In 1957 there was no Capitol Lake Park (soon to be Heritage Park). Two industrial firms occupied the corner of 5th and Water Streets, their buildings extending out over the water on pilings.
To beat the heat and summer boredom, several civic minded Olympians sponsored a small carnival on the shores of Capitol Lake, on West 5th. Local non-profit service clubs ran food concession booths set up on the south end of Water Street beyond the industrial firms. Events during the carnival included a diving show, a hydroplane race and fireworks display at Steven’s Field. State Baton Twirling contests were held during the day and teen dances at night and Square Dancers came from all over the Northwest to perform.
This was the start of an annual event. The budget at the beginning was less than $500. In 1959 a parade was added and the budget had grown to $1,400.
In 1961 Lakefair had its first float which traveled around the state representing the community and taking honors at the Seattle Seafair Parade. There were 110 units entered in our “Grand Twilight Parade.”
The state’s Diamond Jubilee was celebrated in 1964 and Lakefair Buttons recognized this state event. Over 75,000 viewed the Grand Twilight Parade. During the late 60s and early 70s the main attractions were water oriented events. They included water skiing, sailboat races, swimming competitions, log rolling and water polo.
In 1966 Lakefair had a world champion diver who climaxed his act by diving off the top of an 80 foot crane into eight feet of water. Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson was the Parade Marshall in 1970. The Canadian Naval Training Vessels made annual visits during the 1980s.
An Arts & Crafts Show was added in 1986. In 1987 Lakefair added a Car Show. In 1988 “Kid’s Day” was started at Sylvester Park and was an instant success for the youngsters of our area.
Beyond all the fanfare, hoopla and crowning of Queens, Lakefair stands out in our communities because it goes beyond doing away with summer boredom. It contributes to the economy of our communities. Many local charitable organizations use the Lakefair food concessions as their main fund raising event of the year.
Capital Lakefair is Olympia’s own festival and hospitality organization. Today its budget is approximately $250,000 and all year is spent planning, preparing and raising money for this 5-day festival that brings a major influx of tourists into our communities.
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