Lakefair: A Five-Day Summer Vacation

By Molly Walsh and Billy Thomas

On Olympia’s third week of July, a five-day summer vacation rolls into town with an opportunity for residents and visitors to relive childhood memories and create new ones. Capital Lakefair delivers time-honored landmarks evoking an atmosphere best suited to balmy summer evenings.

Flashes of color whirl around the festival’s focal Ferris wheel as generations line up for Olympia Zonta Club’s German-sausage cart. As the fair continues into the weekend, batons twirl and the Lakefair Royal Court waves as it winds down Fifth Avenue amid the Lakefair Parade.

Water Street, colloquially known during Lakefair as Food Row, is home to myriad selections served by local charities. As a means of giving back to the community, Capital Lakefair requires every food vendor on Food Row to be a nonprofit organization. Born from that is an opportunity for clubs to fundraise during the festival. As a 40-year custom, Zonta Club of Olympia offers German sausage. Altrusa International District 12 serves elephant ears, while Barb’s Soul Food raises funds for a community Thanksgiving dinner.

Lakefair Parade’s grand marshal will be Capitol High School music director Dan Lundberg, a 40-year veteran of Olympia School District. Lundberg, who’ll retire at the end of the school year, has a long history of participating in Lakefair Parade, having led numerous school bands there throughout the years from Capitol and Olympia High Schools.

A permanent remnant of the local festival is a new rose bush, planted each Lakefair Saturday by Portland Royal Rosarians. The Rosarians host a ceremony at Schmidt Mansion, where a new rose plant is sown to honor Lakefair. 

Wednesday brings the annual battle of the bands, in which local high schoolers perform on the main stage. A recent addition to the lineup, Capital City 3on3 is a basketball tournament that takes place on the Capitol campus on Saturday and Sunday that weekend.

Saturday brings the famous community parade. The Lakefair Grand Parade among the largest in the region featuring entries of all kinds. The event kicks off with pre-parade festivities at 4:30 p.m. to get the crowd warmed up, and leads into the main event at 5 p.m. The parade route begins along Capitol Way at 20th Ave and continues down to Fifth Ave, ending near the bridge.

Also happening Saturday are a rose ceremony and Kids’ Day at Sylvester Park. This free accompaniment to Lakefair’s carnival features balloons, face painting and a myriad of bounce houses for kids to play on from noon until 4 p.m.

The Lakefair organization makes ties with the community year-round by supporting such nonprofits as Hands On Children’s Museum and Little Red Schoolhouse. It also supports events like Life Skills Prom, a dance for special-needs children.

“We are giving back to the community as much as possible,” says Karen Adams-Griggs, a Lakefair organizer.

View OLY ARTS‘ full schedule of Lakefair events here.


Capital Lakefair


Heritage Park,

330 Fifth Ave. SW, Olympia


Wednesday – Sunday, July 17-21


Free to enter (carnival rides, food vendors and games extra)



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