History of Foofaraw...
John W. "Bill" Johnson worked for the Thurston County
Chamber of Commerce back in the sixties. Some called him
the "Executive Secretary", others "Chamber Manager."
Although Bill has since passed away, when his spirit looks
down on Olympia each September, he must smile with the
satisfaction of knowing that Foofaraw, his idea 46 years
ago, has become one of the Chamber's most enjoyable annual
events and is remembered warmly by military men and women
stationed around the world.
Bill's idea surfaced one morning in the coffee shop at the
Olympia Hotel, where so many conversations over coffee were
about Chamber members.
One day Johnson said "I have an idea on how the Chamber can
make some good contacts with the military at Fort Lewis,
Madigan Army Hospital, and McChord Air Force Base."
So on a sunny Friday morning in September of 1962 a small
fleet of about 15 boats headed north on Budd Inlet. One
dictionary defines Foofaraw as "much ado about nothing" and,
at one point in history the official "purpose" of the day
said a "Foofarite has earned the right to say 'Foo' to all
duties and responsibilities for one day each year."
Foofarites gather at the Olympia Yacht Club the morning of
the first Friday after Labor Day each year. Each skipper
tells Foofaraw planners how many guests his or her boat can
accommodate and they assign a mix of military and Chamber
participants to their hosts' boats. Each Chamber member
pays a hosting fee to attend Foofaraw. Those fees assist in
paying for the food and refreshments.
After a period of athletic events, watching some of those
events and much socializing, Foofarites enjoy the
traditional barbecued salmon, baked beans, salads and garlic
bread. A big favorite are the wonderful cookies provided by
the Yacht Club. There's plenty for everyone and even the
most diet-conscious Foofarite is tempted to try "just a
little bit more."
After some more casual athletics and a lot more socializing,
the thoroughly fed and relaxed Foofarites wander back to
their boats for the leisurely cruise back to Olympia. Most
get back to the Yacht Club about five that afternoon.
Everyone seems to linger, not wanting to see such a
wonderful day end and not wanting to say goodbye to his or
her newly found shipmates and friends.
The Chamber gives each military installation a quota of
people they can bring. The quota fills quickly. The
military people who attend Foofaraw are almost universally
enthusiastic about the event and most of them are eager to
attend. One military commander said the easiest job he ever
had was filling up his quota for Foofaraw.