The People Behind The Parade

It’s an event that has become a part of the fabric of this community,
— Penny Sweet, Kirkland Mayor

Whether you grew up attending the 4th of July Parade in Kirkland for the past 20 years or attended for the first time last week, the sights, smells, and sounds of the parade are undeniably memorable.  

Thousands have attended the annual parade for the past two decades, but we wanted to learn more as to how it all comes together so we interviewed Tessa Hansen and our Mayor, Penny Sweet, to learn more about what happens behind the scenes! 

What is your role within the parade? 

Penny: I am the chair of the parade. But we both run it together. We do everything from design t-shirts, create the theme, find bands to play, create the parade order, buy all of the supplies for the children’s parade, manage all of the vendors, order all of the rentals, fill out all of the paperwork, and everything in between! 

How many years has the parade been around? 

Penny: 20 years! I started the parade so it really holds a special place in my heart. 

At what point of the year does the planning begin? 

Tessa: We have our first official meeting in the spring. From that point on we delegate tasks and take it from there. 

Penny: We don’t change much from year to year. People really like that it has a small town feel. 

What makes the Kirkland 4th of July parade different than other parades?

Penny: Downtown Kirkland as a backdrop for the parade is beautiful! It provides a small town feel, its quirky, it has character. The streets are also narrow which makes the audience feel like they are right in the action. There are thousands that come out, but it is our community. You can’t go two people without seeing someone you know. That makes it a really unique experience to be around so many people but still feel so intimate! 

What is the schedule of events on the day of the parade? 

Tessa: There are two parades that take place. The first is the children’s parade at 10am. 

Penny: Thousands of kids gather in the morning and we have so many fun things for them to decorate their bikes with, like beads and spinners, then they walk in the parade. Last year there were 5,000 kids that participated, and they just go and go and go!

Tessa: Then the main parade starts, with creative floats from our community. This year we had a float with 20 mermaids on it! We finish the parade with the Wheels of Boom, which is 18 cars that are decked out for the Seahawks. There is even one that has a model of a mini CenturyLink field. Then they drive back to Marina Park where we have a static display. After the parade we have a picnic, a band plays for a few hours and then a DJ plays into the night. 

Penny: At 10:15pm the fireworks show starts and closes out another 4th of July!

Where is the ideal spot to watch the parade? 

Penny: The parade is awesome from any spot!

Do you have any advice for parade goers for next year?

Penny: Get there early and set up a chair. We have people come out that morning, or even the night before to put out chairs. Also consider an alternate form of transportation like the bus or ridesharing apps. Parking is limited and it gets crowded very quickly. 

What happens after the festivities are over: 

Penny: We come back on July 5th and clean everything up. We usually have volunteers come down and help us and it takes us a few hours but we get it done as a team. 

Can businesses join the parade?

Penny: Yes! We encourage businesses and organizations in the community to enter the parade. The entry fee is $100. Start thinking about it for next year! 

What is your favorite parade memory? 

Penny: There is a local scholarship, The Chris Neir Scholarship, and the prompt is “Why you love growing up in Kirkland?”. They started sending me entries because so many students had written about the 4th of July Parade as their favorite part of growing up in Kirkland! So to answer your question, my favorite memory of the parade is helping the community make their memories. Overall it’s an event that has become a part of the fabric of this community, I cannot imagine it not happening, a legacy that I am proud of. 

For more information, to volunteer, or to enter your business in the parade next year, visit

Our goal at Windermere Kirkland is to be a resource for the community. Aside from helping you buy or sell your home, our team is dedicated to adding value to our city. Every other Tuesday we will be posting a blog post highlighting different people, businesses, communities, and more throughout Kirkland. Stay tuned! 

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Mike Connolly