Shelf Life Community Story Project
Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle's Central District.

Seafair's Roots in the CD

Photo by Jill Freidberg

Photo by Jill Freidberg

ayward Evans grew up in Seattle, was a director of the Central Area Motivation Program, and has been a community organizer for most of his life. 

Hayward Evans

The whole founding of Seafair, from my understanding, my observations, came right out of the African American community and Mardi Gras. There was a guy, Morgan, I can’t think of his first name, but Morgan had a place up on Madison street, him and Honeysuckle got together with a few others that all were business owners on the strip, because that used to be the club up there on Madison street. All the nightclubs and all the jazz players and everybody. They got together and said, “Let’s have a Mardi Gras!” So they started with parades. It was called the Mardi Gras, and every year they had more and more floats and bands playing. It became a really big deal that attracted everybody out of the city of Seattle. The parade would be right down 23rd Avenue. My mom always would have me at 23rd and Union, amen! But the fact is that it was pre Seafair. And I think some of the members downtown, the business community said, “Wait a minute, this is a good idea!” Then they ended up doing a Mardi Gras, then they changed it to a Seafair. But we had one float, as an African American community, in Seafair, and I drove it. Hah!

We talked to the Sandpoint - they used to have a naval base there. And so they donated an old landing craft. So we took it up to CAMP. We said, “What would look real nice? Well, you know purple represents the royalty and heritage, so we’re gonna have purple.” So we put purple garlands on it. “Well, you know, the queen has to sit high!” So we had the old chairs that they had, I guess Bobby Seals was in one, or Huey P Newton, with the big straw backed thing we had at the top of it. It looked beautiful! We had it all lit up. We had a little generator and lights, and we were in the parade! We had our queen. In fact, our queen came in second in Seafair.