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Vashon’s grand marshal is on mayoral ballot, too

This year’s Strawberry Festival Grand Marshal wears his football uniform every day, even though he hasn’t been on a team for 50 years.

Paul “Big Wally” Wallrof is the head coach of the Vashon Pirates Youth Football players. He dons a Vashon Pirates Youth Football T-shirt and jacket every day and a green Pirates ball cap before he leaves the house and jokes that he wishes he had Pirates pajamas.

“Football is my life; it really is, especially since I got involved with the little kids,” Wallrof said. “I never change — I look forward to putting my uniform on.”

Under his leadership the fledgling football program has blossomed, and it’s no wonder — Wallrof is a veteran in the industry, having played Pac-10 ball for the University of Washington and then becoming head coach at the University of Puget Sound.

Today, Wallrof is being recognized for his many contributions to the Island. He’s also running for Vashon unofficial mayor to help raise money for the Island’s youth football program, which he is quite passionate about.

When Wallrof found out he was selected as this year’s grand marshal, he asked if he’d have to pick between running for mayor, the purpose of which is to raise money for the Pirates football program, and becoming grand marshal.

Grand marshal activities sponsor Joyce Olson, CPA, said he didn’t have to choose. Although Wallrof is setting a precedent in being both the grand marshal and a mayoral candidate, she decided it’s not a conflict of interest.

“The grand marshal endorses the ugly pirate,” Wallrof said with a grin.

Wallrof’s grand marshal duties during Strawberry Festival weekend July 11 to 13 will be to “show up and smile,” Olson said.

He’ll ride in the grand parade on Saturday and the classic car parade on Sunday. He’ll eat pancakes at the Saturday, July 12, Kiwanis’ pancake breakfast and attend one of the street dances and one of the beer gardens or wine tastings, she said. He’ll roam the streets with Olson to check out a sampling of festival booths. He has the opportunity to speak publicly whenever he makes an appearance, Olson said.

Wallrof was nominated to be grand marshal by Islander Ron Westphal; the pair have volunteered together at St. Vincent de Paul helping the homeless for years.

At Christmas time, St. John Vianney Catholic Church organizes a drive to gather gifts for the needy; Wallrof is one of the parishioners who distributes the gift baskets, along with turkeys and other food items.

“When I think of the people who were grand marshals before me, it’s really a very special honor,” Wallrof said. “I think of Doc Eastly and Clayton Williams and Jim Neal, people who have a real care for our community ... men who passed and have done great things for our community.”

Wallrof said he’s looking forward to the Vashon Pirates Youth Football parade float, which will have Astroturf, a goalpost and football players running plays on the “field.”

“It seems like it gets bigger and bigger every year,” Wallrof said of festival. He said he’s a die-hard fan and never misses a parade. “The food is awesome. My favorite part, of course, is seeing the whole Island and the people that come here and walking up and down the streets and seeing everyone.”

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