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Pat O’Day returns to Seafair hydro broadcast after outcry

The outcry was as loud as an old turbine engine after KIRO TV decided to drop iconic Seattle DJ Pat O’Day from this year’s Seafair hydroplane race coverage. But now the station has reversed course and decided to include him in the broadcast.

O’Day says he was contacted last week by KIRO TV management (KIRO Radio is owned and operated by a separate company) and asked to contribute, after being told last month he was out.

“They gave me a call and I said ‘Gladly.’ Prior to the race, I’m going to do a little feature about where has Seafair been and where is it going, and I’ll tell a couple of stories about my involvement starting with the first broadcast.”

The legendary broadcaster has played a pivotal role in the popularity and evolution of the sport. Along with being the first to broadcast play-by-play of hydro races, he helped spur development of the turbine engine and introduced the only female driver to the sport.

“It is an important, pivotal celebration of our community,” O’Day says. “It’s the trigger that fires the big Seafair gun.”

O’Day has been a part of of the Seafair broadcast on radio or TV for 45 years. KIRO TV had confirmed in June he would be left off this year’s broadcast. And he says he was more than willing to go quietly.

“I wasn’t going to say a word and somebody at Channel 7 leaked it to Eric Lacitis at The Seattle Times. Yeah, I was knocked out by the response.”

That response included thousands of posts on his Facebook page, along with plenty of complaints on websites and blogs, as well as a flood of calls and emails to KIRO TV. So when he received a call from the station brass last week, he was glad to come back for his 46th Seafair, and let bygones be bygones.

“I figured ‘OK, so what.’ What’s good for Seafair is good for me.”

O’Day will also host a one-hour hydro race special during Seafair weekend on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don talked O’Day into hosting the special after first learning of Channel 7’s decision to drop him from the broadcast.

“Pat is a Seattle broadcasting legend, and we’re really excited to share his longtime experience being the voice of Seafair on our airwaves,” said KIRO Radio personality Don O’Neill. “Pat talking about the hydros has been a part of our community for many years and we’re not ready for that to end.”

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