July 14, 2011 in City

Employees’ Microsoft-sponsored trip draws local onlookers

Chris Henry Kitsap Sun
Associated Press photo

Microsoft employees paddle through the waters of Sinclair Inlet as they get ready to head from the Port Orchard waterfront to Tracyton, Wash. on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

PORT ORCHARD – The giant Argosy cruise ship that docked at the Port Orchard Marina on Wednesday dwarfed the other boats, its bulk squeezing against large orange bumpers.

Spilling down the gangplanks, scores of Microsoft employees gazed with interest at the town that would be their jumping-off point for a day on the Kitsap Peninsula. The mayor, tourism officials and local businesses offered a hearty welcome, goodies and maps before the techies scattered on buses, in kayaks and on foot.

Microsoft routinely treats its employees to play days. The software giant’s location of choice for this year’s excursion was Kitsap’s Christmas in July.

“We’re just excited to introduce the Kitsap Peninsula to a whole new group of people,” said Patty Graf-Hoke, executive director of the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau.

The VCB helped Microsoft organize the event in coordination with the cities of Port Orchard and Bremerton, the Port of Bremerton, local chambers of commerce, businesses and Kitsap Transit, which operates the foot ferry between the two waterfront towns.

Microsoft was looking for a destination relatively close to Seattle that offered a range of things to do and see, said Sara Stevens, a business administrator tasked with setting up the event. She was not at liberty to say what Microsoft had budgeted for the day.

The roughly 300 employees of the company’s embedded software division – think computers in cash registers, phones, medical devices and the like – chose from a menu of activities, including golf, kayaking, paintball, spa treatments and poking around shops. At every turn they were plied with food and beverages, all on the company’s tab.

“It’s beautiful. So much natural beauty,” said Durga Sayana, a software test lead with the kayak group.

The Microsofters were intrigued by the interest their visit generated. Aaron Carey was pleasantly surprised to have been greeted on the dock by Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, Graf-Hoke and other local officials and media members.

“I didn’t expect that sort of welcome. It’s very nice,” Carey said.

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