Growing up in Seattle, I was a big fan of Seafair. I have wistful memories of going to the community parade in Lake City and being both thrilled and terrified by the Seafair Pirates. As a white kid from the north end of town, the Japanese community’s Bon Odori celebration was a cultural revelation. Champion hydroplane driver Bill Muncey was a bit of a hero, and the annual hydroplane race seemed like the biggest sporting event in town.
In college, I slept in a ski boat on the log boom the night before the race and was amazed by the bacchanalia that ensued right from morning’s light until the final hydro had limped across the finish line in the fifth heat. A few years later, I took my own children out on a boat to get a peek at the roaring hydros and a clear view of the soaring Blue Angels.
I must confess that, in recent years, I have not paid much attention to Seafair. Other summer activities usually draw me away. Nevertheless, I was sad to see that most of the major Seafair attractions, including the hydroplane race and the Torchlight Parade, are being cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the big 4th of July fireworks display on Lake Union will not happen, which is also a disappointment (although, since our national response to the virus has been so embarrassingly inept, maybe we need to temper our patriotism with a little humility, if not shame, until we actually make America great again).
Plenty of other summer events and pastimes – remember the Mariners and the Sounders? – will also be cancelled or altered because we will be asked to avoid crowds until we can feel safe in stadiums and jam-packed parks. Seattle will still be beautiful in the sunshine, but it won’t feel quite the same until the pirates can return to scare another generation of kids.
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