In 1957, a small carnival began on the shores of Capitol Lake to beat the heat and boredom of the summer. The tradition continues with this year’s Capitol Lakefair through July 17. What started from humble beginnings has grown into one of the biggest local summer events.

heritage bankFor most families, Lakefair is anything but cheap. The rides, food, and activities can really add up. However, with a little bit of research and planning, there are ways to find frugal fun at this year’s event.

Free Activities

Let’s jump right into what can you do absolutely free at this year’s Lakefair. First, consider the entertainment. Live music hits the mainstage for all five days of Lakefair and is free of cost. Plan your visit around the revolving lineup of local talent. Local radio stations also play a part in the entertainment, such as MIXX 96‘s presentation of Rhythm Fire Lakefair Voice in search of the next South Sound singing sensation.

Lakefair has brought summertime fun to our community for nearly 60 years. ©ThurstonTalk

The next free option is the annual Lakefair Car Show. On Friday, July 14, Marathon Park will be filled with classic cars from all over the Northwest. Twenty awards will be given out to cars of different categories and visitors even have an opportunity to vote on some of the winners. The show begins at 5:30 p.m.

The Capital Lakefair Grand Parade takes over Capitol Way on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Floats, animals, performers, and the Lakefair Royal Court will be on hand to entertain the crowd. Be sure to get a spot early as the sidewalks do tend to fill up fast.

More of a sports fan? Then you don’t want to miss the Lakefair Volleyball Tournament. This summer tradition takes place on Saturday and Sunday on the Capitol Campus. It’s a great opportunity to support local athletes and enjoy a free sporting event.

Finally, the biggest, loudest, and most brilliant spectacle of Lakefair, the Grande Finale Fireworks Display. On July 17, find a spot close to the Capitol campus to enjoy the view of this professional display at 10:00 p.m. It’s the ultimate ending to the summer festival.

Activities on the Cheap

Rides and games are available at discounted prices the first and second day of Lakefair. Photo courtesy: Capital Lakefair.

As mentioned, Lakefair is not cheap, but I have a few tips and tricks to help keep the cost low for you and your family. Let’s begin with food – always a highlight in my family. The cost can be steep, but the portions are always large. One of the strategies we use is to buy several items and then serve them family style. I also highly recommend visiting food vendors during lunch time on a weekday. It’s less busy which leaves open picnic tables that are usually hard to find on the weekend.

The final tip is all about the Funtastic Carnival. This is where the money seemingly disappears into the hands of a ride or game operator.

The Royal Lakefair Court takes center stage during the free parade on Saturday. Photo courtesy: Capital Lakefair.

Thursday is Wristband Day. Wristbands sell for $35 and allow for unlimited rides all day long. That still is a steep price, but it will give the kids hours of entertainment at a much more affordable price than what is offered during the remainder of the event.

This year’s Lakefair is bound to be a wonderful event to make many family memories that will last all summer long. If you follow these tips you are bound to have a few extra bucks in your pocket to spend on one of the many summer festivals to come.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at submit@thurstontalk.com. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and the surrounding area, visit our complete event calendar.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email