Before The Parade Passes Me By

So, for years, I’ve been the voice of a couple of parades–the Bothell Freedom Festival Parade and the 17th of May Norwegian Constitution Day Parade in Ballard.

That includes at least 15 years in Bothell and another 10 in Ballard. So, I’ve got a combined 25 years’ worth of farting around and making smart-Alec remarks about what goes on before me as the parade passes me by.

In Bothell, my co-hosts over the years have included Joyce Goedeke, Joy Johnston, Judge Michelle Gehlsen, Dr. Eric Murray, and Bothell Civic Leader Mike Rue. While behind the mike in Ballard, I’ve hung out with Dori Monson, M.J. McDermott, Karen Pauley and Bjorn Nalum. Yeah, you can tell by the rotating names, I’m hard to get along with.

However, several weeks ago, I got the email that Bothell no longer needed my services and after a decade of doing the play-by-play for the city cable channel, I was officially retired. That’s fine. Time moves on and because of COVID, it’s been three years since the last time I had done a parade. I get it.

Now, normally, the place where I broadcast in Ballard over the loudspeakers to the crowd is where the judges make their decisions on who wins which awards, and it is THE place to be at the Syttende Mai Parade. But this year, things took a turn.

I was informed that my co-host of the past couple of years for the 17th of May parade was not going to be able to make it this year. Then, I was told the judges would no longer be based at my broadcast location, but rather an earlier stop along the parade route. So, it would be just me, on my own, from a new location in Ballard known as Bergen Place Park–I was still honored to be able to do it, but needless to say, my enthusiasm was dampened.

Then, I got an idea. A real Norwegian that I have a great rapport with, Ozzie Kvithammer, could be my new co-host. Slip him a couple of Aquavits and God knows what could come out of his mouth. He agreed, so brace yourself.

If you are planning to head down to Ballard for the big parade on the 17th of May, by all means, get within earshot of our broadcast to the crowd at 20th & Market and I promise, we’ll be at least entertaining. If nothing else, you’ll want to say you were there when we actually said THAT over the loudspeakers. The streets start packing in there around 4pm, the parade steps off at 6pm.

I’m down to just one parade, but I’m looking very forward to making this one really count.

Tim Hunter

The Norwegian Tradition Continues

Seattle’s Ballard Neighborhood has long been a gathering place for Scandinavians, particularly Norwegians.  Through the 1800’s, people in Norway heard about this place called America and how this spot on the west coast felt similar to their homeland, while also full of opportunity.

To this day, lots of fishing fleets are based in Ballard. The TV show, “The Deadliest Catch” brought it into our living rooms. The area became known as, “Snoose Junction.” The biggest party of the year is always “Seafoodfest”, with three days of bands, crafts and lots of seafood.

But this year is different, as you know. Seafoodfest has been officially scrapped for this year, while other traditions are being postponed with a hope of rescheduling. But there’s only one 17th of May and this year, the annual Syttende Mai parade through downtown Ballard was canceled.

For us, we had turned the celebration into a two-day affair, grabbing a room at the Hotel Ballard and living there for a couple of days. There was a big luncheon at noon, followed by assorted happy hours and then, the 17th of May Parade that marched down 24th, and made a left on Market Street. For the past 7 years, I’ve had the honor of announcing the parade from the official grandstand.

Again, this year was different and the parade, the luncheon, the singing at Bergen Place, all canceled. That meant a 130-year-old tradition was at risk. I mean, c’mon, they even marched over a century ago during the Spanish Flu outbreak. Of course, that could have been what fueled that Second Wave we keep hearing about.

One day, I thought, “What if a few of us got together, maintaining our social distance, and put on a Syttende Mai parade of our own?”  I passed the idea along to a few members of the community and the next thing you know, we had a plan.

We had to walk a fine line because, in accordance with the Governor’s orders, there were to be no gatherings.  The official parade organizers wanted nothing to do with this, because they didn’t want to risk losing their official Seafair-sanctioned status. So, we kept it to a handful of people, who dressed up and, at the exact time the big parade would have stepped off, we began down the route in our cars, wearing masks and honking our horns.

But rather than telling you, why don’t I show you exactly what happened.

The streak remained intact. The tradition continued.

And if even for a couple of hours on that pandemic Sunday afternoon, the spirit of Syttende Mai lived on.

Skål.

Tim Hunter