By Cathy Logg
It seemed like the Fourth of July. Hundreds of American flags waved in the breeze under a blue sky stitched with pearly cotton-candy clouds. Red, white and blue colors blazed everywhere, and patriotism rang in the streets.
Residents and visitors alike celebrated Granite Falls Railroad &Reunion Days with a real grass-roots festival. While they celebrated, played games, shopped at the craft booths and feasted on barbecue and numerous other goodies, underlying the festivities was a somber remembrance of those killed or affected by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Even the Granite Falls High School classes, which tried to outshout each other in declaring their class’s "power" during the parade, turned to a different chant, "God bless America," to cheers from thousands of people lining the parade route.
"It’s wonderful!" Granite Falls firefighter Bill Dane said as he hastily prepared fresh barbecue beef sandwiches for sale. "This is an incredible turnout. I think it was a good relief for people."
"This is unusual. It’s tenfold normal. We usually have a good turnout, but this is the biggest crowd I’ve seen in the eight years I’ve been here," he said.
Firefighters were a big part of the celebrations. They provide toys for needy children during the holidays, sponsor a Little League team, raise money for the Northwest Burn Foundation, work on fire safety education and fund high school scholarships.
During the festival, they gave away smoke detectors to people who needed them, gave children plastic fire helmets and raffled off 40 bicycle helmets. The Firefighters Association, the social arm of the department, sold dozens of home-baked goods to raise money for the Christmas toy drive.
"We were a little apprehensive," fire chief Rick Hjelle said. "This morning, it was raining hard here. But the skies cleared up and we’re having a great day."
Granite Falls police officer Brian Nowlan estimated the crowd at 5,000.
Festival-goers filled Granite Avenue, where one exhibit featured an all-terrain vehicle race with a real starting light.
"I’ve come probably since the beginning and there’s a lot more people, a lot bigger parade than they had last year. There’s more people out and about," said Gary Allen of Marysville.
He particularly thought the ATV races were "pretty neat." Even some real-life bikers took time out from a barbecue at the Spar Tree Tavern to enjoy the roar of the engines.
Smaller festival fans favored the other noisiest part of the day — the resounding booms from the Seafair Pirates’ guns and the cannon on their ship float.
"They were great," said Kayana Smith, 5.
Her friend, Kenndra Arndt, 6, agreed, but added, "They were scary," with a giggle. Both girls live in Granite Falls.
You can call Herald Writer Cathy Logg at 425-339-3437
or send e-mail to email@example.com.