by Christina Butcher for OLY ARTS
While Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer across the U.S., our community takes full advantage of the long weekend by honoring its maritime roots each year at Olympia Harbor Days. It’s an annual festival celebrating tugboats and maritime heritage in Puget Sound. Presented by the Olympia Kiwanis Club and Squaxin Island Tribe, Olympia Harbor Days has been a highly anticipated Labor Day staple for 44 years now. “I really love planning the festival and looking at all its history,” said Carol Riley, executive director of OHD. “The Squaxin Island Tribe is participating this year, bringing a cultural connection to the festival. We’re building connections (like this) in our community, and that’s what’s really important here.”
In addition to conducting opening ceremonies and blessing the three-day celebration, the Squaxin Island Tribe will hold a Salish Sea Celebration alongside OHD festivities. The tribe will present tribal art, a salmon bake, cultural demonstrations and other activities on the Port Plaza. Vintage tugboats, the highlight of OHD, will be moored at Olympia’s Percival Landing throughout the weekend. The tugboats will participate in the world’s largest vintage tugboat show and race on Budd Bay Sunday afternoon, and festivalgoers can purchase cruise tickets for the Virginia V steamship and the Hawaiian Chieftain and Lady Washington tall ships.
Boasting over 55,000 visitors each year, OHD will be packed with annual features including vintage tugboats, food court, arts and craft vendors, commercial booths, harbor tours and live bands gracing OHD stages. “I love seeing families out there, enjoying the food, music and booths,” said Riley. Olympia Highlanders Bagpipers, Puget Sounders Barbershop Chorus and Samba Olywa will stroll the boardwalk. Airbound Underground will stage multiple aerial performances, and the 143-foot Tug Comanche hosts a floating World War II museum. Look for new features like sand-carving displays and contests and a community boat-building project. A giant slide, “walk-on-water” balls, fire-engine tours, story times with book giveaways, a civil-air-patrol flight simulator and a make-your-own “cork-boat regatta” presented by Hands On Children’s Museum will keep kids entertained throughout the event, while adults can enjoy the Little Creek Casino Beer Garden by the Bay.
What: Olympia Harbor Days
When: 5-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1;
10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2;
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3
Where: Port Plaza to Percival Landing,
222 Columbia St. NW, Olympia
How much: free
Learn more: email | Olympia Harbor Days