Goodbye, Bob Barnes; hello, Dennis Williams.
Barnes, who has been associated with the Olympia summer festival known as Capital Lakefair since 1978, said goodbye Sunday, wrapping up some of his final duties as executive director of the fair.
The five-day fair ended Sunday, and now Barnes, 71, will step into a new role: Providing guidance to Williams, the new executive director, so that he can get up to speed on the job.
Williams, 56, a longtime Olympia resident and self-described Lakefair enthusiast, can recall times when he would walk down Fourth Avenue as a kid and spend days at the fair along Capitol Lake.
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“I love Capital Lakefair,” Williams said.
Williams is president of the Thurston County Lodging Association. He also is a former assistant general manager at the Red Lion Hotel Olympia, the former director of sales at downtown’s Governor Hotel and a music teacher. He also sits on the board of the culinary school at South Puget Sound Community College, he said.
But Sunday belonged to Barnes — although rather than reflect too much on his years with Lakefair, it was business as usual, with Barnes about to get ready for the Sunday night fireworks show that caps the Lakefair celebration.
Barnes also isn’t completely going away. He will remain a Capitalarian, the group that helps put on Lakefair, and his wife, Serry — Lakefair president this year — will remain on the board through 2015, he said.
At various times since 1978, Barnes has been president and executive director of Lakefair. He most recently completed a three-year run as president in 2010 and has been executive director for the past three Lakefairs.
One of his favorite duties has been working with and getting to know the high school girls who become the queen and princesses of Lakefair. Barnes pointed out how some are shy at first in their new public role, but then grow to become confident young women.
“ ‘You’ve helped our girls,’ ” said an emotional Barnes, recalling past praise he had received from parents.
The 2014 queen is Madison Murphy of Olympia High School, the third consecutive year that OHS has produced the queen, according to the Capital Lakefair program.
Williams said his main goal for Lakefair is to somehow usher in a youth movement for the fair and get younger people to become Capitalarians — more in the age range of 40 to 60, rather than 60 to 80 — so that the tradition can be carried forward.
Another idea is to return to the day when the new Lakefair queen was creatively announced, Williams said.
Past years have seen skydivers appear over Lakefair and announce the winner, Barnes said. The queen is no longer announced during Lakefair itself — it now happens in February — but one of Barnes’ favorite queen announcements was during the late 1970s when what appeared to be an old woman in a wheelchair was shockingly pushed into Capitol Lake. A short time later, the “old woman” reappeared to the shocked crowd as a swimmer who emerged from the lake holding a sign bearing the name of the queen.