Known for some festive activities, a famous murder story, and early industries that helped to develop the South Kitsap region, Olalla is a great little community that was once the main hub of the South Kitsap area.
Arrive in Olalla on a summer’s day in mid August and you will hear the sound of bluegrass, folk music, and local jam bands beckoning area residents and curious travelers seeking the comforts of good ole’ simple living, camaraderie with new and old friends, and some down home country ﬂavor reminiscent of yesteryear.
The Olalla Bluegrass Festival has become a steadfast summer tradition offering fun activities for all ages and appealing to the kid in each of us. Festival activities include demonstrations by old time crafters, a festive kid’s parade, art projects, and carnival-type games to entertain the youngsters.
It goes without saying that a festival in Olalla without a legendary Berry Pie Contest would be unconscionable given the areas namesake “Mamoch Olallie” a Salish Indian expression means “have you picked any berries?” The community is known for its fertile soils producing abundant berries and crops harvested by Indians, early settlers, and today’s farmers and gardeners who live there.
Jump ahead to January and watch locals brave the freezing waters of the Olalla Lagoon as they take the annual Polar Bear plunge. This annual event has been a tradition for twenty-eight years, and continues to drawn hundreds of plungers and spectators alike.
Although Olalla today is a beautiful and vibrant community, stepping back to the early 1900’s reveals a darker time for some of its residents who lived at a famous Olalla health retreat known to locals as Starvation Heights. During the early 20th-century, its owner and operator Dr. Linda Burﬁeld Hazzard used starvation as a method to cure illness and reportedly killing 40 victims. Gregg Olsen, an Olallan local who became a New York Times Best Selling Author, wrote about the story of the Starvation Heights. A movie about the story is expected in the near future.
Another interesting tidbit from Olalla’s history is the mode of travel that many enjoyed in their venture from one location or the other. The Mosquito ﬂeet served the humble settlements of South Kitsap. A favorite a pointy-ender, the Virginia V, was built in Olalla with local timbers logged during Olalla’s logging heydays. Although she was seriously damaged in 1934 due to a bad storm, the vessel was repaired and is still in operation today sailing the Puget Sound. It is one of the last few vessels remaining of the Mosquito Fleet.
Today, Olalla is a quiet hamlet with forested hills, small farms, granges, community centers, and picturesque country roads. Olalla now partially relies on tourism and is a picturesque residential community that is close to shopping and conveniences offered in nearby cities and towns.