Kenmore is having its Good Ol' Days festival tomorrow. And it turns out the partying is far more than your usual summer festival, instead...

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Kenmore is having its Good Ol’ Days festival tomorrow.

And it turns out the partying is far more than your usual summer festival, instead representing a community’s efforts to find itself, to establish an identity, to go back to its roots.

That might not be easy to do, because when people think of Kenmore, many probably think of … what? Seaplanes? A concrete plant?

After all, Kenmore as a city is only seven years old. Before 1998, it had all the legal status of a wheat field in Eastern Washington. Even now, the city has only 17 employees. City Hall is in a former bank building.

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It’s partly to try to remedy that lack of image that the festival got started in the first place, said Carter Hawley, assistant city manager.

“It was put together when there was no city, there was no staff,” Hawley said. “Citizens wanted to celebrate the incorporation. This is absolutely a community event.”

That search for a kind of brand awareness for Kenmore’s 19,000 residents has resulted in several other outward symbols of the city’s existence, including a city insignia with images of an airplane and ducks, and the slogan, “Kenmore, by the Lake.” The city even hangs banners over its main north-south street to notify the populace of City Council meetings to be held in outlying neighborhood locations about every three months; extensive information also is available on the city’s Web site: www.cityofkenmore.com.

Kenmore’s Good Ol’ Days


Today’s events Fun run, 10:30 a.m.; car show, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; community parade, 5 p.m.; street dance, 6-8 p.m.; fireworks, 8:15 p.m.

Where Most events will take place in the area along Northeast 181st Street between 67th and 68th avenues northeast, where City Hall is located. The fireworks will be shot off over Lake Washington at Log Boom Park.

And the festival itself, started before Kenmore officially became a city on Aug. 31, 1998, has led to some striking accomplishments of its own.

One is that the original festival-organizing led to the formation of the Kenmore Heritage Society, which has published a glossy, 174-page illustrated history of Kenmore, addressing the question of how a place that’s officially only 7 years old can have much of a history. Copies are available at City Hall, 6700 N.E. 181st St., for $25.

As the society’s publication, written largely by Priscilla Droge, explains in detail, Kenmore has eons of history, dating to when it was buried under the ice sheets of glaciers, moving on through earthquakes and landslides that buried forests underwater in Lake Washington off its shoreline, and continuing to such events as the purchase of the property in 1871 by Philo Remington, of repeater-rifle fame.

And was there a Mr. Kenmore, after whom the city was named? No. The name was taken from a city in Ontario, Canada, because the place reminded a shingle-mill owner of his hometown. Going further back, Kenmore, Ont., was named after Kenmore, Scotland, and recent trans-Atlantic expeditions have been conducted by Washington Kenmoreites to visit Scottish Kenmoreites, leading to postal exchanges and other roots-building adventures.

That airplane on the city insignia? Kenmore at one time had two airfields, one where a Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters now stands near Interstate 405, and another in the Inglewood area. Kenmore Air Harbor, site of the country’s largest seaplane base and famous for its movie- and TV-star Beaver airplanes — Harrison Ford flew one in “Six Days, Seven Nights” — dates to 1946, when it started with a 36-horsepower Aeronca.

The city has plenty of other threads in its heritage, including as a Prohibition-era bootlegging area that established a reputation throughout the Seattle area in the 1930s, and later as a place to go for great food at roadhouses with names such as My Old Southern Home and The Cat’s Whiskers Cafe.

Beginning in 1953, the Kenmore Drive-In Theater hosted innumerable kids in pajamas who went to movies with their parents. In 1978, the property became a now-closed park-and-ride, and now it’s the site of a new city skateboard park, just north of City Hall, that is being dedicated at 1 p.m. tomorrow as part of Good Ol’ Days.

When it originated seven years ago, the festival was put on by volunteers and city staff members.

Three years ago, the city decided to let professionals handle it. Kenmore contracted with Bold Hat Festivals & Events of Fremont, which has won awards for staging the Fremont Oktoberfest and the U-District Street Fair.

At Bold Hat, the Good Ol’ Days project manager is Kelly Hayden, a 2003 University of Colorado graduate who had worked in promotions and always wanted to live in Seattle.

“This is kind of the [city’s] annual birthday celebration,” she said. “It captures that old nostalgia spirit.”

One of the reasons it’s no longer in August — when it had been held and when the city was founded — is that the Inglemoor High School marching band was recruited to be a big part of the festival parade, and the band isn’t around in the summer.

The entire event is community-based, said Hawley, the assistant city manager, with few outside participants — even the Seafair Pirates were turned away.

“What keeps everyone here is we’re building this place,” said Hawley, explaining that it’s not often that people get to be in on the founding of a new city, in an old community.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or pwhitely@seeattletimes.com