Thousands of people arrive each year for one of the largest maritime festivals in Washington State, the Olympia Harbor Days Festival, of which the Vintage Tugboat Races is one of many events and activities held over Labor Day Weekend in Olympia. Events for the whole family can be found along the harbor at Percival Landing and the Port Plaza – it’s an all-inclusive celebration of food, music, races and family activities rolled into one big event.

Walk aboard the vintage tugs and tour the Lady Washington sailing vessel; learn about seafaring history, but watch out for the Roaming Minstrel Pirates. Take in a concert, with a wide variety of genre to choose from; performances are scheduled on the Main Stage at Percival Park, the Midway Stage on The Boardwalk, and at Tower Stage in the Port Plaza. You’ll find food and beer vendors too. Don’t miss the master carvers sculpting a tugboat from sand, and the master Lego builders creating a giant 5-foot tugboat. Or try your hand at the Civil Air Patrol Flight Simulator. Captain Patch Pirate Story Telling is another favorite, along with cultural presentations by the Squaxin Island Tribe who share their stories, dances and song.

The procession of tugs and the World’s Largest Vintage Tugboat Races take place on Sunday, starting at noon and run until 3pm; tugs usually race along the deep channel of Budd Bay near Butler Cove. Races are divided into two classes, The Small Harbor Tug Class and The Over 400hp Class. Not all tugs race and some remain at the docks for touring. Recreational boaters are reminded that the Coast Guard will be enforcing a local regulation during the Tugboat Races; boaters are not to transit through, anchor, or moor in the specified racing zone. Contact the Coast Guard on VHF Ch 16 regarding area restrictions. The Port of Olympia docks at Port Plaza and Percival Landing are not available for public moorage during the festival.

All events are free at the Harbor Days Festival except bookings for cruises and race viewing. Tickets are available online for Virginia V Cruises, Lady Washington Excursion Sails, and Tugboat Race Viewing. For a complete schedule, or for more information, go to

Photo: ThurstonTalk