President & CEO of Seafair
Richard Andersen is the newly appointed president and CEO of Seattle institution Seafair. Andersen is a longtime event management executive and has managed sports stadiums and other large entertainment venues all over the country. Now, his experience is being brought to Seafair, which brings the entire community together for the quintessential Northwest experience. Spanning 10 weeks from July to September, Seafair includes more than 75 events, ranging from a triathlon to speedboat races, and it reaches nearly 2.2 million people. And Andersen is in charge of it all.
Sea: You’re fairly new at Seafair. How has the learning curve been for you?
Andersen: It’s about what I expected in terms of the process of learning, because I’ve been through this before. If I know anything, it’s that time takes time and I don’t know what I don’t know. I’ve done my best to be a good listener, to not be focused on making change for change’s sake. There’s still a lot to learn, but I believe we are in a good spot now.
What was attractive about the chance to join Seafair?
First, there’s a lot to love about being in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. But specifically, Seafair was attractive because of its role as a steward and servant leader in providing community events for the greater region. I simply love the fact that we’re about bringing the community together, creating great memories, doing it all in an extremely affordable manner, and then at the end of the day every dime we make, we put back into the community.
Any surprises so far?
Yes, and a very pleasant one. A few times in my career I’ve come into situations similar to Seafair — organizations with longstanding traditions — and in every case prior to Seafair, I found that the organization’s image within the community had become challenged. What I found with Seafair, whether people still attended or not, just mentioning the festival brought smiles to people’s faces. It is a pleasant surprise to see the emotion Seafair brings.
Is there an event you’re most looking forward to?
I’d have to say I’m excited about literally everything we’re doing, so it would be hard to pick one. I’m really interested to see how creative people get around their milk-carton derby entries. I’m also jazzed about some of the new content we have for Seafair weekend, including the Bolt on the Blue Water Ski Race.
Tell us a little about the Seafair Foundation.
The Foundation’s primary focus is to provide strong educational experiences for our area’s youth and to enhance the professional growth of young women. I’ve been inspired to see what many of our former participants have moved on to do, and I look forward to collaborating with all those involved to help take it to the next level.
What are a couple of the most popular attractions of the Seafair?
You’d have to start with the Summer Fourth. It’s pure excitement from 60,000 people gathering to experience fireworks and to cheer on the celebration of our nation’s birth in such a patriotic way. Then later in July, hundreds of thousands of people line the streets of Seattle or tune in to the television to view all the various creative floats and entertainment pieces that come together, celebrating the kickoff of our summer’s greatest week. Fleet Week is such an amazing experience for everyone in the region, as they get to honor our military and see some of the ships our country uses.
And of course Seafair Weekend [Aug. 5-7], where we’re working as a team to enhance the guest experience and make it easier for people to get there. We’re working to improve the food and hospitality offerings, and we’ll be introducing a number of new items including food trucks that are popular to the community. It’ll be a spectacular weekend.
Are there events boaters can attend via their own vessel?
If you get there early [next year, obviously], grab a spot on Lake Union and watch the Summer Fourth. Anyone can head to Lake Washington for a great view of the Blue Angels. But we always encourage people to check with us first to see if there’s still space on the logboom. We’ll have great access to the Hydros, U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and lots of fun people enjoying their time together.
What’s the Seafair Boat Club and how important is it to the two months of Seafair?
The Seafair Boat Club was formed in 1974 to support the waterside activities of Seafair. The club has since morphed and now has two purposes: to support the production of the Milk Carton Derby and to continue to support the waterside activities of Seafair weekend. Outside of summer, the club also supports the Seafair & 76 Holiday Cruise in December, where more than 1,000 intellectually disabled guests embark on a special holiday cruise on Lake Union and Lake Washington.
Visit seafair.com for a complete list of events.