Thousands celebrate the Fourth along Tacoma's waterfront

Staff writerJuly 4, 2014 

Thousands of people packed Tacoma’s waterfront Friday to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

The 35th annual Freedom Fair held up its end of the deal, offering what seemed like limitless opportunities to shop, eat, relax and dance. Starting at 10 a.m., people flowed down through Old Town to Ruston Way, closed to traffic and open to more than 150 vendors, 30 musical acts, a pole vaulting competition and a bike race.

The afternoon air show wouldn’t feature any military planes due to budget cuts, but civilian aircraft showed their stuff for the Fourth of July. The fair was to culminate with a fireworks show over Commencement Bay, scheduled for around 10 p.m.

“It’s a tradition. You can’t live in Tacoma and not come to Freedom Fair,” said Shannon Nollan, 22, who with her family set up their picnic blanket across from the site where the fireworks barge launches the show. They spend the day soaking up the sun, playing cards, making origami items and playing in the water.

She and her daughter, Willow, munched on lunch while her brother Ryan Nollan, 15, sat astride a log and used a stick to row along the shore.

“Every year he finds a log,” Shannon Nollan said. “It’s just his thing.”

Farther down Ruston Way, Louise and Jay Bollman were applying sun block and trying to figure out exactly what their thing might be. The Bollmans attended Freedom Fair for the first time this year, in the company of their grandson Garrett, a student attending Clover Park Technical College. First impressions?

“It’s a long walk!” Louise Bollman said. The trio planned to make it all the way to the end in search of noodles for lunch.

Along 1.5 miles of Ruston Way, the Bollmans and thousands of others had opportunities to:

Buy a mandolin

Get a henna tattoo

Remodel a bathroom

Begin a weight-loss program

Talk to members of the state political parties, and

Pick up a lawn ornament shaped like a Canada goose.

Near the kid play area, in a perfect placement of product and customer, kettle corn was for sale by the bouncy houses. Margarita Village promised to be an oasis of fresh fruit flavors, and it was, but pay attention to the small print: No alcohol.

That could be found at one of the 21-and-older beer gardens. At one near Katie Downs, three members of a vintage bicycle club arrived just after lunch to celebrate.

The club, the Skid Kings, was marking its 10th annual ride on the Fourth. Members meet regularly and ride their older-model bikes around town. Alicia Piña, Heidi Kammer and Theresa Brown parked their bikes inside the garden after pedaling down from The Spar.

“I’m a fair-weather rider,” Brown said, noting Friday’s sunny skies. The three women met through the club and now are close friends.

Several hours into the fair, organizer Gary Grape said things were going smoothly. Grape is the festival director for the nonprofit Tacoma Events Commission, which puts on Freedom Fair. Reliable crowd estimates aren’t available because admission is by donation only, but Grape said he thought the crowds came earlier than usual.

That’s music to the ears of vendors, including one hawking T-shirts to mark the day. “T-shirts, T-shirts,” he called, “going once, going twice, going all day – ‘cuz we’re nice.”

Kathleen Cooper: 253-597-8546


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