Where: Downtown Gig Harbor
When: First weekend in June
A community celebration on a grand scale, the Gig Harbor Maritime Gig Festival. takes place the first full weekend of June. Rain or shine this two-day, family and pet-friendly festival has 6,000 to 8,000 people attend each day, and the numbers just keep growing. Vendors, activities, live music and local traditions make this one of the most popular festivals in Western Washington.
What You Need To Know
Saturday 8:30 am to 9 pm features a vendor marketplace, Live music, Grande parade, and a 5k family fun run.
Sunday 10 am to 5 pm features Live music, the “Blessing of the Fleet” parade and ceremony tradition and a new and classic car show at Skansie Brothers Park.
The city provides transportation to this large downtown festival with the Pierce Transit Trolley from the Kimball Park and Ride to Judson Street. See the full information on getting to the festival here.
Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather as everything takes place outdoors. Bring lawn chairs and/or blankets for the parade and live music in the park as all seating is on the sidewalk or grass.
In 1998 the Chamber of Commerce, after being encouraged by local businesses started this festival. Years before the businesses had sponsored Holidays in the Harbor which included fireworks and a water skiing exhibition. Eventually it became too large for the infrastructure of the small business district to manage and it was discontinued.
When the Chamber took action, like the earlier event, the Maritime Gig Festival centered on the 50+ year “Blessing of the Fleet” and a community Downtown Grande Parade.
The Grande Parade
All weekend there are live music, events, and activities, but the main event on Saturday is The Grande Gig Parade which kicks off the festival at 10 am. The parade route is a mile in length and runs along the main street along the waterfront where thousands line up to watch.
The parade itself is a well-coordinated, large production with 150 floats, trucks, and cars. The nearly 2,000 people that walk in the parade are managed by over 100 volunteers.
The synergy is great with the audience and participants waving at friends and family, candy being passed out, and chanting and singing to music performances. Pirates, Daffodil queens, costumes, and marching bands are some of the most popular aspects of the parade.
The parade entries are judged by a panel in 12 categories from Best depiction of the parade theme to most original and the Mayor’s Choice.
One of the longest traditions is the Peninsula Library System synchronized librarians. These ladies have been doing the parade for years and many have been with the library system for 20+ years. They put on a synchronized performance throughout the parade using rolling book carts. They practice for months and at the last parade, they said, “We have a reputation to keep up! We are one of the longest traditions of the parade, so we make sure to put on a precise performance!” It’s really an example of how much tradition and value the community has invested in this event.
On Saturday the festival makes the most of having the streets closed by having the US Bank Family Fun Run and a marketplace of 76 businesses, food, nonprofit, and craft vendors.
Wheels on the Water Car Show
Sunday, the day of the “Blessing of the Fleet” tradition, also features the “Wheels on the Water Car Show”, located right in downtown between Pioneer and Rosedale Streets. A fantastic display of new and classic cars.
Cars arrive between 9 and 10 am and are on display until 3.
Gig Harbor has a strong vintage car community and the slots in this event always sell out. The competitive show is judged in 14 categories.
Admission is free, car registration runs $15-25.
Live Music and Entertainment
A big draw that really makes the festival a celebration is two live stages scheduled with popular cover and original bands and local performers.
Every year the Gig festival changes up events and schedules but there is always first class live music and performers. One popular standard is the local group known as “The Shy Boys”. They always draw a large crowd whether its is at the Maritime Gig Festival or Summer Concerts in the Park.
Some other past entertainers include The Reptile Man, Scott Petersen, Steve The Pretty Good, Comedian/Magician, and various tribute performers.
In the past there has also been a “Kids Performance Area” showcasing local up and coming youth. The park is a great venue right on the waterfront where you can bring chairs and blankets and have a home base for the festivities.
With changes each year, you can always expect something new, but some of the past features of the festival have included interactive fishing activities at the Skansie Net Shed in Skansie Brothers Park, A Children’s Fair with interactive activities, and games, Exhibits at the Harbor History Museum and the historic Boatshop, and an Antique and Classic Yacht Festival.
You can see why this Community Celebration tops the list of Western Washington festivals each year.