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'It's just been a part of Bellingham for so long, it wouldn’t be Bellingham without it'

Video: Bellingham FirePipes perform at Blossomtime Parade

Bellingham FirePipes perform at the Blossomtime Parade in Bellingham, Wash., on Saturday, May 23, 2015.
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Bellingham FirePipes perform at the Blossomtime Parade in Bellingham, Wash., on Saturday, May 23, 2015.

A longtime parade will go on this Memorial Day weekend, thanks to a Marine Corps league based in Bellingham.

Capt. Daniel B. Bartle Detachment 1335 is closing in on its goal of raising $30,000 to save what had been the Blossomtime Parade, a focal point of Ski to Sea weekend.

The parade will have a new name, the Whatcom County Memorial Day Parade, although its start will still be noon at Alabama Street and Cornwall Avenue in Bellingham. Its route will remain the same as well.

Set for Saturday, May 26, the parade's theme this year is "Celebrating Our Communities, Remembering Our Heroes."

"We have saved the parade. There will be a parade, and there will be more parades after this," said league member David “Mac” McMaster, a Vietnam War combat veteran who was grand marshal of the Blossomtime Parade in 2016.

Doing so has required a lot of work in a short amount of time for the league.

"This has been a real marathon," McMaster said, "but a very quick one at that. It's an honor and a privilege to have done something like this."

The Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce announced earlier this year that it would no longer put on the Blossomtime Parade in May, citing a lack of support, difficulty in attracting parade entries and a desire to refocus the chamber’s resources and staff.

The parade traces its heritage to the first Tulip Time Festival Parade in 1920. That event faded after 1929, due to the depression, World War I and the flight of the tulip-growing industry to Skagit County.

But the parade was reborn after World War II as the Blossomtime Festival, which eventually faded in 1973, just as the Ski to Sea Race emerged as the county’s signature sporting event. The parade rolled on, with a new focal point and a new name.

When the chamber announced it would no longer organize the parade, it said then that it hoped another group would take over. In March, the Marine Corps league did just that.

"It's just been a part of Bellingham for so long, it wouldn’t be Bellingham without it," McMaster said.

McMaster said the league has nearly reached its fundraising goal of $30,000.

The money will be used to cover costs that include a new website, new radios — about 100 volunteers are involved on parade day so there's a great deal of radio traffic, McMaster explained — and safety vests.

And while the City of Bellingham and Sanitary Service Co. also are donating to the effort, the league still expects it will have to pay some money to those entities for services.

The money that's not used to for this parade will be used for expenses related to future parades, McMaster said.

"We've got it set up that way," he said. "It's going to keep going for years to come."

Parade organizers also have been reaching out to those who have marched in the past or want to be in the parade this year, giving them until May 15 to fill out the entry form.

"We'll keep the entry process open as long as possible," McMaster said.

The Chamber of Commerce also has been helping with the effort to keep the parade going.

"Everyone is coming together to continue this cherished hometown parade," said Phillip Carroll, the chairman for the league's parade committee. "We are excited to continue the tradition and honor the brave men and women who have served our country."

How to help

Learn more about the new Whatcom County Memorial Day Parade online at 1335mclbellingham.com.

The Captain Daniel B. Bartle Detachment 1335 is closing in on its goal of raising $30,000 to keep what had been the Blossomtime Parade going.

Donations can be made at the website or by making a check to Capt. D. Bartle MCL Det. 1335 and writing Whatcom Memorial Day Parade on the memo line. Mail to Marine Corps League Det. 1335, 1688 W. Bakerview Road, Bellingham, Wa. 98226.

Details: Phillip Carroll, chairman of the Marine Corps League Parade Committee, at phillipcarroll71@gmail.com​ and 360-930-9267.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea
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