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Lou Engels selected as this year's grand marshal
Lou Engels, a trumpet-playing, civic-minded Islander who has lived on Vashon 65 years, has been named the grand marshal for this year's Strawberry Festival.
"I'm absolutely flabbergasted," he said Wednesday. "It's a privilege."
Engels, 72, owns Engels Repair & Towing — a company his father started in 1951 and that he took over in 1968. He now runs the Maury-based auto repair and gas station with his son Paul.
He's also one of the founders of the Portage Fill Big Band — and the only founder still playing with the popular Island band. He's long been active in youth sports and today is a supervisor and mentor for youth basketball, supporting a twice-weekly open gym program at Vashon High School.
"Lou has a long, rich history on the Island," said Debi Richards, director of the Vashon Chamber of Commerce. "He's just an all around great Island guy."
The grand marshal, who has a role of honor in both the Grand Parade and the Tom Stewart Memorial Classic Car Parade at the Strawberry Festival, is selected by the chamber. Richards said the group got six nominees this year, all of them quite strong and some of whom were nominated multiple times.
Engels stood out because of his years of volunteerism on Vashon, particularly his many years of coaching and supporting Island youth, Richards said. A tow truck painstakingly outlined in thousands of Christmas lights that sits outside his shop each winter is also a Vashon delight, she said, as is the Portage Fill, an Island institution.
What's more, she said, his business — now a third-generation company — has helped many Islanders.
"I hardly know anyone who hasn't had to call Lou," she said.