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Originally published July 31, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 1, 2008 at 3:54 PM

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Here come the hydros and the Blue Angels

Catch U.S. Navy Blue Angels in the sky and hydroplanes racing across Lake Washington this weekend.

Seattle Times staff

Get ski and boarding conditions all winter long with webcams, snow alerts and more at seattletimes.com/snowsports

Hydroplane races have been a Seattle summer highlight since 1951, when a group of local business leaders called the Seattle Salts dreamed up the idea and consulted the Farmers' Almanac to choose the weekend least likely to rain in Seattle. The past 57 years have seen a lot of changes, but the appeal of watching colorful rooster-tailed boats racing on Lake Washington on the first weekend of August still draws tens of thousands to its scenic shores every year.

"If you're taking a 'staycation' this year, a day at the races and air show is a great deal, especially if you're able to come Friday when it's free," says Seafair public-relations director Dan Wartelle. Along with the hydro races and air-show performances featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels each day, there's entertainment, food vendors, kids' activities, giveaways and interactive displays in Genesee Park and three beer gardens around the grounds. "Based on recommendations from racegoers last year, we have a new feature this year — a family section with great beach space, family restrooms and kid-friendly food vendors," adds Wartelle.

The Seafair Saturday Night concert this year stars El Vez!, Elvis with a Latin twist; classic rock with the Saturday Knights; Starfire Air Show Performance; and fireworks display.

Many streets in the race area will be closed this weekend; street parking is extremely limited. Some stalwarts arrive early, prepared to park far from the race site and walk. Seafair recommends taking the bus, including shuttles from Seattle Center all three days and from Eastgate Park-and-Ride in Bellevue Saturday and Sunday, or other bus options. Bring blankets or chairs for seating, and snacks and coolers if you'd like, though no alcoholic beverages can be brought into the race area.

Seafair Hydroplane Races and Air Show

Time: 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sunday; gates

open 8:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Air-show events throughout the day, U.S. Navy Blue Angels performance 1:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Concert and fireworks show, 6:45-10 p.m. Saturday.

Cost: Free on Friday; $25 advance, $30 on-site per day Saturday and Sunday, $5 ages 65 and older; free for ages 11 and younger with paid adult, free for active military with ID. Kids Zone unlimited inflatable rides $12 per day. Saturday night concert after 6 p.m., $10. Guided tours of the hydro pits, $5 per person in addition to admission.

Location: Lake Washington Boulevard, Stan Sayres Pits and Genesee Park; paid admission area along Lake Washington Boulevard South from Lake Park Drive to 49th Avenue South, Seattle. Main entrance on 43rd Avenue South between Genesee Street and Lake Washington Boulevard, south entry at 49th Avenue South and Lake Washington Boulevard South, Seattle. No pets allowed.

Getting there: From I-5, get on I-90 East and take the Rainier Avenue South (southbound) exit, follow Rainier Avenue South to South Genesee Street and turn left. No public parking except for a limited amount of disabled-permit parking; street parking limited, many local streets closed.

I-90 bridge closed for Blue Angels practice and performances, 9:45 a.m.-noon and 1:15-2:30 p.m. today, 12:45-2:40 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday; drivers should plan to drive across the I-90 bridge at least an hour before closing time to ensure access.

Seafair Express Shuttle bus leaves from Seattle Center, Third Avenue and Mercer Street, starting at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. Sunday; and from Eastgate Park-and-Ride, 14200 S.E. Eastgate Way, Bellevue, starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, 7 a.m. Sunday. Shuttles run approximately every 15 minutes throughout the event, roundtrip $5/adults, $1/military with ID and ages 65 and older, ages 11 and younger free. For other bus service, contact Metro Transit info, 206-553-3000 or transit.metrokc.gov.

More information: 206-728-0123 or www.seafair.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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