Where Rooster Tails Fly – Seattle Seafair 1952


1952 Champion Spark Plug Ad Copy – Courtesy of Vintage Garage

An annual tradition in the Seattle area for over 60 years, Seafair continues to be one of the most popular summer events for thousands of people each year. And since it’s inception, wooden boats have been an integral part of the event over the years, from native built canoes, to runabouts & big cruisers, to outboard race boats, and unlimited hydroplanes – Seafair has something for everyone.

Seafair is a summer festival in that encompasses a wide variety of small neighborhood events leading up to several major city-wide celebrations. While many small block parties and local parades occur under the auspices of Seafair, most Seattle residents associate Seafair with the Torchlight Parade (and accompanying Torchlight Run), Seafair Cup hydroplane races, and the Blue Angels. Seafair has been an annual event in Seattle since 1950 but its roots can be traced to the 1911 Seattle Golden Potlatch Celebrations. (Wikipedia has the full history of Seafair)    

Recently Seattle’s KIRO TV posted this great 25-minute film from the 1952 Seafair festival titled “Where Rooster-Tails Fly” featuring some great vintage boat racing – in living color. So while you are munching on your Cheerios, or enjoying that Sunday morning coffee, take a trip with us back to 1952. – Texx

You can also click the KIRO TV link above to view the video, and if you want to view the video on your smart phone. You can also click on the “go full screen” button in the menu at the bottom of the video to enlarge the viewing area.

30 replies
  1. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    Great! Love the wind and selfpropelled craft in the beginning. Those big cruisers running up through the Straits of Juan deFuca out to Stewart Island looks like a good time to me. Thanks Texx Get some rest.

  2. Sean
    Sean says:

    When I lived in Vancouver (late 70’s), their version was called “Sea Fest” and included a bath tub race from Nanimo to a beach in Vancouver. But, nothing as extensive or succesfiul as the Seattle Fair.

    Get out the DeLorian… this film takes you back in time….

  3. Gary
    Gary says:

    I grewup with those hydros and they inspired my first woodies that got raced behind bikes. In my case a Schwinn Black Phantom.
    I am sure one of these hydros was a lot faster than the other, ‘just can’t remeber which one it was.

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      Its great to have those pictures so future generations can see the original colors you painted them refer to when they are being restored. I wonder which one would win if one had been towed by my Schwinn Stingray?

  4. Randy
    Randy says:

    Wow, this really brings back memories from my childhood. I watched this race on something that was very new to all of us then — television! Within 3-years I owned my very first outboard utility hydroplane. Then on to a 48 cu. in. limited hydro, always dreaming of driving an unlimited someday when I ‘grew up’. Unfortunately, I never grew up. I was, however, lucky enough to live in a part of the country that saw a need for saving the old boats from my past, so I got involved with their restoration at the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum. To get a ride was a memorable experience, and maybe that will translate into driving one ‘someday’.

    • Brian Robinson
      Brian Robinson says:

      That’s the one in the foreground. Great looking boat.

      Dick Dow, if it is an early Shain, how early are we talking?

      A one-off or low production?

    • Troy
      Troy says:

      I have a real soft spot for those cruisers.

      Have my eye on a ’48 CC 34′ express cruiser.

      This is if the ’58 CC 38′ Connie does not break me.

      • Texx
        Texx says:

        Troy – Most of those old cruisers have a “soft spot” for you too… Just sayin’

        It sure is great to see them cruising together in the Seafair film.

  5. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    I believe the boat with the turtle stern at 9:45 is an early Shain. I last saw that boat for sale about 20 years ago on the hard in a boatyard on the Duwamish. I don’t know what it’s fate is. Incidentally, I understand the Shain boatyard where all the famous “Trimmership” models were built was supervised by Stan Young for quite a while…

  6. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Don’t know what that long sedan is you’re referring to but it is appears to have art deco influences. Hope we can nail it down. Love they captured the times back then – much more innocent. That must be the beginnning of the end for step hulls and Miss Pepsi as the shovel nose hydro’s started to take over.

  7. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    That 13 mile outboard river race looked like a blast with all the twists and turns, log jumps, bridge pilings, and sand points to avoid or jump. My son is ready to build a replica and do it.

  8. G
    G says:

    The Slough race is something else. I watched as a kid and my father vetoed it. I was stuck on puget sound racing a 8′ 3 ptr against friends.
    In the early 90s the local ACBS chapter ran a couple Slough races and it wa memorable

    • Randy
      Randy says:

      The US Army Corp of Engineers straightened out most of the Sammamish Slough in, I believe, the mid/late ’70’s (Dick D or Craig M could pin this down better). Taking out all those twisty curves plus (I’m sure) the county having some say in this kind of ‘disruption’ killed this adventurous race — famous while it lasted.

  9. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    Fun old film. What a celluloid collection of coolness!!
    Love all the retro water skiing and sincro swimming.

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