Armed Forces Day one of best ever

Mother Nature shone brightly for

at least one day.

The storm of controversy boiling in the week leading up to Armed Forces Day failed to materialize as the sun shone brightly upon downtown Bremerton as thousands gathered to honor all of those serving in the nation’s military services on May 17.

“We were thrilled with the entire festival,” said Bremerton Chamber of Commerce executive director Silvia Klatman. “Although it’s difficult to quantify how many people attended the parade, we do know that more than 1,000 people were served at the Heroes Barbecue, more than 200 golfers were at the Pepsi Armed Forces Golf Tournament and the Navy League Gala was sold out.”

The Bremerton Central Lions Club and the Masons got the day off to an early start with a pair of pancake breakfasts sending the tempting smells of sausage, pancakes and fresh coffee into the crisp morning air.

“Everything’s going smoothly,” said Lions pancake breakfast organizer Rae Ann Randall. “It’s almost time for our morning rush.”

As they have for the last 48 years, Lions stepped up and delivered a hearty breakfast for festival-goers looking for the perfect place to view the parade.

Before the parade, the Pepsi Armed Forces Festival Golf Tournament delivered two big surprises as local golfers made history, Klatman said.

“Not one but two golfers shot holes in one on the 7th hole,” she said. “Unfortunately, the prize was on the 17th hole, but the golfers were still thrilled as were the hole sponsors from Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort who were at the hole when it happened.”

After the parade more than 1,000 people were served at the Heroes Barbecue, she said.

“The community came together to provide hot dogs, chips and beverages with high school students and Rotarians as the chefs,” she said. “The high school students were unbelievable — they obtained donations, picked up everything at Costco, bussed tables, collected garbage after the event.”

Those efforts earned a special thank you from Admiral Gary Roughead, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, who took the time to personally thank them for their work.

The parade itself was better than ever in its 60th year, Klatman said.

“We had quite a number of new entries including Snohomish High School’s mounted MCJROTC unit, which won the award for equestrian units, and the Olympic Bird Fanciers club, which won first place for their amazing Tiki hut float,” she said. “Hawkins Middle School unveiled their brand new uniforms at this parade and we welcomed Franklin High School from Oregon in their first Armed Forces Day appearance.”

With Armed Forces being the central focus on the parade, many of the entries exemplified the true spirit of the celebration, she said.

“As is our custom, the Combat Veterans International ended the parade with their moving tribute to the men and women currently serving in our Armed Forces,” she said. “The energy created by nearly 100 motorcycles lining Pacific Avenue and spilling over to Fourth is difficult to describe. Saluting active duty personnel and reaching out to personally thank them brought tears to everyone’s eyes.”

While there was plenty of fun downtown, Kitsap Lake was the site of the Kitsap Hydrofest, which brought people from across the state to compete, she said.

“The weather turned out just perfect for a weekend of boat racing,” she said.

The city of Bremerton and Bremerton Police Department did an excellent job throughout the entire weekend, she said.

“They work hard but receive very little recognition for what they do,” Klatman. “We’ve received numerous compliments about how easy the city and police are to work with. We are fortunate to have good people who work hard year after year to help our community celebrate Armed Forces Day.”

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