The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom

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By Ross Bachelder

SPOTLIGHT -- Seacoast Arts & Entertainment

Published by Seacoast Newspapers

Thursday, May 4, 2000

Pages 12-13
The Hampton Beach (Casino Ballroom, the fabled Seacoast area venue for topnotch acts from the world of entertainment, has launched its 101st season this year -- earlier than ever before -- and expects to dazzle Seacoast area audiences with the range and quality of its 2000 schedule.

The Casino has already hosted two blockbuster shows: Kenny Wayne Shepherd -- to a sold-out audience of 2,200 -- and Warrant (with local band Choke opening the concert) in a show that filled a very respectable 1,700 seats. Now the Ballroom is preparing to roar through the rest of its action-packed season with a fabulous array of events that are sure to knock the socks off regular Casino fans and first-timers alike.

Here is all of what's been scheduled so far; but stay timed because exciting events are sure to be added as the season unfolds. It's important to note that unless otherwise stated, all Hampton Casino ballroom shows begin at 8 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m.

On Friday May 12 Deadheads will be treated to The Mickey Hart Band, including Vince Weinick, with local jam band Percy Hill opening the show. On Thursday, May 18 the Casino will for the first time play host to Vertical Horizon, along with special guest Earth to Andy's. Still another first-timer appearance will be by the bands Dope, Primer 55, and Pimpadelic who will appear together on Friday May 26.

A very special annual event will be staged at the Casino on Thursday June 1 at 7:30 p.m. It's called the WERZ Beach Bash 2000 formerly the WERZ Summer Kick Off Concert — and will feature Train, Splender, Westlife, and Vitamin C. Then, on Sunday, June 11 at 7 p.m. Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad and the Edgar Winter Band will make an appearance. On Saturday, June 17, "Dr. Dirty" John Valby swings into the Ballroom for another powerful performance.

By any measure, July will be a huge month for the Casino. On Saturday, the 1st of July, Little Richard — one of our most cherished pioneers of early American rock music — will take the Casino by storm for the first time in more than two decades. Little Richard's appearance promises to be a major highlight of the 2000 season.

"Weird Al" Yankovic invades the Ballroom with his wacky heartwarming act on Thursday July 6. Yankovic is a perennial favorite on the pop music scene, with a formidable army of loyal followers. You'll want to order your tickets early for this event. Then, on Saturday July 8 -— only two days later — the Casino hosts The Royalty of Doo Wopp. featuring The Delvikings, The Belmonts, The Drifters, The Marvelettes and The Royalty of Rock N' Roll All Stars.

The Robert Cray Band returns on Thursday, July 13, followed the very next night by another signature event at the Casino: the Friday, July 14 ESPN2 Live Friday Night at the Fights. The action for this power-packed evening begins at 7:30 p.m., and you can bet it will be a knockout. On Saturday, July 15, Jimmy Cliff drops into the Ballroom for a night of reggae, and one week later, on Saturday, July 22, MTV's D.J. Skribble — Dance Party will be staged at the Casino for the first time.

The month of August will be just as spectacular at the Ballroom. On Wednesday, Aug. 2, K.C. & The Sunshine Band will return, followed on Friday, Aug. 4 by the ever-popular singing sensation Pat Benatar. Another return act, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, will appear on Saturday, Aug. 5.

Wednesday, Aug. 9 brings Bela Fleck and the Flecktones plus Medeski, Martin and Wood to the Ballroom. Three days later, on Saturday, Aug. 12, Burning Spear will make an appearance. Then, on Saturday, Aug. 19, Eddie Money -- a long- time favorite of Casino audiences -- will bring his musical magic to the Casino stage. On Wednesday, Aug. 23, The Beach Boys, whose very special style changed the course of rock 'n' roll forever will return to the Casino, followed on Thursday, Aug. 24 by another return group, Carrot Top. The final group to appear in August will be The Righteous Brothers, scheduled to perform at the Casino on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Finally, on Sunday, Sept. 3, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will fill the Casino Ballroom with their hard-driving melodies. Altogether, Hampton Casino 2000 is certain to be one of the Casino's finest seasons in memory.

Hampton Casino has enjoyed a long, proud history as one of the premiere entertainment facilities in northern New England. In its more than 100 years it has proudly hosted a long and impressive list of top-ranked entertainers, from Bing Crosby, Frankie Lane and Sammy Kaye to Fats Domino, Roy Orbison and the Kingston Trio. Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and Bonnie Raitt have performed there. So have Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin and Sinead 0' Connor.

It all began shortly before the 1900s, when Massachusetts businessman Wallace D. Lovell, owner of the Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway Company put up the money for the construction of a two-story wood-frame building whose purpose was to draw people into the Hampton Beach area and stimulate business. The building was christened the Hampton Beach Casino, and it soon became a major destination for people who loved to escape their responsibilities by hopping on the trolley and visiting the beach.

A little more than a quarter of a century after the Casino's founding, radio, records and motion pictures were creating a new kind of entertainer — the national star — and because of that a new dance hall was added to the south portion of the original structure in 1927. Soon, more than 20,000 people were dancing at the Casino Ballroom every week. It also helped that the place was air-conditioned. Seventy years ago such a luxury was almost nonexistent, so Hampton Casino soon established itself as a marvelous place to be away from the oppressive heat and occasional stagnancy of small-town life.

Today the Casino Ballroom has a capacity of more than 2,000 seats, and it continues to draw capacity crowds to its high quality events. The place is filled to overflowing with memories of the superior talents that have enriched the Seacoast area with their gifts. Within the last year or two, the "Gold Sections" — the two seating areas especially well-positioned for viewing — have been more than doubled in capacity to accommodate the increasing demand for top-quality close-up entertainment.

Cindy Burke brings extraordinary credentials to her work as the assistant general manager of the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. She earned a master's degree in psychology and went on to work in college admissions, but her attraction to the world of entertainment couldn't be denied. Soon she landed a job as group sales manager at the Centrum in Worcester, Mass., a 15,500-seat area with a worldwide reputation as a special events facility Within four short years she had worked her way up to the position of director of marketing. Then, on the recommendation of Don Law Productions, the respected big-venue entertainment agency she came north to the Hampton Casino, where fbr the past four years she has employed her entrepreneurial talents to increase attendance and book more and more sought-after entertainers into the Ballroom.

As long as she can remember, Burke has been excited about working in the entertainment field. She loves the performers and thrives on the profusion of creative energy that grows naturally from her work at the Casino. She thinks of performers, staff members and audiences as "family" and works hard to keep them united in their mission to bring worthwhile entertainment to the Seacoast.

She can cite incident after incident that has given her a lasting sense of fulfillment, but on the day I interviewed Burke in her office in Hampton one moment in particular was on her mind.

"'Weird Al' Yankovic is one of the most charming, cooperative and agreeable entertainers I've ever had the pleasure to work with," she says. "He's always been more than willing to take part in what the industry calls 'meet and greet' sessions."

One night, when the parade of post-performance autograph seekers was especially long, she offered to cut the line short and send him on his way home to a good night's sleep.

Surprisingly, he'd have nothing to do with her proposal. "You know what?" he said with passionate conviction. "These people are the folks who make it possible for me to have two cars, a beautiful home and a chance to do the thing I love most to do. How could I possibly turn them down?" The line of autograph seekers wasn't depleted until 2:30 in the morning.

That same laudable spirit of generosity motivates Cindy Burke, too. Not content merely to help the Casino make more and more money, she decided early in her tenure as assistant general manager to make the Ballroom a place where giving is as important as receiving. In each of her four years at the Casino, the Ballroom has donated a portion of its ticket revenues to worthy charities in the Seacoast region. As I completed my interview with Burke, she informed me that Hampton Casino was about to write $7,400 checks to each of four important charities -— a direct benefit from the Casino's 1999 ticket sales. A Safe Place, Make a Wish Foundation, Seacoast Hospice and the Fish House Foundation are the lucky recipients. Next year, the town of Hampton will receive one of those checks, which will be used to assist in the renovation of schools, playgrounds and recreational equipment.

For the past several seasons, Hampton Casino has expanded steadily beyond the confines of the traditional Memorial Day opening and Labor Day closing times. Cindy Burke calls those expansions the "bookends" of the Casino season, and she sees the trend toward expansion as a good omen — a sign of even greater things to come. In fact, the Casino has begun to explore the possibility of heating the Ballroom so that it can stage events far deeper into the second half of the year and earlier in the spring.

"When we scheduled Kenny Wayne Shepherd this year on April 21, the show quickly sold out," says Burke. "We've been quietly testing the waters for several years, and we've come to realize that Hampton Casino is no longer merely a summer venue. Now we have proof that the Seacoast area public clearly wants a longer season, and we're delighted to be able to give them what they want."

For tickets and information about Hampton Casino Ballroom events, call (603) 929-4100. You may also order tickets online at The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom is located at 69 Ocean Boulevard in Hampton Beach.

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