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Fireworks on the Fjord shoot away rainy skies

POULSBO — “It was supposed to be 70 today — somebody lied,” Mary Graves observed from the safety of Kvelstad Pavilion Wednesday as rain burst through the darkening skies, sending crowds at Waterfront Park rushing for the cover of umbrellas.

But while the weatherman’s forecast was off a tad on the temperature, Graves and thousands of others who gathered in Poulsbo to participate in the annual pre-Independence Day bash had to smile when the quick shower subsided and allowed everyone to dry off and enjoy Courtesy Ford’s Fireworks on the Fjord.

The highly anticipated show didn’t disappoint and lit up the skies over Liberty Bay with beautiful flowers of light.

After the first boom, Graves and the crew from Community Event Productions — which organized the event — finally had a chance to relax. The small non-profit group had spent the day running around Anderson Parkway and beyond to ensure everything from the seed-spitting contest to the arrival of Norway’s Vestre Gausdal Concert Band went smoothly. As a result, the entire day was a tremendous success.

With the “Over the Edge” Choo Choo tooting in the background and the smell of fine food in the air, caller Clyde Bell and his 4-H 2x4 square dancers were having a swinging good time on the parkway promenading, recycling and “dos-eye-doing” their square dance steps with expert precision. The black and plum-colored dresses were as hard to miss as the smiles that adorned the young dancers’ faces.

“We’re always looking for new teens and kids who want to join us,” said 2x4 mom Sandy Scott, adding that lessons start in September. “They have lots of fun. They like to come out and dance and then go to the eating contests.”

They were not alone in this endeavor and as the Norwegian band prepared to take the stage at Kvelstad, Albertson’s manager Steve Stenberg and company were busying themselves preparing for some of the best fun under the sun — watermelon seed spitting.

Despite the rush, Stenberg took a moment to observe the musical procession, noting, “It’s always good to have a band.”

And, for contestants, a good headwind.

“These are smaller seeds,” remarked 2001 Watermelon Seed-Spitting Queen Mary Jackson-Stewart. “Plus there’s a side wind.”

While Jackson-Stewart, who was elated with last year’s winning mark of 25-feet, 5-inches, was making excuses though other contenders were having great expectorations up and down Anderson Parkway.

“Twenty-three-seven? Oh my,” she said, as Stenberg read off a recent launch. “I’m getting a little bit nervous.”

Bremerton resident Staci Oakes’ projection of 31-feet, 4-inches didn’t help and literally blew away the competition.

“I just took a deep breath and spit hard,” Oakes said with a smile. “It was crazy.”

But Poulsbo’s own Jackson-Stewart was not put off by the loss and realized that it’s not whether you win or lose but whether or not you spit.

“I was still a contender,” she pointed out.

So was Kit Wheeler from New Castle, who ending up edging out last year’s top launch by a single inch with a spit of nearly 38 feet.

“How far was that?” competitor Leo Garick asked Stenberg, after Wheeler shot the winning seed 37-feet, nine-inches. “I can’t even see that far.”

When asked about the event, Wheeler just shrugged and said, “I just took a big breath. We came all the way from New Castle for the Poulsbo Third of July.”

He’ll be driving home a winner.

An event that could very well be renamed, the “slurps heard around the world,” was next as dozens of kids and adults bellied up to the table to chomp down in the Albertson’s watermelon eating contest. Strategies varied but red-rimmed lips and juice splattered chins and shirts told the tale of just how dedicated the melon-loving contestants were.

“Owww,” 14-year-old Chad Gibbs yelped as his face contorted into a mask of despair. The Poulsbo resident grabbed at his neck in a vain attempt to warm it up after chowing a chunk of chilly ice cream in the Dairy Queen-sponsored eating contest.

Countless others suffered the same fate Wednesday, trying to balance their competitive nature with the need to avoid the dreaded effects of “brain freeze.”

The three-course contest meal was apparently served in reverse but this didn’t deter Domino’s Pizza lovers from grabbing a chair and munching through a slice of delight faster than humanly possible.

Contestants Russell Scott and Jeffrey King had a method to their madness as they scarfed through their triangle respective triangles while taking minima “damage” to their clothing. Somehow, Russell, a return contestant from the 2001 event, again managed to get cheese up his nose.

Having eaten their fill, visitors and residents of North Kitsap alike were ready to be entertained and were stunned into silence as the Marine Drill Team took the parkway, spinning their rifles and marching with such precision they must have been set to a Swiss watch.

Not as quiet but just as entertaining were Oregon’s Rose City Waterskiers, a group that never fails to wow the crowd with their high-flying, death-defying leaps and bounds on Liberty Bay. As the waters swooshed and swirled, folks laced up their shoes to dance and twirl to the hard-driving rock and roll tunes of the U.S. Navy Band Northwest “Passage.” The group certainly set the stage here in Little Norway for what turned out to be an explosive evening of fun for everyone.

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