In 1950, Seattle was looking to plan something amazing for our centennial in 1951. We didn’t have professional sports (or even the Seattle Center yet), and the organizers wanted an event that would attract tourists from the entire country. Back then the city was known as the “Boating Capital of the World”, so they definitely needed to have something to showcase that as well. Enter Walter Van Camp, a man who directed the St. Paul, Minnesota Winter Carnival, which was very popular and well attended. He started in March 1950 for the next year but got so excited about all the plans that he got the city leaders on board for that very summer. The first Seafair was born in that short amount of time and set for August 11th – 20th, and this included building the Aqua Theater at Green Lake (which seats 5,500) in 75 days!
That first Seafair featured parades, boat races on Green Lake, amateur athletic events, the introduction of the Seafair royalty (still a tradition to this day), and a number of community festivals. Even the always entertaining Pirates were in attendance. The event was incredibly successful, and plans began to expand the event and add the hydroplane races on Lake Washington the next year. In 1972 the Seafair Pirates landing on Alki Beach was added as the official beginning of Seafair. In 2002 the Seafair Half Marathon was added as was the full Marathon in 2005. In 2008 the events were combined to form the Seattle Rock n’ Roll Half and full Marathon. In addition to the marathon events, there is also the Seafair Triathlon at Seward Park and the Torchlight Run, which is prior to the Torchlight Parade. In 2013 the Seafair Summer Fourth started at Lake Union and today offers fireworks shows at both ends of the lake.
These days, Seafair is a 10-week festival, with the first of the 30 + official Seafair events beginning in June and running through the end of August, though the true ending is the Seafair Weekend Festival, which is typically the first weekend of August, and features the hydroplane races on Lake Washington. Though some of the events for this year are already over, there is still plenty of Seafair tradition to experience!
Saturday, July 27th – Seafair FanFest, Torchlight Run, and Torchlight Parade
Fanfest is held at the Seattle Center and goes from 12 – 6 PM. The event is free to the public and allows you to see the participants and floats for the parade later that night getting ready and going through their final preparations. Next is the Torchlight Run, which starts at 6pm and begins and ends at the Seattle Center. There are two routes, a 5K and an 8K. The run takes you along the parade route, and since people will already be in their seats, you have an automatic cheering squad! Prizes are awarded for best times and best costumes. The parade begins at 7:30 PM at the Seattle Center and heads down 4th Avenue to Westlake Park. There isn’t an admission fee to watch the parade, though if you want to ensure a good seat, reserved seating at the Grandstand is available. But for a true Seattle experience, plan on getting up early and staking out a seat along the parade route. There are food trucks and local eateries offering specials along the entire route. (And yes, the city provides Honey Buckets along the way too.) Bring a comfy camp chair, don’t forget your sunscreen and water, and spend the day people watching. For all the info you’ll need or to purchase tickets for the grandstand visit their website. The parade will also be broadcast on KIRO channel 7. Pro Tip #1: many of the entrants in the parade include live instruments or music (Ok, and maybe a pirate cannon or two)and it can get LOUD. Earplugs are a great way to enjoy yourself without getting a headache.
July 29th – August 3rd – Fleet Week and Boeing Maritime Celebration
Since the very first year of Seafair, our city has hosted Fleet Week down on the waterfront to celebrate our men and women who protect us on the water. It begins on Monday the 29th at 12:30 with the Parade of Ships, which includes the Seattle Fire Department ships welcoming our guests into Elliott Bay with the spray of the ships, and then docking at Piers 66 and 69. This year Seafair has worked with the Seattle Navy League and the Port of Seattle to bring you vessels and personnel from the US Navy, the US Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy. One of the best things? You can go on board the vessels for free! See what it’s like to be on these high-tech, floating cities. This is truly an event you do not want to miss. For more information click here.
August 2nd – 4th – Seafair Weekend
Seattle’s unofficial holiday weekend is not to be missed, trust me on this one! The gates open to Genesee Park on Lake Washington at 9 AM every day, and while there is an admission charge Saturday and Sunday, Friday is free and members of our Military (with ID card) get in free all weekend long! There is something for literally everyone here, from live music to food to the beer garden, and of course the hydroplane races and Blue Angels performances. The highlights this year include the Air Show featuring the Blue Angels, the Hydroplane races, the Seafair Cup with E350 boats, Wakeboarding, BMX Stunt Bikes, the KidsZone with inflatables and games, and the Seafair Classic Car Show. Know someone with a boat? The Log Boom is a great way to see the races! All the info you’ll need can be found here. Pro Tip #2: While there is a lot of food for purchase, you are allowed to bring in coolers, food and non-alcoholic beverages in plastic or aluminum containers (they have to be new and sealed). Plan on staying the day and getting a meal at one of the food vendors, but bring plenty of snacks and water. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
After all the Seafair fun in the city, why not come home to a luxury unit that offers a great living room to rest your feet in and a comfy bed to stretch those tired muscles on. Seattle Oasis Vacation Rentals offers units that have not only have indoor pools, but roof-top decks for watching the sun set and unwinding with a glass of wine. Give us a call and our friendly and knowledgeable staff can find the perfect vacation rental for your visit!