Seafair is a summer festival in Seattle, Washington, that encompasses a wide variety of small neighborhood events leading up to several major citywide celebrations. While many small block parties and local parades occur under the auspices of Seafair, most Seattle residents associate Seafair with the Torchlight Parade (and accompanying Torchlight Run), Seafair Cup hydroplane races, and the Blue Angels. Seafair has been an annual event in Seattle since 1950 but its roots can be traced to the 1911 Seattle Golden Potlatch Celebrations.
Seafair begins in mid-June; since 1972, its arrival has been heralded by the Seafair Pirates Landing and Milk Carton Derby, a whimsical boat race on Green Lake in which all the boats have been constructed out of empty milk cartons. Entries always range from those carefully shaped for speed and stability to those designed for maximum amusement. The Derby is usually associated with a variety of activities for children and families on the shores of Green Lake.
The Seafair Half Marathon was added in 2002, and in 2005, the full 26.2 Marathon was added. Participants can run or walk the 21.0975-kilometre (13.1094 mi) and 42.195-kilometre (26.219 mi) courses. If a shorter distance is more appealing, participants can run or walk a 5 km course. The 2008 Seafair Half Marathon and Seafair Marathon began at Husky Stadium, crossed the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, and ended at Bellevue, Washington's Bellevue Downtown Park. After the race, live music was performed. In 2009, the Seafair Marathon and Half Marathon were replaced with the Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon and Half Marathon.
In 2013, an Independence Day fireworks show at Lake Union known as the Seafair Summer Fourth was added to Seafair. The event replaces the previous Family Fourth event, which was cancelled by its organizers due to a lack of funding.
The Seafair Triathlon is held on the shores of Lake Washington from Seward Park. It features both Sprint - half-mile swim, 12-mile (19 km) bike ride, and 5 km run - and Olympic distances. Participants can compete individually or as a team. Typically, the Seafair Triathlon is held the third weekend of July. In 2007, the Seafair Triathlon saw a record turnout of 2,200.
The last weekend in July belongs to the Torchlight Parade and Torchlight Run. Many local organizations participate in these events, held on the streets of downtown Seattle. The local woman who has been selected as "Miss Seafair" (prior to 1972, "Seafair Queen") plays a prominent role in the parade. It is traditionally preceded by the Torchlight Run, a short (8 km) race through the city's streets in which many participants run in costume.
One of the most popular events of Seafair is the Seafair Cup, which is an American Boat Racing Association unlimited hydroplane racing circuit stop at Stan Sayres Pits on Lake Washington in the Mount Baker neighborhood. The Seafair Cup races, which occur at the end of July or the beginning of August, attract tens of thousands of spectators, both those standing on the public shores of the lake, and those in boats anchored just outside the course in the lake itself. The same weekend, in a tradition restarted in 1972, the Blue Angels are brought to Seattle to perform their aerial stunts. (The Blue Angels are a slightly controversial part of Seafair, as some local residents fear an accident involving the sometimes-low-flying aircraft, and some find the noise of the jet engines irritating. They did not perform at Seafair in 1994 and 1995 as a result of a dispute with the FAA about whether they could safely fly over Lake Washington. In 1996 the Angels flew over Elliott Bay, west of downtown Seattle, in a separate event from the hydro race, but this was a financial flop, and they returned to being part of the race-weekend festivities over Lake Washington in 1997.)
Due to government budget cuts, the Blue Angels did not perform at Seafair 2013; they were replaced by the Patriots Jet Team
Another aspect of Seafair is the involvement of the Seafair Pirates, an organization that works year-round entertaining children in hospitals and performing other acts of community service including extensive fundraising. However, the pirates also usually perform loud—occasionally offensive—antics at Seafair (in an attempt to live up to their name) that cause perennial objection to their prominent involvement in the festivities. Despite this reputation, most people who enjoy Seafair see them as an essential part of the event.