Quite by accident, the Ambassador of Croatia, Josko Paro, discovered Gig Harbor during his trip to America with his wife. Tourism information about Gig Harbor, it’s beauty, and more importantly, the lingering influences of Croatian settlers caught their attention and drew them to visit.
It is the reason that when Zoran Milanovic, the Prime Minister of Croatia, was scheduled to visit the five big US IT companies (including Microsoft in Seattle), they made a special trip to Gig Harbor.
With just five days to plan in late September of 2014, we managed to organize a successful welcome at Skansie Brothers Park. The pavilion was draped in flags and a colorful welcome banner when the 12-member delegation arrived. Tim Jovanovich and members of the Tamburitza Orchestra danced and played the Croatian anthem amidst an energetic crowd of Croatian flag-waving enthusiasts that witnessed the historic visit.
In honor of her late father, 93 year-old Don Gilich, Sharon Gilich-Eckman hosted a luncheon at the Emmett Ross (Whittier) Netshed. US Congressman Derek Kilmer, the Mayor, City Council, and over 50 members of local Croatian families were in attendance. Devoted Kiss served traditional NW grilled salmon garbed in “Dobrodosli” (welcome in Croatian) aprons.
(below) Councilman Ken Malich welcomes the Prime Minister. Secret Service and Gig Harbor Security were on high alert for the event that drew a large crowd at Skansie Brothers Park.
A tour of the historic Skansie Brothers home (now headquarters to environmental non-profit Harbor WildWatch and the City's Visitors Center) houses a permanent display recognizing the contributions of the Skansie family and early Croatian settlers that brought boat-building and commercial fishing to Gig Harbor. Clocks on display in the house are set to Gig Harbor | New York | and Croatia times — tracing the travel route from the islands off Croatia. Milanovich added his pin to the map of Skansie Park visitors.
All in all, the day was a great success and will forever remind us of the town’s humble Croatian beginnings.