In 2004, the city of Brier's parks board was gearing up for the third annual SeaScare parade. The all-volunteer board came up with the idea for SeaScare, a homegrown play on "Seafair," for this south Snohomish County community of 6,000.
"We went to the mayor with it," board chair Ken Overstreet said. "He said, 'If you boys can pull it off, go.'"
Barnacle Billy, a sea creature, also gained a friend: Carmichael the Sea Cucumber. But that came later.
Over the years, the parks board volunteers wrote a song and made a movie about the two mascots. Most of their ideas are hatched the same way -- while sharing food and drinks at Brier Pizza.
Mayor Bob Colinas called the board's momentum "fantastic."
"You have to appreciate those with the imagination to bring enjoyment to the rest of us," he said.
Barnacle Billy was created by former parks board volunteer and retired Brier library board member Dee Williamson.
Williamson remembered "H.R. Pufnstuf," a "snaggletoothed sea monster" from a 1960s children's television show, she said.
"I took a look at that and said, 'Yeah, that's what we need,'" she said. "I started playing around in my garage with hula hoops and other stuff I could find."
The Billy costume needed to be lightweight and adjustable. She added custom suspenders. She used a bar stool to frame the costume as she worked. Wires formed the body shape.
For the tentacles, Williamson sewed sleeves and stuffed them with packing materials.
The tentacles needed suckers. She found recycled film-canister lids at a craft store.
"I bought a whole mess of those and sewed those on," she said.
In the beginning, the board and Billy visited local businesses that sponsor SeaScare and snapped pictures. Barnacle Billy was unveiled at the parade that year.
Soon afterward, board volunteer Craig Harris, who has lived in Brier for 25 years, came up with Carmichael the Sea Cucumber. Harris was watching TV on Groundhog Day, he said.
He decided the sea cucumber would predict the weather every year for SeaScare. Carmichael has no eyes to see its shadow, so it always predicts sunshine.
"(Harris) comes up with these harebrained ideas, and we just put them into motion," Overstreet said. "You should see the ideas we throw out."
Harris used to work for the Seattle parks department. A friend at the Seattle Aquarium told him they were getting rid of some old stuff.
Harris snagged a replica of an octopus arm molded in latex. He used silicone caulk to add little spines.
Carmichael came to life.
Every year before school gets out, the volunteers take the two mascots to Brier Elementary to visit the children and promote the upcoming SeaScare parade.
"Barnacle Billy comes in, and the kids all go nuts," Overstreet said.
Carmichael even got a song. Harris wrote the words and the melody, and his wife, Diane Graham, a retired Edmonds School District music teacher, wrote the sheet music.
Kids who know the song and sing it at Brier Pizza can get free ice cream, Overstreet said.
"We like to think that down the road, 40 years from now, when these kids run into each other and find out they all went to Brier Elementary, they'll ask each other if they remember the sea cucumber song," he said.
They also made amovie, which shows Carmichael coming to Brier for the first time from the sea.
"We had Carmichael the Sea Cucumber himself, and we put him on a little push scooter, and we tied fishing line to it and took it around to various places in Brier," Harris said. "We took it to the skateboarding park, and we let it go down the ramps and stuff, and we videotaped that."
They also attached a portable camera to the creature and dubbed it the "Carmichael Cam." Harris broke off a soup ladle to provide Carmichael with a "safety helmet."
They show the movie when they visit the elementary school.
The volunteers take turns being Barnacle Billy. During SeaScare, they usually pay a neighborhood kid $20 to don the costume for the parade, Overstreet said.
So where does the story of these two sea creatures take place, in a city roughly five miles from Puget Sound?
The Brier Yacht Club, of course.
And what's that?
"It's made up," Overstreet said. "It's on Brier Bay where Barnacle Billy lives."
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; email@example.com.
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