Drawn year after year by the hydroplane races, Arthur Rosengren has been one of the Seafair faithful for more than six decades.
In recent years, however, the Seattle resident has noticed a gradual decline in the number of people attending the final weekend events on Lake Washington — even before budget constraints dropped the popular Blue Angels from this year’s lineup.
Weekend attendance this year was down 27 percent — from 158,000 last year to 115,000 this year, Seafair officials said, citing the lack of the Blue Angels as a main cause.
Rosengren and other self-described Seafair old-timers believe competition from other summertime events, less promotionand a lack of interest by younger residents and newcomers are also factors.
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“People my age simply aren’t coming,” said Rosengren, 71, who walks the mile or so from his home in the Mount Baker neighborhood. “There are few people I can converse with about the races.”
Allen Senear, who also has been attending Seafair for decades and who in the past 15 years has given hydroplane-pit tours to groups of attendees, said, “The old guys who were coming here 20, 30 years ago are dying off or simply can’t make it down here anymore.”
The weekend’s decline was also evident in the fewer boats tied to the log boom, the popular floating party in the middle of the lake, where in past years boats were rafted three- or four-deep. The log-boom spots usually sell out, officials said, but only 80 percent were occupied this year.
There also appeared to be fewer house parties near or along the lake.
To be sure, Seafair weekend is still a popular draw, and on a hot Sunday afternoon thousands were enjoying the weather along with the jaw-dropping performances from stunt planes, the hydro races and other activities on the water.
While some people, like Rosengren, see it as a sporting event, with the hydroplane races as the centerpiece, others see it as outdoor summertime fun. “This used to be the big event of the year,” Senear said. “Every TV station used to cover this. Now you can hardly get information on qualifying sessions.”
Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @turnbullL