The Chamber: Lively past, busy future

Hampton 350

1638 -- 1988

Rockingham County Newspaper -- July 8, 1988

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[The following articles are courtesy of
Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

By Maureen Cummings, Contributing Writer

The Chamber's Logo

For 73 years, the Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has promoted the region's recreational and commercial assets through changing times, now representing 700 local businessmen and serving approximately 3,000 visitors each day during July and August.

In 1915, the Chamber was established with a commitment to tourism, according to Mary Bragg, assistant to the Chamber president.

Bragg, who wrote the Chamber's history, has traced Hampton Beach's unique heritage back to the mid-1800's, when the beach was settled by families from Nashua, Manchester, Western Massachusetts, Connecticut and Quebec, Canada.

As summer communities formed, a variety of programs were developed around the seasonal residents' needs, according to Bragg. In 1887, the Hampton Beach Casino was completed, and subsequently became the center of beach activity. In 1898, the first evening band concerts were conducted at the Seashell stage[?], with the summer tradition continuing today.

Tradition Of Entertainment

The beach's modern-day evening entertainment includes a free lineup, with appearances by military bands, three-piece combos, big band sounds and country and western musicians. More than 60 band concerts are scheduled this summer, according to Bragg, and Wednesday night band concerts are complemented by a fireworks display throughout the summer.

The 85-year-old tradition of family sing-a-longs and Monday night Talent Shows have also become beach favorites. Other summer programs organized by the Chamber are the annual Miss Hampton Beach Scholarship Pageant — the 43rd of which is slated for July 25 — and the four-day children's festival complete with a sand castle-building contest, prizes, ice cream, a magic show and a parade, says Bragg.

Tourist Services

The modern Chamber maintains both a year-round information center and business office in Hampton center and a seasonal office on the beach. The seasonal visitors' information center, open seven days a week from April 15 to Columbus Day weekend, also sells Tri-State Megabucks tickets, Vermont Transit and Peter Pan bus tickets and Hampton Playhouse theater tickets.

Another important function of the Chamber over the years has been housing lost children until parents come to find them. Children found wandering aimlessly on the beach are taken to the Chamber's beach office by police and lifeguards.

Vacationers running short of cash have also been helped by the Chamber office through its special electronic banking equipment installed a year ago, said Bragg. And, as a service to Chamber members, the office staff works with a rooms- tracing system to assist travelers looking for accommodations.

At the beach office, Executive Director Glen French coordinates the beach summer program with a staff of about 15 members.

Planning for summer begins in the fall, when the Hampton Beach Vacation Guide, representing more than 100 advertisers, is published and distributed. Hotels, motels, cottages, guest houses and campgrounds participate in the guide.

With over 40,000 requests for lodging information generated over the spring and early summer, the vacation guide is designed to answer questions about beach activities, accommodations, and directions to Hampton Beach. The guide also lists programs directed at the daytime beach visitor.

Role Has Evolved

Because of the changing complexion of the Seacoast, spurred recently by heavy growth, the Chamber is now not only committed to tourism, but to every aspect of the regional travel industry. Bragg says that a sense of cooperation has recently developed between the Chamber and the Seacoast Council on Tourism as both work to promote the region's tourism potential.

The Chamber also works with town and state officials on "trying to get what we have, to work," says Paul Attaya of the Chamber's Government Affairs Committee One way it does this is by working with the town selectmen on ordinances affecting the beach scene.

Last year, for example, the Chamber worked to have a clause regarding beach shopowners added to the beach's existing trash ordinance. The addition, which set times for trash to be put out (between 11 p.m. and 9 a.m.), "creates a better looking beach when tourists come in the morning," he says.

Because of the ordinance addition, cardboard boxes are put into a bundles and trash is put into tightly sealed barrels, according to Attaya.

A second addition to an existing ordinance that the Chamber helped to get passed last year was to prevent both beach and Hampton center residents from being disturbed by large radios or other loud, electronic equipment, says Attaya. He adds that this ordinance applies to car stereos as well. The stereos' can be played loudly, but only if the vehicle's windows are rolled up.

With the Chamber's influence, an ordinance limiting the number of hotel and motel guests per room was established as well. The ordinance, requiring every hotel and motel room to have a posted number of people allowed, discourages large, noisy parties, says Attaya.

The new law also was put in effect for safety measures. Attaya says it prevents fire hazards and other unsafe scenarios, such as a large group of people partying on a balcony.

Looks To The Future

Chamber members' expertise has been appreciated and used by the town over the years, says Attaya, and town officials have observed that many of the Chamber's projects over the last three or four years deserve merit.

This year, the Chamber is working to encourage enforcement of existing ordinances, Attaya says, if the ordinances are followed, "We'll have a cleaner, quieter, better place to be at."

The 1988 Chamber is stressing communications, says Attaya, and members are trying to give the public, town and state officials input as they look to the future.

"As the business community, we have to have a long-term plan for the area. We can't just address problems as they happen," he says.

"A lot of things in the past were taken for granted."

Looking to the future, the Chamber wants to address the difficulty of entering and exiting Route 1, and the problems concerning signs on Seacoast highways. Other future goals include refining existing programs, improving state parks, and promoting and maintaining a Hampton Beach family vacation resort community image, says Bragg.

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