By Liz Premo
Atlantic News, Thursday, January 29, 2004
HAMPTON - Their colorful, informative 2004 brochure says "Hampton Beach wants to put you in the picture." And, they're prepared to make it happen with an extensive list of events that take place not only during the summer months (as listed in the brochure), but all year 'round as well.
So who exactly is doing all the "picture-taking"? It's the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, which organizes everything from the huge Master Sand Sculpting Competition (taking place this summer from June 11-24) to monthly Business After Hours events held throughout the year. They coordinate the annual Hampton Christmas Parade, and celebrate the achievements of those businesses who hold Chamber membership.
The Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce is operated by a genial bunch of individuals who consider themselves "family."
"We actually love each other," says Ginni McNamara, director of events and special projects. "It's a fun, friendly atmosphere."
If it's love that keeps the family together, then it's their dedication to the numerous tasks at hand that keeps things jumping at the Chamber office, located at 1 Park Avenue, Suite 3G in Hampton.
"We have a strong team here," says Jude Dionne, who serves as assistant to Chamber President B.J. "Doc" Noel. "We work hard and we play hard. We all put our hearts and souls into our job."
That's a definite prerequisite as far as the organization of summer events is concerned. In addition to the aforementioned Sand Sculpture Contest, this year's seasonal action will feature the NH Towing Association's annual Tow Truck Rodeo at the beach May 15-16. That's followed by the colorful and exciting Hampton Beach Hobie Cat Regatta on June 19-20. The Miss Hampton Beach Pageant will take place on the Seashell State at the beach on Sunday, July 25 at 2 p.m., while the ever-popular Children's Festival will bring five days of free activities for children and their families from August 16-20. Of course, there are the nightly concerts on the Sea Shell Stage beginning June 18, and spectacular fireworks will light up the Hampton Beach sky on Wednesday nights and holidays beginning Memorial Day weekend.
Then there's the "grand-daddy of them all," the 15th annual Seafood Festival, taking place September 10-12 and featuring mouthwatering treats offered by more than 50 restaurants, as well as arts and crafts, entertainment, sidewalk sales, culinary demonstrations, children's activities and street performers. Preparations for the highly-popular "last blast of summer" celebration are extensive and detailed.
"We start [planning] for our Seafood Festival in October," says Dionne. "It's a year-round event."
The Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce also works hard to serve the businesses in Hampton, Hampton Beach, North Hampton, Hampton Falls, Seabrook and Rye who are Chamber members.
"We try to reach out to include all five towns in the Chamber and make sure they feel welcome and part of the Chamber," says Director of Membership Development, Pat Morgenstern, who also takes part in numerous ribbon cutting ceremonies throughout the year.
"We want businesses to come and visit us," says Dionne, in reference to encouraging a closer connection with business owners. "Come by and say 'hello.'"
The Chamber is currently making plans for its annual meeting and awards ceremony, taking place on Thursday, February 19 at the Inn of Hampton and Conference Center from 5:30-10 p.m. The theme for the evening is a Mardi Gras Bash, featuring a bountiful buffet with a New Orleans flair, music provided by Lonely Gus, and Mardi Gras-style costumes and masks. Speaking of masks, award-winners being honored for their contribution to the community and the Chamber will be "unmasked" at the event.
Throughout the year, the Chamber will continue its efforts to make the center of Hampton "a destination, not just a location" with its Destination Downtown Committee, dedicated to: creating a coalition of downtown businesses; addressing the concerns of downtown businesses; developing a unified downtown marketing plan; enhancing the common areas of downtown; and bringing entertainment to the Gazebo area.
"Surviving in a Seasonal Market" seminars and a Spring Job Fair are other Chamber projects aimed at assisting the business community.
The Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to making that all-important connection with businesses in the Seacoast area, as well as connecting with residents and visitors through the public events they organize. It's a match that seems to fit in every way.
"We get better every year," says McNamara. "We do."
The Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce is staffed by Doc Noel (president), Jude Dionne (his assistant), Ginni McNamara, Pat Morgenstern, Kelly Roy (director of membership services) and Bob Houle (marketing director). Offices are located in Suite 3G at 1 Park Avenue in Hampton. For more information, call 926-8718 or visit www.hamptonareachamberofcommerce. com. For additional information about summer events at Hampton Beach, visit www.hamptonbeach.org.