South-End Seafair: Love It or Hate It?

South-End Seafair: Love It or Hate It?

“He Said/She Said” highlights some of the most vigorous civil debates that have ever taken place in the Go: South Seattle comment section. GO: South Seattle does not necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.

For one three-day weekend each August, thousands of revelers descend on the Rainier Valley to celebrate Seafair with hydroplane races on Lake Washington and the Blue Angels airshow overhead. Needless to say, some neighbors love it and some don’t. Here’s what some of our readers have had to say…

On the Blue Angels—

  • I can see some of the show from my backyard near the top of Graham Hill. It can be fun, though by the fourth day, I’m tired of the noise.
  • My dog is a golden retriever—bred for loud noises, so no problems there. My cats hide, but don’t get freaked.
  • I can appreciate the skill and precision of the pilots.


  • I worry for the wildlife along the lake—how terrified are they?
  • The traffic is down-right annoying—especially if you need to go east on I-90 at that time. Rainier is usually a giant mess.
  • The cost—we could spend that money on so many other necessary things.
  • The resulting trash our neighbors accumulate thanks to the less-than-caring crowds.
  • And finally… The philosophical/moral/ethical conundrum it leads me down. One of our first thoughts while watching the planes zoom over our house and garden yesterday was “So this is what it must feel like to live in Gaza—or any other war zone subject to air strikes.

SAM: Lower, Louder and Longer… We love Blue Angels and SeaFair!

rob: My wife and I have an annual “flee Seafair weekend.” Good by Seattle, see you Monday!

Davis: SeaFair is a little festival and it is fun and when you plan ahead you can shop before and have the family and friends to stop by. It’s less of a wrinkle than getting 3 days of snow in Seattle.

too dimensional punk gentry: Seafair is for suckers.

Tasha: Shocked at how many people hate Seafair. Lame!

Carol: I don’t hate Seafair, but my cat is under the couch, shedding fur by the handful over the blue angels. At least we don’t like in the flight path like we did last year. The noise was intimidating even for the two leggers in our house.

angeldove: I love Seafair! The noise, the people, Blue Angels, hydros! I just wish it didn’t cost so much to get in. I remember when we used to camp out on the shore of the lake by the pitts on Saturday nite to stake out our spot. Stay up all night and party, wake up and do it all over again the next day. Of course back then it use to take less time to recuperate from the all nighter. Now you are fenced in and pay outrageous prices!

Mike Carlson: The only breakdown in my SeaFair Weekend was forgetting that all this malarky starts on Friday, not Saturday. Me and that biplane better never meet blade-to-blade… Saturday was Shoreline, Sunday was Olympia. I live half a mile south of misappropriated playfields. Honestly – for a city that prides itself on its progressive tendencies / pretentions, SeaFair is a celebration of roots better forgotten. Budweiser, traumatizing the ecosystem of Lake Washington (what’s left of it) and parading the war machinery? Please.

Real Rainier Valley Girl: Was taken aback when I saw that Seafair does not ask its attendees to separate their garbage, recycles and compostable items. Organizers of small community events in the city asks its attendees to separate trash, plastic and food waste (some go to the extent of using compostable utenils). Perhaps Seafair has employees or volunteers who sort out the items tossed in those metal trash cans.

Theresa Lane Schmetzer: I grew up riding bikes with my parents and six siblings to the pow-wow for many years. We made a day of it with family and friends enjoying all the festivities. It has always had special memories and was seen as a prelude to Seafair Sunday. I no longer live in the neighborhood, but will be there on Saturday to remind me of all the great years spent at Seward Park. I am thrilled for the centennial celebration and look forward to it. By the way, I am Indian. Or as so many of you call us, “native American.” I am not bothered by the term “pow-wow,” and embrace the name and the memories alike.

The Lower 48: I lived in Seattle for 30 plus years and I don’t care at all for Seafair. I’m not interested in boat races or airplanes. I’m not an elitest, it’s just not my thing. I don’t care for Bumbershoot either. There’s plenty of events in Seattle that I enjoy and attend on a regular basis because I personally enjoy them. But I don’t think anyone else is snobby or an elistist because they don’t like them too. Everyone has different tastes in what they enjoy. If you love Seafair, good for you. Go have a great time. Enjoy yourself. Just don’t expect everyone else to love it too.

Findlay Street: For a city flush with hempfests, equinox and solstice festivals, parades of nude bike riders etc. I find it refreshing to still have a wholesome celebration, steeped in Seattle history and one in which I need not shield my children’s eyes. I may be wrong, but methinks I detect a whiff of the sad elitism that has proliferated here in the post-grunge Seattle. I suspect that most of you just don’t have deep enough south end roots to truly appreciate Seafair. In a city that has changed much in my lifetime (some for the better, some not), Seafair is a refreshing remnant of a Seattle almost gone, a Festivus for the rest of us!

erich: I do find it hard to defend Seafair as a “wholesome” celebration – my first live topless sighting in 1984 or so (not that there have been nor will be more). Perhaps posts such as this are troll-bait. Obviously, Seafair is extreme and prompts strong opinions. But if you live there, well, it has bern going on for 50+ years. It’s not like you didn’t know. It only sounds “elitist” when you make it sound like some personal attack on you or your neighborhood. Which it isn’t.

Anon: LOVELOVELOVE SEAFAIR! The talent of the people that put and can fly planes safely in the sky is amazing. Thank you! [Also,] the crowd is happy to pay for admission and pay for food and drinks, etc. Seems like a win win for the neighborhood that hosts Seafair.

Fritzrl: Wonder if the BA’s and the hydros would be so popular in Seattle if they blasted their noise and smoke over the *north* end of the city? Or over Queen Anne? And if Seafair traffic clogged the Magnolia bridge? Just sayin’.

Tiffany: I voted “I hate it,” but that should have come with an asterisk behind it. What I actually hate are the Blue Angels. Their ridiculously loud, disruptive, and expensive live commercial for the military — all performed fast and low above densely populated areas — is a real nightmare. I would love to get excited about Seafair, but The Blue Angels just ruin it for me.

Davis: Seafair is great since I catch up with neighbors and the businesses close do a swift trade in food. Nothing wrong with people spending their time & money in SE Seattle.

Anonymous: I was born and raised in the area, and I’m not a big fan of Seafair. What gets me down is the disregard for the Lake Washington shoreline during the event. Some of those bleachers and stages are constructed right on top of cool animal habitats. Include all the fuel, trash, and noise pollution and it starts to seem pretty sad down there. Do you know of any groups that monitor or advocate for shoreline ecology (especially during Seafair)? I’d rather listen to a bird than a hydroplane, any day.

Love Seafair: “noisy, gas guzzling, and militaristic”? You say that as if those are bad things.

SouthSeattleScarlettLetter: All I can say is SEAFAIR IS ONE OF THE BEST EVENTS EVER FOR SOUTH SEATTLE!!! What a great event for families, adults, hobbyists, and newcomers. The Gennessee playfield which used to be a dump when I was a child has been turned into a carnival!!! What a great time we had – – – hadn’t been since the 70?s and loved every minute of it.

That’s *Mister* Hoi Polloi to you: Yeah, Seafair is just another luxury box seat venue where corporate sucks can chum it up over large quantities of piss-water beer. I wish it could be 1962 again, back before Seattle became a ‘world-class’ city.

Genessee: The boat races don’t really bother me, but two solid days of planes roaring overhead and scaring all the animals does. The Blue Angels make it seem like a war is going on. In the past couple of years, with the addition of a concert stage and even more aerial acrobatics, Seafair’s become a bit much.

Findlay Street: I love everything about Seafair, as does anyone who actually grew up in the neighborhood within walking distance of Stan Sayres pits. Show me a Seafair hater and I will show you a transplant.

eschensoo: People should enjoy the summer with a fun festival. It is not my style of festival, but I am okay with the traffic, crowds, etc. However, I don’t like being blasted by the Blue Angels for days before the event, as well as during the event. Yes, I have a dog that hates it. I hate it too. In addition, I live in near New Holly with a large refuge population. It must be quite intimidating to have war planes strafing them given some of their real-life war experiences.

Fred Quarnstrom: I feel very different about the Blue Angles and the Marines who were at the Museum of Flight for the week. I see them as an icon to the men and women who are in the military and to an extent those who served before. The represent those who spend and spent years protecting you and yours. They could be out in industry and business often time making many time more that they receive while serving. It goes without saying that many of them died or were wounded. When I hear the crowds on the shore of Lake Washington cheer and wave, even though the pilots cannot hear the cheers and are far to busy to look for waves as a way to show respect and thanks for all those who serve. This is so much better than the welcome we received coming home from Vietnam. “Do not tell anyone you were there, it will be better for you.”

Sorry those men and women make noise and disturb your weekend. Just remember the years that your safety required that they risk their lives and be away from their families. The precision you seen in their flying is exactly what helps keep you safe. Join the celebration of our country – Just my 2 cents worth.

Mariana: Why not think on the positive side. Kids get involved in drill teams, all city band, and marching bands. This helps give our kids a purpose and engagement during the Summer. It brings community together for their community parades,these are positives and the hydro races, air show are just one very important piece to Seafair that all can enjoy.

Brian: Love it. However, I do wish they could figure out a way to make the racing more competitive like it use to be.

Tom T: The event is nice, the management arrogant. It’d be nice if they’d give back to the neighborhood. Hmmm maybe like funding a cleanup of Rainier and Genesee or sidewalks on 43rd.

Findlay Street: When I was a kid, the focus of our summer was Seafair. We all collected Hydro pins and dragged our model wooden hydros behind our bikes. We knew the names of the hydro drivers and how many points they had or needed to win the gold cup. We hung out at the pits and if we lacked a pit pass, snuck in anyways. We would come home every day and spread out on our beds all of the freebies we had collected in the days exploits and would go back and do the same thing the next day. When I hear the Blue Angels or the Hydros screaming around the course, it takes me back, and for that I will always love Seafair. I’m guessing that those who voted that they hate seafair either did not grow up here in the south end or are too young to remember the glory days of seafair in the 60s and 70s.

Mark B: I don’t mind it but I do leave for a day or 2 so maybe I don’t like it, either way you are correct that I did not grow up here. You mention “when I was a kid” but was it “free” when you were a kid? For a family of 4 just to watch the Hydros Fri-Sun. is $400. Maybe it’s just that it seems like NASCAR on the water to me (I don’t do NASCAR either). I’m sure there are lots of people with “when I was a kid” Seafair stories that can no longer afford those memories, and to me that’s kind of sad. But hey, a dollar is a dollar and that’s all that counts, right?

Brenda: I’m all for the Blue Angels airshow! Does it cost taxpayer dollars – Yes. Would the $$ be spent on some other form of recruiting effort if it weren’t spent on Blue Angels airshows – Yes, but probably would be less effective. Did the airshow take on a whole new meaning beyond simply entertaining in this post 911 environment as we understand the many ways we use and rely on highly skilled pilots to keep us safe- Yes. Does it give me comfort knowing just what those planes are capable of, how fast they can be on top of you before you even hear them – Yes. And as for the city’s involvement, I greatly enjoy the Seafair spirit in Seattle and if I had to choose between spending money on pro-sports stadiums and events and community fairs and festivals, I pick community fairs and festivals. That’s just personal preference, but my point is, once a year is not excessive and there’s something for everyone in Seattle. That’s something to be proud of, not discourage. (And in case you are wondering, I don’t come from a military family or background, but I consider myself a realist.)

Pat Murakami: For any of you who hate Seafair or the Blue Angels take some solace in knowing that about 30 years ago the event was absolutely UNBEARABLE for the Mount Baker neighborhood. Drunken revelers would camp out on people’s lawns and do unspeakable things in their yards, leaving trash everywhere in their wake. If your house was unlocked they would walk right in to use your bathroom. People would park anywhere they wanted, without permission – on lawns and in private driveways, sometimes blocking the only vehicle and means of transportation for the family that lived there. Mt. Baker Park and the greens of Hunter Blvd and Mt. Baker Blvd were nothing but illegally parked cars. The Blue Angels flight path was so low and close to the roofs of homes in Mount Baker you could tell the hair color of the pilots if they weren’t wearing helmets. Phone calls were impossible to carry on during their performances. It’s a rarity to hear a complaint from a long-term resident of the neighborhood because the event is so tame now in comparison to what it was just 15 years ago.

Nancy: check out vintage hydroplane photos on Rainier Valley Historical Society’s facebook page and share your Seafair memories for the historical record.

How do you feel about Seafair? Do you love it, hate it or feel something in between? Photo/Seafair



  1. Seafair is a massive inconvenience to the vast majority of people who live around the city, all for the sake of, what? Military propaganda? Fabulous. If you care about our troops, maybe think of a way of celebrating them in a way that doesn’t give PTSD flashbacks to all the homeless veterans within earshot of the deafening sounds of the Blue Angels.

  2. Agreed. Seafair is an anachronism — a crappy, cheesy, environmentally-irresponsible carnival of values that died out 50 years ago: glorification of the military; swooning over noisy polluting machines; parks damaged and turned into parking lots; the public being blocked from using public roads or accessing public parkland because the carnival barkers of Seafair think they have a right to our neighborhood for 2 weeks.
    And the Blue Angels? They’re useful only as a way of showing us the kind of terror the kids in Gaza live with every day — we don’t need military war machines in our beautiful skies or above our lake. Send it all back to the Bible Belt or out to Tacoma where people like this kind of junk.

  3. Seafair is a great tradition, sorry for those who don’t like it. Lived here all my life and it’s great! Love those Blue Angels!