Olympia’s moderate year-round temperatures, historical sites, and beautiful natural vistas make it the perfect location for your next Washington excursion. Washington’s Capital city features a plethora of outdoor activities from chartered fishing trips on Puget Sound to biking on the miles of trails that comprise the Chehalis Western Trail. Don't miss out on visiting the Olympia Farmers Market (largest in the Northwestern US) -- it features a vibrant atmosphere and visitors can purchase fresh produce, handmade items, art, and more.
Olympia Harbor Days has been offering food, art, and entertainment for all ages since it began more than four decades ago. This year’s event will take place September 1-3 at the Port of Olympia. The event is one of the largest summer events in the city with more than 55,000 annual attendees, and it features The World's Largest Vintage Tugboat Race. This year’s race will stretch 1.8 miles and feature a variety of tug boats (separated by class) with awards going to the top three finishers in each class. Attendees will find a massive marketplace with over 200 booths with vendors selling everything from one-of-a-kind art pieces to artisan foods. Patrons will also encounter different performers along the boardwalk, entertaining the masses with trapeze acts, music, and more. The food area will feature options for every palate, and the Bay Side Beer Garden will serve up libations and beer for those over 21. All of the event's proceeds will go toward helping fund the activities of the Olympia Kiwanis Club and scholarships for youth in the community. We got the opportunity to interview Carol Riley, Executive Director of the event, to learn more about this great all ages experiences.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
CR: Olympia Harbor Days has been running since 1974.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
CR: In 2016, we had over 55,000 attendees.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
CR: We see people of all ages and all backgrounds.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
CR: The heart of the festival is the arrival of the Puget Sound's vintage tugboats. Patrons can walk aboard the boats and see many of them in the World’s Largest Vintage Tugboat Races.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event.
CR: Start your day off with freshly brewed coffee (this is WA!), taking a look at the array of food vendors. As you stroll and shop at the hundreds of art and craft booths, leave an ear tuned to the great live music. As you hit the boardwalk, feel the cool breeze coming off the water as you enjoy trapeze shows, sand sculpting, children’s boat making, marine activities, and rides. Then check out the up to 30 vintage tug boats of various size, shape, and color in the harbor. After exploring and learning about the history of these historic tugs, it is time for lunch with choices including hot dogs, gyros, fish tacos, and more. Head back to the docks to take a tour of the US Coast Guard retired tug Comanche (ATA 202) which is now also a WWII floating museum. Next, make your way to the Port of Olympia and then step aboard the historic Mosquito Fleet steamship the Virginia V for a tour and possible harbor cruise. Upon return, you can tour the tall ships Lady Washington (featured in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Star Trek: Generations) and her sister ship Hawaiian Chieftain. Make a note to check out the Squaxin Island Salish Seaport with tribal music, dance, demonstrations, and various artisans. Last, but not least, grab a refreshment and a snack and get ready to watch the World’s Largest Vintage Tugboat Races.
RAL: Are there any lodging specials that are set up specifically for the event?
CR: There are discounted rooms at the DoubleTree by Hilton.
RAL: What does this event mean to the community?
CR: It has become a celebration marking the end of summer and celebrating the history of the city.
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
CR: Yes, visitors spend money at our featured local vendors, lodging providers, and businesses all over the area.
RAL: Does the event support a particular cause in the community?
CR: Yes, it's an event put on by the Olympia Kiwanis Club, the largest and oldest club of Kiwanis International in the area. The festival is free and supported by area sponsors. All proceeds go to club activities or scholarships for kids in the community.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
CR: Everyone loves tugboats, but fewer people have ever seen one or watched them race. The Olympia Waterfront is beautiful with its proximity to downtown, numerous parks, and unique art and sculptures.
For more information about Olympia Harbor Days, please visit the event website.
Photography Credit: LG Evans Maritime Images