Stay away from Seattle day? Citizens say 'welcome'

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by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 16, 2011 at 10:56 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 16 at 11:45 PM

SEATTLE -- Amanda Ochoa in Capitol Hill had never heard of the holiday.

Neither had Sarah "Goldie" Goldenberg downtown, or Mic Toth on Pier 62.

"This is Seattle, why would you ever want to keep somebody from living here?" asked Toth.

What's stranger -- Tom Roy, the guy who officially made September 16 "Stay away from Seattle Day" has never even set foot in Washington state.

But before you buy a fish from Pike Place Market to slap Roy across the face, know that he's an actor-comedian who was trying to parody political leaders.

The idea "came from TIME magazine article from 20 years ago talking about how Seattle government leaders were having problems with people wanting to move there," said Roy from his home in Pennsylvania, "and it was getting so crowded and everything, they were actually trying to figure out a way how [they could] stop people from moving."

Some called it the Lesser Seattle movement, in which famous curmudgeon-columnist Emmett Watson crusaded against what he called "Californicators."

Back then, "I was thinking about moving to Seattle," said Tisbury Ennis, who now works in the Pike Place Market. "But I heard 'Oh, they don't like people from California.'"

So the man behind "Don't Step on a Bee Day" and "Race your Mouse Around the Icons Day" created Seattle' anti-tourism holiday.

The irony is, Roy has always wanted to visit Seattle.

Everybody talks about Paris," he said. "I want to go to San Francisco, I want to go to Seattle.

Roy stopped promoting this particular holiday 15 years ago, he said, but thanks the to Internet and some publicity by Hallmark and the Huffington Post, "Stay Away from Seattle Day" has resurfaced.

Residents say the sentiment is no longer valid.

"I don't think anyone should observe that holiday," said Goldie. "It's a stupid holiday, don't stay away from Seattle."

And yet, even the most welcoming of citizens will tell you, amidst the traffic, the parking hassles, and the ever sprouting high-rises and condos, a little bit of Stay Away From Seattle Day still resonates with the locals.

"Some people are meant for the other side of the country, and I mean that as respectfully to the other side of the country as I can," said Toth.

"We can't keep our history anymore," said Ochoa. "It just keeps getting rebuilt."

"Seattle's really known for its small neighborhoods and you know, it's just really quiet," said Ennis. "So its hard to see a change."

Even if the second irony is that most of the people we interviewed moved here only a few years ago.

When asked, the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce said it does not endorse the holiday.

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