Tumwater's Fourth of July Parade is a hometown event, with lots of groups of children playing music and dancing, some horses and just a couple of floats.
“It’s part of the fun of being here in a small town,” said Judy Hambrick of Tumwater, who’s been at all 22 of the city’s parades. “It’s very charming.”
This year, though, the parade has a grand marshal who’s famous – at least among those who grew up in Western Washington.
It’s J.P. Patches.
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Patches, the clown played by Chris Wedes, starred in a morning kids show from 1958 to 1981 on Seattle’s KIRO-TV. He’s still making public appearances, and he still has lots of fans.
“J.P. is a big deal,” said Chuck Denney, the city’s parks and recreation director. “There are a lot of people who have let us know how excited they are about J.P. coming to town.”
Hambrick is among them. “I was so excited when I found out,” she said. “I took my son, Mark, to see J.P. Patches and Gertrude at Saint Martin’s College when (Mark) was a toddler.
“He’s going to be home from Washington, D.C., to see the parade. I was so excited that J.P. was going to be the grand marshal that I text-messaged Mark when I found out.”
Hambrick remembers watching the clown from the time his show began when she was 9 years old.
She’s just as enthusiastic about the parade. This will be her fifth year dancing in it along with fellow Jazzercise buffs who take classes with Elaine Petersen at The Olympia Center.
As has become tradition, Tumwater’s Fourth of July activities also include a festival and fireworks.
“At last year’s festival, we had just over 7,000 people,” Denney said. “That’s over half the population of Tumwater. We have people coming from all over Western Washington.”
The fireworks show, in fact, is bigger than the one Olympia puts on for Lakefair in mid-July.
“It’s the biggest show around,” Denney said. “It’s computerized and set to music. We put a lot of time and effort into it.”
The parade, though, retains a hometown feeling, in part because so many towns have Fourth of July parades that few out-of-town bands and floats participate.
“It has more the small-town community feel to it,” Denney said. “There are lot of groups of younger kids dressed up and dancing or playing instruments. It has that kind of feel where you can get a group of kids together and just jump in and be part of the event.”
The parade occupies a middle ground between the numerous floats and beauty queens of the Lakefair Parade and the spontaneity of the Procession of the Species in Olympia. For the Tumwater parade, advance registration is required, and the lineup is set.
So are Hambrick’s plans. She’ll be dancing, reserving prime viewing spots for family and friends with a red-checked cloth and chairs — and letting everyone know to give J.P. Patches plenty of applause.
“The only bummer for me is that I’ll be in the parade so I can’t see him go by,” she said. “I’ll be behind him somewhere, so my family is going to have to give him a proper welcome.”