This is the centennial of Ballard's lack-of-independence day!

Faced with having to "celebrate" an historical annexation by Seattle, a ruggedly independent neighborhood ponders what to do.
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The Ballard bell tower will be draped in black to mark the 100th anniversary of the town's annexation by Seattle. (City of Seattle)

Faced with having to "celebrate" an historical annexation by Seattle, a ruggedly independent neighborhood ponders what to do.

Ballard isn't taking the 100th anniversary of its annexation by the City of Seattle lying down. Long the butt of jokes on the old Almost Live! TV show and "Scandihoovian"-isms, Ballard is tired of Seattle getting all the credit for its many assets while forcing the locals to absorb ridicule for occasional quirks. While Mayor Greg Nickels basks in the national limelight of Sustainable Ballard (thanks to Al Gore), all too often one still hears recycled humor about seat belts hanging out the doors of 1968 Chrysler low-riders, scraping the pavement, and T-shirts reading, "My Mom and Dad Went to Ballard and All I Got Was A Lousy Lutefisk." These 100 years of goofing on Ballard – plus the fact the city didn't really want to be annexed back in 1907 but had to because it had an inadequate water supply – had some neighborhood denizens up in arms as the official annexation ceremony loomed. The centennial is today – Tuesday, May 29. Leading the charge was Beth Williamson Miller, executive director of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, a lively and progressive organization despite what you might think, this being Ballard and all. Miller issued the following proclamation to Chamber "members and friends": Make sure you clear your calendar for next Tuesday, May 29, at 3 p.m. for our Annexation Anti-Celebration. [A] team from Pacific Fishermen, Opperman Design, GM Nameplate, National Bird Control and other assorted interested members will help me in fixing the bell in the Bell Tower so we can ring it in remembrance of that fateful day in 1907 when the City of Seattle took us over ... On Tuesday, the actual date that we lost our independence 100 years ago, the [City Hall] bell tower will be draped in black, just as it was in 1907. I encourage everyone to wear black or at least a "Free Ballard" t-shirt from Archie McPhee's. Wear a black arm band. Put a "Free Ballard" bumper sticker on your car or in your shop window. Some merchants are draping their shops in black or hanging a black wreath on the door. I have ordered specially labeled water bottles for the occasion, which we will be selling for a mere $1. (See attached label design.) With these we can drink a mighty toast. And maybe we'll also take the Ballard Pledge of Allegiance. After all this, and perhaps a moment of silence, we'll head down to one of the old saloons on Ballard Avenue and drown our sorrows in proper Ballard fashion. I'm sorry I couldn't put the Ballard Bridge up for the day, but those industrial folks wouldn't have liked me very much. Nor the state either. So, this is the best we can do to celebrate. I've sent out press releases to the media, so maybe we'll get some coverage. I've attached a copy. Please pass this info on to all your organizations so we can have a great turnout and and a fun Anti-Celebration. Miller is part tongue-in-cheek, but also makes some serious points, notes Vic Opperman, head of Sustainable Ballard. "Beth is a little of everything about this event," Opperman said. Could a "Free Ballard" movement be in the offing? (Note Miller's reference to T-shirts already available from local novelty store Archie McPhee.) Maybe Gore's reference to Ballard as a "city of 18,000 people in Washington state" was some kind of hint. Ballard can't be faulted for having mixed feelings. The district's sparkling new Commons Park got a skateboard bowl "bequeathed" by the city over local opposition, and Hizzoner neglected to thank the park's planning committee at the dedication. Oops. You don't do that in Ballard, because unlike Vegas, hardly anything that happens north of the locks stays there!


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Paul Andrews

Paul is a career journalist and a self-described bike nut.