PORT TOWNSEND — Fort Worden’s parade grounds will be filled with games, music, vendors and food today, as well as 3,000 or so adults and little ones gathering to experience The Old School 4th of July, Port Townsend-style.
The events begin at 4 p.m. and end when all the fireworks are launched from the beach, beginning at 10 p.m. An additional 2,000 revelers are expected to arrive to view the show.
Everyone enjoys a big community event like this, but it takes a lot of management, coordination and a small village of people to make it happen.
Danny Milholland and his company, Thunderbull Productions, is behind the fun.
“This is the fourth year for this event,” Milholland said. “The past three have been in conjunction with the Jefferson County Chamber. This year, they handed it over to me, so I’m the event manager.”
His team is composed of several paid staff and 40 volunteers that help out during the event throughout the day. Prior to the event, he has a dozen or so “helpers” that hang banners and signage and do other tasks.
Milholland said what’s makes this event work so well is the community collaboration.
“It not just a nod of support or financial support, it’s active support, too. People are physically on the ground working to make this happen,” he said. “Government, nonprofit, business, community members — it’s a symphony of collaboration.”
“East Jefferson Fire-Rescue is an active partner. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office secures the perimeter of the area where the fireworks will be with their boat out there. Washington State Parks does a lot of traffic control inside the park. Port Townsend Police Department does traffic control outside the park for the mass exodus at the end of the night.”
He said the bleachers were donated by the Little League and were delivered by Fort Worden PDA. The Sea Scouts helped with creating the parking area, and the fencing was borrowed from the Rhododendron Festival Association.
Milholland said the sanicans are pretty special this year.
“It’s the first time Good Man Sanitation’s mobile trailer has ever been used, so this is a trial run for that particular unit,” he said. “Also, the Jefferson County PUD and Good Man have teamed up to completely fund the cost of sanitation, which is about $2,000. There are 14 cans on site and two are ADA accessible. We have two hand wash stations, with five nozzles. Sanicans are stationed on the beach, on the parade grounds, and there are a couple for vendors and staff.”
Milholland said so many fun events that take place throughout the day are fan favorites.
“The Tug O’ War is one of the epic moments during the day. I always enjoy the events where I don’t know what to expect, like a walnut sack race and hoop-jousting. Those are two new events that I’m excited to see how they will happen.”
“Ultimately I want people to have a great time and feel a sense of community and be safe. Feel connected to a strong sense of community which is built into the essence of the event. All these collaborations strengthen the relationships we have in the community, having everyone talking to each other and working together.
“It all contributes to our cool community having a good time.”
Milholland points out that everyone leaves pretty much at the same time at the end of the night.
“We have a very robust exodus plan that we’ve been cultivating over the past few years and it’s pretty smooth and pretty painless. Everyone is completely clear from the park within an hour.”
“I’m keeping track of all of the moving parts of the event,” he said. “It’s a lot. I love Excel spreadsheets … they are my friends.”
Milholland is looking forward to welcoming people to Port Townsend’s big party.
“I’m like Uncle Sam, Jefferson County-style,” he said.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].