THE HISTORY OF FOOFARAW
John W. “Bill” Johnson worked for the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce in the 1960’s. 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 FOOFARAW has become one of the Chambers most enjoyable annual events and is remembered warmly by military men and women stationed around the world.
Bills idea surfaced one morning in the coffee shop of 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 Ft. Lewis, Madigan Army Hospital and McChord Air force Base” So on a sunny Friday morning in September 1962 a small fleet of 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 “foof” 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 the planners how many guests his or her boat can accommodate, and they assign a mix of military and Chamber members 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 the events and much socializing. Foofarites enjoy the traditional barbequed salmon, baked beans, salads, and garlic bread. A big favorite are the wonderful cookies provided by the Yacht Club. There is 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 OYC at about 5 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 are eager to attend. One military commander said the easiest job he ever had was filling up his quota for FOOFARAW.