Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Seafair in Seattle


Lake Washington is famous for Seattle’s Seafair summer celebration.  This is a month long festival of many activities throughout Seattle and ends the first Sunday in August.  The final four days feature hydroplane races and the Navy’s Blue Angels’ air shows.  The hydroplane races are on the west side of the lake south of the I-90 floating bridge. The Stan S. Sayres Memorial Park, known as the “Sayres Pits” was established here in 1957. The pits are the launching, service and staging area for Seafair’s hydroplane racing boats.
The air show’s center is this area over the lake. The planes and their stunts can be seen from much of the lake and its shores.  During these four days the lake is crowded with spectator boats and the lake is renowned for the associated “floating party” or “Mardi Gras on the water.”
On Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7, The Navy F-18 air show begins at and the Blue Angels performance starts at (More information about the Blue Angels.)
Stan Sayres (1897-1956) was known as “The Legend of Lake Washington” and “The Fastest Man Afloat.”  He was selling and racing cars in northeastern Oregon in 1926 when he had his first experience with a power-boat.  He purchased a wrecked 40 mph outboard engine racing boat and began racing, designing and building race-boats.  He moved to Seattle in 1931 and in 1937 he bought a 91 mph racing boat that his wife named Slow Motion.  Stan changed the name to Slo-Mo-Shun, often called Slo-Mo.  Stan designed, developed and built new and faster Slo-Mos.  He moved to Hunts Point in the 1940s and built a 6,860 sq ft house on the tip of Hunts Point. (The house was demolished in 2008 and the vacant lot was sold March 31, 2011 for $14.8 million [see Seattle Mansions blog]). The neighbors in this sleepy community “enjoyed” (?) the roar and 30 ft rooster tails of his trials and practices.
He set his first boat-on-water speed record of 160+ mph in 1950 on LW and continued to set new records, all on LW, with his last at 178.497 mph in 1952.  After his first record he took Slo-Mo IV to Detroit and won the 1950 Gold Cup, boat racing’s biggest prize.  This was a big upset to the hydroplane establishment.  Stan brought hydroplane racing to LW in 1951 as part of the Seafair.  The first Seafair was in 1950 to celebrate the centennial of the first U.S.-European Seattle settlement.  The 1951 race was the first U.S. hydroplane race west of Detroit and was a huge success.  Stan became a local hero.  The races are now a Seafair tradition.  He received a lot of local backing for his racing against the Detroit establishment.  Slo-Mo-Shun IV and V won the next four Gold Cups.
We live in the Proctor Landing area of Mercer Island directly across the lake from the pits and the center of the big show. We and nearly all of our neighbors have Seafair parties over the week-end. The planes fly low directly over our dock. After the air-shows we will be making trips with our new boat, Happy Hours, to join the spectator fleet for Seattle’s Mardi Gras. For Seafair facts and history, go to Seafair’s site.

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