Share story

At 11:15 Saturday morning, an urgent call went out on a Vashon Island walkie talkie.

“You’ve got to get out here,” the boy said breathlessly. “Nelson and Riley are swordfighting in the street!”

Actually, they were fighting in the island’s Strawberry Festival Parade, a long-running annual event, part of the weekend Strawberry Festival, where anything goes. Here gas-guzzling antique tractors were followed by electric cars. Goats walked alongside tricycles. A bevy of ukulele strummers marched ahead of a shopping-cart drill team.

And thousands of spectators watched as two 11-year-old boys, with sweaty heads and streamers on their socks, joined the parade with their homemade swords. One dressed as a Cub Scout, the other as a bear — which, of course, explains the animosity.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

“It’s so random, you can just do anything,” Nelson Giorgini said of the all-comers event.

“It’s basically Vashon, in a parade,” added Riley Heryford.

Quirky? You betcha. And it’s one of the highlights of the summer season. The ukulele players, for instance, start planning for next year’s parade tomorrow. The tractors — some 20 of them — rumble out of storage. “Just as long as they run,” said Rob Wheeler, who owns four of them.

And for months, the Island Market’s shopping-cart drill team practices its moves.

“Here’s the kicker,” said team member Kevin Ross. “We have to wait till we close our store at 9:30. We run around the streets of Vashon doing this until 11 p.m.!”

Ross, the longtime drill sergeant, runs his team through some tough routines, including “presenting the carts,” chants, and a complex maneuver called the “egg beater.” Words just can’t do it justice. The crowd roars.

Along the way, Ross quizzes them on grocery know-how. One young fellow committed the unfortunate error of saying that you bag the eggs on the bottom and the cans on top.

“I made him do push-ups,” Ross said. Another team member wore a clip-on tie. “I was able to pull it off him!” Ross said, shaking his head.

“They’re also forbidden to smile” while marching,” he said. “We’re about getting everything right, and precision and seriousness.”

Just like Vashon itself.

Maureen O’Hagan: 206-464-2562 or mohagan@seattletimes.comAt

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.