Geek’s guide to Seafair: How to get into (or get away from) loud boats and planes

Wouldn’t you know it? The streams of smoke wafting south from wildfires in British Columbia are turning the skies a Seattle shade of gray as we head into Seafair Weekend, one of the region’s biggest summer festivals. The haze could have an impact on the Blue Angels’ aerial demonstration, but if you’re a fan of loud planes and loud boats, there’ll be plenty of both.

And if you’re not a fan, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy somewhat quieter pursuits. Here’s a six-point guide to Seafair Weekend:

What you’ll see, and when: The Boeing Seafair Air Show takes to the skies over Lake Washington starting at 11:40 a.m. Friday, 12:25 p.m. Saturday and 12:55 p.m. Sunday. Each day, the Blue Angels roar through the air at 1:40 p.m., and for safety’s sake, the I-90 floating bridge will be closed from 12:55 to 2:40 p.m. (If you actually want to cross over, do so at least an hour before the scheduled closing time, or use an alternate route.) The Seafair grounds at Genesee Park open at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. Sunday. Hydroplane boats will be roaring over Lake Washington throughout the weekend. Check the Seafair Weekend schedule for details.

Hydroplanes switch to streaming: For the first time in 66 years, there won’t be hours and hours of hydroplane coverage on live TV. This year, KIRO 7 has opted to go with a 90-minute wrapup from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Sunday. The reasons? Rising cost, falling viewership and a more mobile audience that’s less likely to sit in front of the TV for 10 hours straight. The consolation prize for hydroplane fans is that KIRO7.com will be streaming live Seafair coverage from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Getting there, and parking there: To see it all in person, the best place to be is in the grandstands at Stan Sayres Memorial Park on the west shore of Lake Washington. No, that’s not quite right: The best place to be is on the log boom in Lake Washington, where yachts and lesser boats have already started tying up. Landlubbers can purchase tickets and parking passes online, but if you’re associated with Boeing or the military, you can get in free by showing your badge at a special entry gate at Genesee Park. Traffic will be jammed, so taking a rideshare, hopping on a bike or using public transit will make it easier on you. Check Seafair’s parking and transportation guide for details.

High show vs. low show vs. no show: The big question is, what kind of show will the Blue Angels do? Navy Lt. Damon Kroes, who flies plane No. 2, says the show won’t go on if there’s less than 3 miles’ visibility. It looks as if Seattle’s skies will meet that standard, even with the smoke. “From that we will make an assessment of what type of show we will fly – whether it’s high, whether it’s low, whether it’s flat,” he told GeekWire. “With this weather, it’ll probably go with whether we can assess a horizon, and if we think we do, we’ll go ahead and fly the high show. And if we assess that it wouldn’t be safe to execute some of the rolls and loops, then we’ll execute our flat show.” For what it’s worth, today’s rehearsal was a flat show.

What to watch for in the sky: Some of the Blue Angels’ trickiest maneuvers come when the F/A-18 Hornet jets fly together in a close-knit “diamond” formation. Kroes says one of the aerobatic twists to watch for is the “Burner 270,” which takes place near the end of the show. “We’re going to execute a 270-degree turn with the diamond in afterburner, demonstrating the sheer power of that General Electric F404 motor,” he said. “Each of these aircraft carries two.”

How to get away from it all: Studies have shown that hydroplane boats can get as loud as 108 decibels, and the noise from a jet engine can go as high as 120 decibels. If you’re close to the show, bring your earplugs. But if you’re looking for different kinds of entertainment, consider the Seattle Art Fair at CenturyLink Field Event Center; or tour one of the U.S. and Canadian naval vessels at Piers 66, 69 and 90; or take in Friday’s free Concert at the Mural at Seattle Center, starting at 5:30 p.m.; or watch an outdoor movie; or just take a hike.

Back to top button