Back with a bang: Floats and fireworks return to Oak Harbor
— Created June 30, 2021 by Kacie Jo Voeller
By Kacie Jo Voeller
Prepare for a weekend full of patriotic spirit and a parade in Oak Harbor. After cancellation last year, Fourth of July festivities will return and the chamber of commerce will hold its firework display starting at dark in Windjammer Park July 4. The Rotary Club of Oak Harbor and Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce parade will take place earlier in the day starting at 11 a.m. and will follow a route along Bayshore Drive. The Blue Fox Drive-In Theater will also be hosting its now sold-out fireworks show and movie night for the second year.
Vicki Graham, executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said there has been a great deal of excitement since the announcement of the return of the parade and fireworks show. There will also be a number of food trucks at Windjammer Park between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. and the Northern Kings Bikes on the Bay organization is slotted to make an appearance starting at 1 p.m.
“It has been a whirlwind,” she said. “Everyone is so excited that we are having the parade and we are going to be able to do the fireworks.”
Graham said safety will be a focus at the event, from following appropriate COVID-19 precautions to maintaining a 420-foot fallout zone from the designated firework launching area, which will be manned by security.
“We are going to ask everyone to please, for their safety, adhere to the fallout zone,” she said. “Come out, have fun, adhere to all guidelines.”
Graham said the fireworks should be visible from a number of locations in Oak Harbor, such as the Safeway parking lot and areas of the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Seaplane Base, not just from Windjammer Park.
“It does not necessarily mean that everyone has to venture down and all be at the park – you can be on your back porch and walk out and look and be able to see,” she said.
Graham said she believes the return of the event will help instill hope for the community and beyond after an unprecedented past year and ongoing ordeal with the effects of COVID-19.
“We want to keep everyone looking forward,” she said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel – of course, with this experience there are going to be fireworks at the end of the tunnel.”
Reid Schwartz, a member of the Rotary Club of Oak Harbor and chairman of the Fourth of July parade, said the rotary looks forward to once again helping with the event.
“We are just excited to have it coming back this year and getting people out and into the community,” he said. “The weather is supposed to be great. It is going to be nice to get out and celebrate as a community again.”
Schwartz said the club has partnered with the chamber of commerce for a number of years to help put on the parade. He said the group also runs a firework booth fundraiser to help support the rotary’s community initiatives.
“Most of our programs involve giving back — (it is) mostly high school scholarships we give back every year,” he said. “And then we also have a Backpacks for Kids program, in which we provide food for about 140 or 150 kids in elementary schools to take home on the weekends.”
Kelsey Bratt, theater manager for the family-owned Blue Fox Drive-In, said the venue will hold its second fireworks show the evening of July 4 following a successful inaugural year. The show will be followed by two films, “Boss Baby: Family Business” and “F9: The Fast Saga.”
“This is just the second year we have done it,” she said. “We decided to do it last year since there was nothing for anybody to do, so we said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ It was so successful and we have had so many people tell us it is the best firework show that they have ever been to, so we said, ‘Now we can’t quit!’”
While the show is sold-out, Bratt recommended keeping an eye on the theater’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bluefoxdrivein) for any last-minute openings. Reservations are $10 per car, in addition to the usual per person movie fee paid upon arrival at the venue. The lot will open at 4 p.m. and patrons will have the opportunity to meet firefighters from North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, race go-karts, and more.
“We might open up a couple more spots as we get closer because we are redoing our lot right now as far as the poles and so we might be able to fit a couple more cars in there,” she said. “But we do not know yet so we will post on our Facebook if a couple more spots become available.”
Bratt said the fireworks will start at dusk after the playing of the national anthem and will last for approximately 15 minutes. Once the fireworks conclude, the movies will begin. Bratt said the theater looks forward to holding the event.
“We had people talking about it all year: ‘Are you doing it again?’” she said. “‘It was so fun!’ We definitely could not let them down and not do it again.”
For those on the island looking to purchase and set off fireworks, regulations for discharge vary based on location. Approved fireworks are allowed in Oak Harbor, but are only permitted for use on private property between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. until July 5, with hours extended until 12 a.m. July 4. The town of Coupeville will allow legal fireworks between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. July 4 only. For unincorporated Island County areas, fireworks may be discharged July 3 and 5 from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 9 a.m. to midnight July 4. Fireworks are currently not allowed within city limits in Langley. For more information and safe firework suggestions, please refer to the following resources: www.oakharbor.org/community/page/city-fireworks-regulations, www.langleywa.org, and www.islandcountywa.gov/Sheriff/Pages/Home.aspx.