67-year Seafair tradition still afloat

Blue Angels flying during Seattle Seafair, 2004.

The 67th annual Seafair is about to start in earnest. Best known for hydroplane races, the Torchlight Parade, Fleet Week and air show, Seafair is a fixture of the summer here in Seattle. While Seafair weekend is the most publicized aspect of Seafair, the festival covers a 10-week span and includes cultural celebrations, athletic competitions and pirates.

The first major Seafair event is the Torchlight parade, which will be held on July 30 this year. The parade features marching bands, drill teams and the Seahawks among other local groups and starts at 7:30 p.m. Seafair Fleet Week starts on the following Tuesday, running for five days and features naval vessels from the U.S. Third Fleet, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Maritime Forces.

Seafair weekend starts on Friday, Aug. 5 and is the culmination of the entire Seafair event. Seafair weekend features hydroplane races and an air show put on by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels along with their support aircraft, a USMC C-130T named Fat Albert. Last year other aircraft participated as well, with appearances by the CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter, the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter and the V-22 Osprey VTOL transport among others.

Blue Angels flying during Seattle Seafair, 2004.
Blue Angels flying during Seattle Seafair, 2004.

The earliest Seafair event occurred on June 25, when the Seafair Pirates landed on Alki Beach. The Pirates dress up like their namesake and theatrically storm the beach to put on a show for onlookers. The event features shopping, food, music and dancing for attendees.

Two major athletic events are also a central part of the Seafair celebration, with the Seattle Marathon on June 18 and the Seafair Triathlon on July 24. The marathon takes runners from the Space Needle, along downtown streets, down the viaduct and finishes at Century Link Field for a celebration. The marathon can be run or walked, and a half-marathon option is available for those who would rather complete a shorter course.

The Seafair Triathlon is held at Seward Park and is Seattle’s only Olympic-distance course. Not just for the athletically elite, there is a duathlon course, sprint course and options for relay teams. Two courses are also offered for children, with a beginner and intermediate level courses for kids as young as six who want to participate.

Another event that gets a fair amount of press is the Milk Carton Derby which was held on July 16. Individuals and groups build watercraft out of milk cartons and compete on Green Lake for prizes and pride. Like many of the other events, vendor booths and assorted activities are available for enjoyment.

Seafair depends on donations and volunteers, over 3,000 volunteers give their time and energy to help out at the assorted events throughout the summer. Volunteers must be at least 16 years of age with parental permission and follow a code of conduct.

Roles for volunteers include ticket takers, parade marshals, pirates and princesses, support and logistics. Information for those who want to volunteer can be found on the Seafair website at seafair.com.