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caption: Sunset at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle.
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Sunset at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

What the heck was that sound that rumbled across Seattle on Saturday night? (Updated!)

A private fireworks show between Ballard and Bainbridge had residents across three counties wondering what the sound was.

UPDATED 9/21/2022 with some information about who threw this party.

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round 9:40 p.m. on Saturday, cell phones from Bainbridge Island to Ballard lit up: What the heck is that sound?!

To residents of Ballard and Greenwood, it sounded like thunder. On Bainbridge, it was even more ominous — an anxious child wondered if Russia was invading.

It was neither, it turns out, because it was a private fireworks show.

Western Display Fireworks, a professional pyrotechnics company from Oregon that also does the July 4 show at Gas Works Park, were hired for the event.

The crew loaded the shells onto a tug in Ballard; the tug then motored toward the north end of Bainbridge Island. It stopped 9,400 feet offshore, due north of Fay Bainbridge Park, outside the city's jurisdiction.

The Seattle Fire Department provided the permit to load and unload the firework shells onto a barge, according to Tina Turner, the assistant fire marshal for Kitsap County. (Seattle Fire later confirmed.)

According to Turner, the Coast Guard and Washington State Fire Marshal did not require additional fireworks permits.

A private fireworks show would not normally make news, but this half hour-ish of mystery rumbling unsettled many humans and pets. It also piqued the curiosity of local super sleuths, including Melissa Knapp of North Beach/Blue Ridge. She and her husband deduced what was happening by following a marine traffic app.

On the app, they saw three small yachts and a barge stop at Shilshole Bay Marina, cruise out to a spot near Bainbridge, and then return nearly two hours later.

While we know what caused the sound on Saturday night, still unsolved is WHO made up this private party and WHY they threw this party – we’re still looking into that. (If it's you, please invite me next time: iraftery@kuow.org.)

[UPDATE: The permit from Seattle Fire says that WYBO LLC hired Western for this show. WYBO is a mystery company from 1998 that has other LLCs listed as its governors. Those LLCs include the same list of LLCs as their governors.

WYBO has held surprise fireworks shows before, according to a 1998 story from the Kitsap Sun. WYBO threw another fireworks show in 2002, per the Sun. Another surprise fireworks show occurred in 1995, thrown by Kent engineering firm Barghausen.]

There were theories, of course. One person on social media surmised that it was Gov. Jay Inslee and Trudi Inslee’s 50th anniversary fete – amazing that a random someone on the internet would know this – but Instagram indicates that the governor was in Finland at the time of the fireworks — plus, that's pretty far from his home on Bainbridge.

Many wondered if it was a West Seattle bridge re-opening celebration. That would also be impeccable timing, and folks on Alki could see the fireworks, but also unlikely, because don't you think they'd advertise a show like that?

A grandma from Bainbridge sweetly posted on Facebook that the fireworks were to celebrate her granddaughter's wedding, but a deep Google search — with assistance from Janice Ventura, owner of Halo pyrotechnics, and Jonathan Miller of Boomtown Productions — revealed that the granddaughter got married in Oregon, and grandma was speaking more broadly about signs from the universe.

At Shilshole Marina on Monday morning, Kris Henderson, who lives aboard his boat, The Golden Ticket II, called the show “awesome.”

Henderson speculated that someone from the mansions in the hills behind the marina had thrown the party, but that was speculation.

“It was very cool,” Henderson said. “We need more like that.”