Olympia Harbor Days: Olympia’s Annual Summer Send-Off

harbor days


By Stacee Sledge

oly fed sponsorGive a final salute to summer with Olympia Harbor Days, the annual Labor Day celebration of maritime heritage and tugboats at downtown Olympia’s Percival Landing.

An array of tugboats – vintage, working, and retired – will navigate to Olympia’s Percival Landing on Friday, August 31st at 5:00 pm through Sunday, September 2nd, surrounded by entertainment, food, art, and history.

Many of the tugboats are open for tours. “It’s the only festival in Olympia where kids can actually get their hands on the wheel and see what it would really feel like to be on the waterways,” says event producer Shelly Lively.

The popular Harbor Days Tugboat Races hit the water at noon on Sunday.

Taking place alongside these events is an arts and crafts fair on Percival Landing, live music, food options galore, and much more.

The Olympia-South Sound Chapter of the State Historical Association/State Capital Museum started the festival nearly four decades ago. Two years after getting it on its feet, the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association took over, and grew the popular event into what it is today.

This year the torch passes again, into the caring and capable hands of the Olympia Kiwanis.

“The South Sound Maritime Heritage Association want to focus more on their online museum, so they looked to the Olympia Kiwanis as a good steward of the festival who would continue it in a healthy, positive way,” Lively explains.

“And Harbor Days really does that,” she continues. “It provides a free opportunity for families to get together and have fun.”

The three-day festival celebrates the tugboat industry and maritime heritage, honoring the longtime success of the workingman on the waterways. It also gives small businesses an opportunity to thrive and creates local tourism.

Generous community sponsors raise festival funds. And with the Kiwanis involvement, anything raised beyond festival sustainability will go back into the Kiwanis Foundation and in turn be used to help local kids and families.

Lively credits the companies and organizations that generously donate funds to the festival – there are upwards of 10 sponsors — with working together to make the event possible.

“We are so grateful to our sponsors,” says Lively. “We have some absolutely spectacular people here in Olympia. Olympia Federal Savings is our main sponsor and I’ve got to give a really big call out to Sandy DiBernardo and the whole team there. Lucky Eagle Casino has also been very good to us.”

Lively has produced a wide variety of events through her company, Lively Productions.

“Every time I take on a new event, I like to bring in something new and fresh,” she says. “We have some really special things planned.”

Lively and her team worked hard to secure the MV Lotus for this year’s festival.

For the first time in the history of the festival, live updates of the tugboat races will be available on MIXX 96.1.

The festival is also bringing in three new features for kids: a giant purple slide, an instrument petting zoo, and camels for the children to see up close and personal.

The entire weekend will be chock full of family-friendly fun.

“We get about 50,000 people over the weekend every year,” says Lively. “We want people to come down and have fun and truly connect as a family and as a community.

Check the Olympia Harbor Days website or Facebook page for the latest news on this much-loved annual event.

Olympia Harbor Days

August 31st through September 2nd

222 Columbia Street NW

Olympia WA 98501


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