Group scuttles Salty Sea Days

EVERETT – The Salty Sea Days festival, dealt a blow when the city stopped subsidizing it under a cloud of controversy in 2003, will sail no more.

“I’m very sad … now it doesn’t exist anymore,” said Marion Pope, longtime director of the festival. “It’s going to be hard on kids who depended on that to participate in.”

The annual event was established in 1970. It took place each June and included a classic car show, boat races on Silver Lake, a carnival, a parade and fireworks. The parade was its centerpiece and provided a showcase for school marching bands.

One lone event will go on, the Hui Wa’a O Puget Sound Outrigger Canoe races at Silver Lake, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.

“It was really a good festival. You know, for the kids,” said former City Councilman Dale Pope, Marion Pope’s husband, who often played Captain Salty, the leader of the festival parade.

The Salty Sea Days Association, the nonprofit group that ran the festival, has disbanded, Marion Pope said. The group took down its Web site and is making arrangements to donate its truck, trailer and float to another nonprofit group, she said.

“We wouldn’t have community support” in trying to hold the festival this year, Marion Pope said. “Our reputation and everything has been destroyed. There’s no sense going on.”

After weeks of arguments involving allegations of conflict of interest and favoritism, the Everett City Council voted in October 2003 to stop the festival’s $70,000-a-year guaranteed subsidy using city hotel tax money.

At the time, City Councilmen Mark Olson and Bob Overstreet argued that Salty Sea Days should have to compete with other events for a share of the tax money rather than automatically collecting it each year.

“I am surprised and a bit disappointed,” Overstreet said. “I think it was a community celebration that a number of people looked forward to, and it brought a large segment of the community together in a meaningful way.”

Even so, Overstreet said removing the festival’s hotel tax subsidy was the right thing to do, and now “the efforts that were pointed toward Salty Sea Days now can be pointed toward July Fourth.”

During the subsidy debate, Olson and Overstreet criticized Dale Pope for voting in budget committee hearings to fund the festival, which was run by his wife.

Marion Pope said “people were spooked” when the turmoil hit, and that eroded support for the festival.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the festival is no longer a part of the city,” Reardon said. Some community leaders said Salty Sea Days needed to be able to sustain itself, she said. “Unfortunately it was not able to do that.”

Planning begins today for the city’s Fourth of July celebration, she said.

“There’s a lot of energy and excitement about that,” Reardon said. “There will be fireworks again.”

Reporter Jennifer Warnick: 425-339-3429 or jwarnick@ heraldnet.com.

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