Ivar Haglund begins Ivar's Fourth of July fireworks on Elliott Bay on July 4, 1965.

  • By Paul Dorpat and David Wilma
  • Posted 7/02/2004
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2503

On July 4, 1965, Ivar Haglund (1905-1985), known as the "King of the Waterfront," restaurateur, owner of Acres of Clams, folk singer, begins the Ivar's Fourth of July fireworks on Elliott Bay at his Captain's Table restaurant.

Haglund began his Independence Day light shows two years after he moved his Captain's Table restaurant from its downtown 5th Avenue site to new quarters on Elliott Avenue. The fireworks show was staged on the beach in front of the restaurant.

In 1968, to celebrate his 30th year on the waterfront, Ivar got a head start on Independence Day by lighting the sky at midnight on July 3rd. To his guests at the Captain's Table he explained that the pyrotechnics were also meant to dedicate the restaurant's new and mighty dish washing machine. Following the fireworks, he led all on a tour of the kitchen where the restaurant's waitresses stood by holding up spotless glasses for inspection.

In 1974, a fireworks show at Greenlake was cancelled when the City of Seattle refused to waive the $500 fee for the costs of a public event. This also caused the cancellation of the neighborhood's Fourth of July parade. Organizer Bernie Crowell approached Haglund's general manager (Haglund was hard to see, sometimes he was in and sometimes he wasn't) with a plea for help. Haglund stepped in to help and the Green Lake display went off as originally planned.

Haglund received many letters of appreciation. In 1976, he sponsored two displays, one at Green Lake and one on Elliott Bay in front of the Captain's Table.

In 1980, the Green Lake event was moved to Lake Union. In 1984, the 600-shell display cost $20,000 and was the largest in the state of Washington and the largest private display in the nation. In 2009, Ivar's decided to discontinue the fireworks.  Ivar's President Bob Donegan explained that the restaurant plans to instead focus on other community work.


Paul Dorpat "King of the Waterfront," (tentative title, biography of Ivar Haglund in progress), in possession of Paul Dorpat, Seattle, 2000; Dave Stephens, Ivar: The Life and Times of Ivar Haglund (Seattle: Dunhill Publishing, 1986), 125-128; "Ivar's Says No July 4th Fireworks This Year," The Seattle Times, April 3, 2009 (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com). Note: The date of Ivar's first fireworks was here corrected from 1966 (the date given in Dave Stephens' account and no doubt based on Ivar's own frequent confusion of dates) to 1965. The 1965 date is based on reports of the previous day's fireworks in Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 5, 1965. This essay was updated on July 4, 2009.

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