A Brief History of Seafair
1604—Native Americans hold the
precursor of our modern Seafair on
1790—Captains James Cook and George Vancouver, weary from battling each other to rename every geographical feature they could see, decide to settle their disputes with a boat race in Elliot Bay they call Sea Faire. Much rum is consumed on the crafts tied to a makeshift log-boom and the seamen there display crude hand-lettered signs to maidens reading Showe Us ye Knees. The fastest vessel, the H.M.S. Miss Boddington’s Alt Ale, flips end-for-end in a blow-over, her three masts snapping like the tibias of her rickets-plagued crew.
1879—The first year of the Seafair Pirates landing at Alki. Unknown to most onlookers, these are actual pirates and much blood is spilled before the pirates set down their cutlasses to sup at Spud’s Fish & Chips. Despite living in what historians would later call The Golden Age of Wenching, most buccaneers leave broken-hearted, having been dumped for the recently discovered geoduck.
1888—An epic Seafair race between the
steam-powered sternwheelers Yesler’s Pride and Miss Doc Maynard ends in tragedy
as both blow-over on the final straightaway after their six-hour two-mile
battle. Hundreds of riverboat gamblers perish and
1910—Several coal-fired speedboats
malfunction, boiling the lake dry in a matter of hours. Children scamper across
the muck to
1923—The Blue Angels make their Seafair debut. “Huzzah!” yells the throng as daring young men in their Sopwith Camels soar to over one hundred feet above the firmament at speeds approaching 45 miles per hour! The skies are filled with the scents of impending death and kerosene. Womenfolk faint and sissies wet themselves.
1936—A teenage Pat O’Day shouts schooner-race commentary to the 200 people on shore, most of whom tell him to pipe down because he’s scaring the fish.
1955—Driver Lou Fageol’s flying starts from under the I-90 bridge in the legendary Slo-mo-shun boats is disallowed because too many rubberneckers on the bridge cause traffic backups, some of which have still not cleared.
1961—President John F. Kennedy addresses the Seafair crowd with his now-famous “Ich bin ein shirtless drunken bozo” speech. The Kennedy curse continues as cabinet members Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy both blow-over and are hospitalized.
1979—To get a better view, I drift into the race course’s north turn where a surprised and P.O.’d Bill Muncey in the Atlas Van Lines must swerve to avoid puncturing my innertube and beer-filled torso. Before the Coast Guard can nab me, I emit a powerful stream of urine that propels my craft back toward shore. This will be the last year that people on inflatables are not penned in by ropes.
1980—My friend must return his dad’s boat by a certain time, but I do not wish to leave the sun-soaked bacchanalia that is my first time on the log boom. We agree that he shall pick me up later while I am jettisoned in my trusty innertube with only a half rack of Schmidt, some Doritos, and a few Camel Lights in a baggie. When the race is over, boats leaving the log boom churn the water such that my vessel is like a Cheerio in a blender. My reluctance to spend beer money on sunscreen results in my face and chest achieving a shade of crimson that attracts interest from the Crayola corp. Passing women expose their breasts to me for no reason. My innertube doubles as my personal urinal. I have no happier teen memory than this day.
1992—Chip Hanauer lured to the dark side when Bernie Little tells him “Chip, I am your father.”
1993—Inaugural Bill & Beth Seafair party. The Blue Angels spot several dozen people on our roof and try to blow them off with jet wash. Womenfolk faint and sissies (me included) wet themselves. The sight of Jbal on the roof's peak with a beer in his right hand and a cast on his left arm causes my homeowner’s insurance to be cancelled retroactively.
1994—The FAA decides to finally enforce a bunch of safety rules that are both namby and pamby, such as you’re not supposed to fly jet war planes right over the heads of hundreds of thousands of people, resulting in the Blue Angels not coming, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people not coming. The smallest crowd since the Captains Cook/Vancouver Seafair can scarcely be troubled to watch the Canadian Snowbirds air show, which packs all the thrill of butterflies flitting among flowers.
1995—The previous year’s meager
attendance proving that most people were not drawn to the lake to watch loud
motorized billboards go in circles and occasionally flip, the Seafair committee
brings back the Blue Angels, albeit in Safe & Sane mode. Thousands of
2002—The whining pansies that are forcing their way into every facet of American life demand that the winningest boat in hydroplane history, the Miss Budweiser, be saddled with various handicaps to “level the playing field”. Demanding that the other boats kick it up a notch never occurs to them. To no avail, physicists point out that no playing field is more level than a large body of water. Rocky Marciano, Michael Jordan, the ‘50s Yankees, and the ‘60s Celtics breathe collective sighs of relief that they lived prior to the age of engineered results.
2003—Whatever happens, you won't want to miss it. Unless it happens to you.
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