by Molly Walsh
Olympia is a city of many facets, but at its heart, it is home to a vibrant arts scene, many nonprofit organizations and annual events that bring the community together. And one of the town’s most long-standing festivals is Capital Lakefair. Taking over the lawn at Heritage Park for five days each July, Lakefair contains a full schedule of events, including carnival rides, art vendors, live music, a fireworks show and the Lakefair Grand Parade.
Also an important part of Lakefair’s history is the range of nonprofit and community organizations that help to make up Food Row. These organizations host concession booths that serve up a menu of treats, many of which have become annual favorites over the years.
“Food Row for nonprofits has been there pretty much from the beginning of Lakefair,” said Karen Adams-Griggs, president of Lakefair.
This year, Lakefair’s Food Row, located on Water Street, will host booths that are mainly operated by nonprofit and community organizations, including longtime vendors and first-time participants. Menu options will range from kettle corn from the Zonta Club of Olympia to Hawaiian pulled pork from the Pacific Ohana Foundation.
Attending Lakefair has become a tradition for many South Sound residents and now, multiple generations can look forward to the annual festivities, including a tour of Food Row. Adams-Griggs said Lakefair is about giving back to the community and that philosophy can be seen through the participation of nonprofits in Food Row. In addition, many Lakefair events are of no cost, including the Lakefair Grand Parade and the daily lineup of live performances.
“We don’t charge an entrance fee,” said Adams-Griggs. “Music on the stage is free. Fireworks is free. The parade is free. Walking through arts and crafts is free, until you buy something. So we try to do as many free events as we can… The food on Food Row, what’s unique about it is the money goes back into the community.”
Food Row will be available during all five days of Lakefair and on the menu this year are festival-friendly treats that will suit a range of palates. Joyce Rommel, the food concession chair for Capital Lakefair, said many organizations return as food vendors year after year, and returning nonprofit vendors have priority positioning on Food Row. Lakefair is also interested in diverse food options for festival attendees and continues to welcome new vendors each year.
“It’s a case of going out in the community or further out than just Thurston County, and seeing if we can find vendors who would have an interest in coming to Lakefair, and they are serving something that we’re not already serving,” said Rommel.
As attendees enjoy a range of menu options, Food Row will also serve as a kind of fundraiser for these community organizations, as proceeds raised through Food Row nonprofit vendors will help to fund important local causes.
“It’s a community support thing,” said Rommel. “So, if you’re at Lakefair, and you buy something off of Food Row, then you’re giving money back to the community, through these organizations to support their programs.”
Alongside nonprofits and community organizations, this year’s Food Row may also include participation from a limited number of commercial food vendors. For-profit food vendors on Food Row will also give back to the community through contributions to Thurston County-based nonprofit organizations.
“Commercial entities are required to make a donation of at least $500 to a Thurston County nonprofit organization,” said Rommel.
Many community service organization vendors on Food Row will offer familiar favorites, including the Olympia Host Lions Club, which will serve burgers. S4 Stevens Racing will have carnival staples like kettle corn, cotton candy and funnel cake available. The Pacific Ohana Foundation will have Hawaiian pulled pork, chicken with rice and noodles. The Olympia Robotics Federation will be serving up sweet and savory crepes. Longtime Food Row participant, the Zonta Club of Olympia, will be serving kettle corn at this year’s festival.
The Thurston County Democrats will have their classic Demoburgers and fries and the Thurston County Republicans will be serving hot dogs and garlic fries. Villamil Enterprise and Limeberry will be offering frozen yogurt. Smash’n Burgers will serve egg rolls and Indomie fried noodles. Fast N Fred Foods will have chicken and beef shawarma. The Hungarian Kitchen will have the carnival favorite, elephant ears. Cay Sal Pies will be bringing a new culinary experience to Lakefair through their legendary frozen pie on a stick.
Rommel invites residents of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and surrounding areas to Lakefair this summer to have fun, take in the atmosphere and enjoy the many festivities that are planned.
“It’s a great thing in the sense that we have arts and crafts, we have entertainment,” said Rommel. “We hope that it’ll be nice weather and everybody can enjoy themselves. Of course, we have the carnival. You’d be surprised, sometimes people you haven’t seen all year—there they are at Lakefair, and it’s like Old Home Week.”
Food Row at Capital Lakefair
Lakefair Week, July 12-16, 2023
Water Street, Olympia WA
Varies by vendor