The hot cars arrived first and burned a little rubber in front of the Klopfenstines’ Marysville home. Next came a long line of SUVs, minivans and other vehicles, cautiously driven by members of an online moms group.
“You are sooo Special!” said a hand-lettered sign on one car, which was also decked out with “Happy Birthday Essie” and “Smile!”
Essance “Essie” Klopfenstine, who turned 8 on July 1, was amazed. She graciously accepted gifts and greetings, most from people she didn’t know. In a pretty white dress and a lei headband worn like a crown, Essie was the guest of honor in her own driveway.
Tuesday’s drive-by celebration happened through the efforts of good-hearted folks wanting to heal a little girl’s hurt.
Her real birthday party had been scheduled for Sunday, but nearly all the invited guests were no-shows.
“She was really bummed out,” said Sheree Mae Klopfenstine, Essie’s mom. She and her husband, Edward Klopfenstine, expected at least 20 people for the Hawaiian-tiki themed party. Invited were 10 children from school — Essie will be in third grade at Presidents Elementary in Arlington — along with family and other friends.
One best friend, a girl who takes gymnastics with Essie, did come on Sunday. There, too, were Essie’s aunt, Trisha Hicks, grandmother Frankie Hicks, called “Cha Cha” by her granddaughter, and a 1-year-old cousin.
But with a cake for 48 people, Essie in a hula outfit, the backyard pool decorated with what looked like a colorful grass skirt, a balloon bridge arched over the party table and a trampoline all set for fun, there was no hiding the birthday girl’s disappointment Sunday.
Sheree Klopfenstine wasn’t sure if the pandemic was responsible for so few showing up, but she said some invited guests had responded in advance that they’d be coming. On Sunday night, she said, “I vented.” She shared what had happened with other mothers who are part of a Marysville Moms group on Facebook. “All the moms wanted to help,” she said.
The helpers who staged Tuesday’s parade also included members of a car group, Modern Mopars of Snohomish County, who through online connections got wind of the effort.
Steven Logiudice, who heads that group, drove his green Challenger past the family’s home. He said he saw a post about the drive-by party on a Facebook page called Marysville crime and community/Snohomish County/Tulalip and Granite Falls.
“I wonder how much trouble we’re going to get into,” joked Essie’s dad as muscle cars with custom pipes and roaring engines jammed his normally quiet street.
The driver of a Dodge Viper, who didn’t share his name, said that with two young daughters of his own, he could easily imagine how sad Essie must have been when kids didn’t come to her party.
Jennifer Panages hopped out of her 2018 Mustang, bringing Essie one of the many gifts the little girl would receive Tuesday. There were LEGO sets, games, and a big toy pony with a carrying case and other accessories gift-wrapped in sparkly pink paper.
Maribel and David Bramall brought their two children, Blake, 7, and Bren, 5, to give Essie a birthday gift and hugs.
Essie’s big brothers, Kaleb, 12, and 10-year-old Paiton, stayed in the background, watching the excitement from chairs near the garage. “It’s cool,” Kaleb said.
After the parade, Essie’s mom explained to her that she’d shared on Facebook what had happened, and how people came together to make her day. With Sunday’s disappointment, “I know it hurt your heart,” the mother quietly told her daughter.
“It’s just amazing what a community can do,” Klopfenstine said later. “I want my children to know people like this.”
At age 8, and being a good little reader, Essie began opening all the birthday cards delivered during the parade. Slowly, happily, she read the words on one card: “You sure are a girl worth cheering about,” it said. “Happy Birthday Essie.”
Julie Muhlstein: firstname.lastname@example.org