a background for our virtual photo.

You can participate in this year’s town photo by getting you or your family dressed in your best red, white and blue outfits and take a picture. Once you have your picture you can go to the City’s website either on our front page or on the Parks page and find a link that will take you to a place where you can upload and submit your picture.

Your photo will magically appear with you fellow community members in a mosaic next week when we make it live. The uploading process and submission take only a few minutes! Please join us in keeping this fun tradition going. Please visit our website or call the parks department is you have any questions.

Museum

The Anacortes Museum is hosting a History Scavenger Hunt to honor our City’s History.  If you are the type of person who loves puzzles you will love this scavenger hunt. The Museum has three historical photographs for you to look at showing iconic locations in Anacortes - though some of these places look very different today.

We invite you to be a historian and try and figure out where each was taken using only the pictures and a clue attached to each one.

But that’s not all! If you would like an added challenge, go to the location of each picture and take a selfie there – please remember to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing! If you message it to us or post it under #ATownThenAndNow on Facebook or Instagram we’ll post it on the leaderboard on our website! Start the challenge on the Museum’s webpage now. 

The Museum is also sharing a history of Anacortes 4th of July on our website, if you are curious and want to learn more please visit the Museum’s webpage. Thanks to Elaine Walker who was the town photographer for a number of years and is the author if this history article online.

COVID-19 Cases in Skagit County

849 Skagit Cases (+13)
<39 Cases in ZIP 98221

82 Hospitalizations (-1)
21 Deaths (+0)
19,677 Tests
4.2% Positive

60,084 Cases Statewide (+705)
5,840 Hospitalizations (+60)

1,624 Deaths Statewide (+5)
1,009,486 Tests
5.9% Positive

Updated 7:00 pm August 5, 2020.

Our Coronavirus page is updated each morning.

County Map: Confirmed COVID-19 cases by ZIP code in Skagit County. Updated weekly.

Sources: Skagit County Public Health, Washington State Department of Health, New York Times

Restaurants open for take out or delivery. Anacortes Chamber of Commerce list.

Community Events