May 7th, 2009

Waterfront Festival boasts impressive roots

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(Note: The Anacortes Waterfront Festival, an event with a dramatic history, is scheduled May 16 & 17 at Cap Sante Boat Haven in downtown Anacortes)
By Steve Berentson
Small town histories suffer from a tendency toward exaggeration – but when it comes to the Anacortes Marineers’ Pageant there is abundant documentation for its billing as one of the most successful community events in Northwest history.
The Pageant, which is the “parent” of today’s Anacortes Waterfront Festival, was established in 1937 by local business people and Chamber of Commerce officials eager to create a “spectacular and colossal” event in this maritime community.
Although it had a lifespan of less than one decade, the Anacortes Marineers’ Pageant succeeded in achieving the status of “spectacular and colossal.” According to research by Anacortes Museum staffer Judy Painter in 1992, the 1949 Pageant drew an estimated 50,000 people. The big Saturday parade that year boasted a lineup of participants that stretched four miles.
In the summers of 1939 and 1940, when journalists including the Anacortes American’s Cornelius Root were calling for the U.S. government to prepare against possible attack by Hitler, Anacortes residents made preparations for the 3rd and 4th Annual Marineers’ Pageants. As they had from the beginning, editor/manager Root and his staff did their part to promote the Pageant.
1948 special publication
Selection of a queen and princesses was a high visibility feature of the annual Anacortes Marineers’ Pageant. A special “Pageant Edition” published by the Anacortes American in 1948 featured a number of photographs, several featuring the smiling faces of queen and contestants.
An extended caption read: “Royalty abounds at every Anacortes Marineers’ Pageant with pretty girls in abundance to participate in all the festivities. Pictured on the left are this year’s Pageant Queen contestants in official garb (captain’s hat, striped pullover shirts and baggy, knee-length pants) as they loll on the beach. They are, from left, Sylvia Soderbom, Clineene Hurley, Kathleen Meagher, Beverly Rogers, Viola Zunkel, Sally Amerman, Grace Felts and Juanita Nelson. Royalty of former years is shown in the picture above with last year’s Pageant Queen and her court of princesses partaking of the delicious salmon from the Gigantic Barbecue held every year as one of the feature attractions of the Annual Marineers’ Pageant. Queen of last year’s celebration was Doris Springer, shown in the center above with Princess Norine Oldow on the left and Princess Bonita Cross on the right. To the winners of this year’s Queen Contest there will be awarded scholarships in place of travel trips. So enthusiastic were the girls in the contest they made many trips to various parts of the state on behalf of the Pageant and its promotion. On one of the trips, as pictured at the right, they visited the University of Washington where they were shown around the campus by university officials. Dean Herbert T. Condon is shown guiding them around on the tour. In the contest, the girls are sponsored by various organizations with the American Legion sponsoring Sally Amerman, Chuck’s Place sponsoring Beverly Rogers, the Eagles sponsoring Juanita Nelson, the Elks sponsoring Grace Felts, the Lions Club sponsoring Kathleen Meagher, the Odd Fellows sponsoring Viola Zunkel and the Rotary Club sponsoring Sylvia Soderbom. Clineene Hurley ran the entire race without a sponsor.
Following are excerpts from the Anacortes American:
CG to Patrol Outboard Racing Regatta Thursday, July 20, 1939
During the waterfront activities of the Marineers’ Pageant the U.S. Coast Guard will patrol the Anacortes waterfront, it was announced this week by G.N. Dalstead, chairman of the outboard regatta. The race course of the regatta will be designated as a restricted area and all craft are warned to stand clear as the race is an officially sanctioned championship meet and winning drivers will be declared as Pacific Northwest champions and eligible for national competition. Front page photo with headline:
World Record Holder and caption: Jim Harlan, of Seattle, world record holder in the 100-mile marathon, and former coast champion driver, who is slated to appear in outboard regatta, Saturday and Sunday, August 5 and 6 (vessel was ‘pumpkin seed’ size).
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About Photographer Steve Berentson

A fourth generation Skagit County native who was moved kicking and screaming from this island community in 1960. I finally reclaimed an Anacortes address in 1980, and I have been in constant celebration of my return since that time. Many of us who call Anacortes home love Fidalgo Island for its natural assets: among them are rugged beaches, pristine lakes, thousands of acres of forestland and some awesome views of the Skagit Valley and surrounding islands. Another element of my love affair with this community is its people, both natives and immigrants. They will “star” in many of my journal entries.

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