Coordinators abandon ship on boating season opening day event amid COVID-19

SEATTLE - The COVID-19 pandemic is sinking big plans for boating season’s opening day.

The annual Seattle Yacht Club Opening Day Boating Parade usually brings out thousands of people. Event directors canceled the 2020 celebration as a precaution following the state’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.

“We are terribly bummed about this. So much work goes into this and then to come to a complete stop, it was heartbreaking,” said Chris Falskow, the Opening Day 2020 Admiral. “Everybody is so sad that we’re not doing this.”

The event committee had been planning for the centennial season opener since October.

More than 250 people volunteered to get things ready. Plus, Seattle Police Department, Seattle Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and Homeland Security were on deck for public safety.

With so many people involved and the anticipation of a large crowd, Falskow said it just wasn’t safe to sail on.

“It was obviously the right thing to do because of the pandemic,” said Falskow. “Rather be safe than sorry.”

The Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority is a partner for the big event. Directors said in the past, opening day made big waves for the local economy.

“Thousands of tourists, people come to our restaurants, they stay in our hotels," said Ashley Comar, vice president of marketing and communications for Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority. "So, they don’t just come for this one event, they also visit our shops and attractions."

Comar said the loss of millions in tourism dollars is another big blow to the hospitality industry’s revenue, which is already sinking because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re trying to get everybody engaged and dreaming about Seattle and remembering that we’re still going to be here," Comar said. "We can’t wait to welcome everybody back once we’re able to travel safely."

Though people from past celebrations were excited for the 2020 “Rock the Dock” theme, event directors said they’re saving the ideas for 2021.

“It might just make it extra special next year,” said Falskow.