It all began as a plan to celebrate Seattle’s centennial in 1951-52. The Seattle area was without major league sports teams or the Seattle Center. Thirsty for national recognition and attention, Seafair was designed to attract tourists and showcase marine events in keeping with Seattle’s boast as the “boating capital of the world.”
Prominent Seattle business leaders recruited St. Paul, Minnesota’s Winter Carnival director Walter Van Camp to help produce a similar summertime event in the Emerald City. Van Camp could not wait for the centennial. He went to work in March planning a ten-day celebration for August 11 – 20, 1950. This included building the 5,500 seat Aqua Theater at Green Lake in a mere 75 days.
That first Seafair featured parades, boat races on Green Lake, amateur athletic events, royalty, and a number of community festivals. Seafair was deemed a success and the festival would grow the next summer with the addition of unlimited hydroplane racing’s Gold Cup race on Lake Washington.
As it enters its 71st year, Seafair is a multi-week festival featuring over 30 sanctioned events that reach more than two-million people. It’s about building community, creating memories, and providing affordable fun. The festival remains the fabric of our community and is made possible with the help of nearly 3,000 volunteers.