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Archives Find of the Month: 1902 Elks Carnival

In August 1902, the Seattle Elks Lodge hosted a carnival and street fair in downtown Seattle. This was quite a big affair, extending over almost two weeks and a good portion of downtown. Ordinance 8369 granted the Elks permission to build temporary wooden structures “between Second Avenue and Fifth Avenue, Pike Street and University Street, on Third Avenue, on Union Street, on Fourth Avenue and upon the grounds known as the Federal Building Site and the Old University Grounds.”

Planning efforts were elaborate; the committee doing the legwork even had their own letterhead. The committee tried to plan for every eventuality, including petitioning the city to have a fire engine with horses and men in a designated location on the grounds throughout the event. They even went so far as to get City Council to pass a resolution banning the carrying or use of feather dusters during the carnival, as they were deemed “annoying and dangerous.”

Another resolution was introduced banning any competing “circus or like performance” during the period of the carnival, “except such circus or entertainments of like character as are permitted to exhibit under the auspices of the Elks carnival committee.” However, this legislative attempt at killing the competition was indefinitely postponed and apparently never passed.

In late July, the Elks decided it would be a good idea to invite city officials to participate in the event and sent a letter to City Council asking them to be in a parade on August 19th, which was designated as Seattle Day. Apparently at least some accepted, as another clerk file dated August 18 informed them that five carriages would pick them up at City Hall the next day to assemble for the parade.

The parade seemed to have been the City’s last official interaction with the carnival planners, save for one final document: in October, the Council passed a resolution requesting that the planning committee be asked to take down a bandstand which was erected for the fair and was still standing two months later.

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