Seafair Programs Through the Years

From 1951, 1958, 1975 and 1991

This article appears in print in the August 2018 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

Seattle had no professional sports teams, no Space Needle, no monorail in 1950. Arts organizations like the Seattle Rep and Seattle Opera were more than a decade away. The Washington State Convention Center didn’t open until 1988.

To attract tourists, Seattle business leaders devised a summer maritime festival and hired away Walter Van Camp, director of Minnesota’s St. Paul Winter Carnival. Van Camp responded with the first Seafair celebration, which ran from August 11–20 and was centered at Green Lake.

This year’s Seafair Weekend, the 69th, continues an enthusiastic acknowledgement of Seattle’s maritime links. A brief survey of printed programs reveals one thread coursing through the fabric of Seafair: hydroplane races.

Anachronism to some, treasure to others, hydro races on Green Lake predated Seafair, having begun in 1929. Inboard boats raced on Green Lake until public sentiment banished them in 1984. The “unlimited’ class of boats started racing on Lake Washington in 1951.

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