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Booming time at Snoqualmie Railroad Days

Ears were ringing Saturday morning, Aug. 21, as the Seattle Seafair Pirates made way down main street in the Snoqualmie Railroad Days Parade.

Atop an antique fire engine, gunner Arnie Stray of Kirkland stuffed two ounces of old, smoky black powder and a wad of five squares of high-grade toilet tissue into a steel barrel, then lit the fuse, sending out a plume of smoke and a lot of noise.

Stray, a.k.a. Gabby—“once he gets lit, you can’t shut him up,” a fellow pirate said—was among a half-dozen flambouyantly dressed rogues accompanying Captain Mike “Sparrow” Knowlton, elected head of the Seafair Pirates for 2010 and a former Snoqualmie resident.

“These are our hard-core guys,” said Knowlton.

The pirates make about 250 appearances a year, and know how to work the crowd. One fearsome-looking pirate, “Big Boat,” scrambled for cover as the Junior Wildcat girls team approached.

“Cheerleaders!” he cried in mock fear.

The Railroad Days parade, vendors and exhibits drew plenty of onlookers.

“I come every year,” said North Bend resident Carol Hall, who bought a salmon sculpture and a pair of air spinners from a vendor. “This one was very good.”

At the Northwest Railway Museum, volunteer Brandon Crews helped operate maintenance equipment during demos on rail history.

“That one over there is kind of my baby,” Crews said, pointing to a yellow-and-blue ballast spreader.

“The general public doesn’t really get to see this stuff,” he said. Railroad Days allows visitors to examine the machines, which date back to the post-WWII era, in action.

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