Despite Fee, Festival Is Called 'Very Successful'

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, September 14, 2004

La Bec Rouge employees encourage the crowd on Ocean Avenue to stop by for some lobster rolls and shrimp cocktail during the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival on Saturday morning. From left are Lenka Durisova of Hampton, Kelly Saltalamacchia of Sandown and Jill Santamaria of Wakefield. [Photo by Jamie Cohen]

HAMPTON - The 15th annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival came to a close Sunday and organizers are calling it a hit.

"It was just super," said John Kane, vice chairman of the festival. "Saturday was just phenomenal. People were clapping and just having a good time."

This was the first time in the history of the festival where the Chamber of Commerce charged an admission fee on Saturday and Sunday.

Friday night, billed as a community appreciation night, was free for all.

Although some people complained about the admission fee, it didn’t appear to have an impact on Saturday and Sunday’s attendance.

Organizers said they only heard from a few people who expressed criticism with the decision to charge a $4 fee.

"It was very successful," said Chamber of Commerce president Doc Noel. "The weather was the key element. I have to be honest with you, I thought we were going to receive more complaints than we did.

"We had comment cards that asked people what they liked and didn’t like about the festival," said Kane. "For the amount of people that came and took time to fill out the card, there was only a small percentage of people that complained (about the admission fee.)"

Noel said he saw only six cards that complained about the admission fee.

The exact figure for what the chamber took in for the festival is still unknown. Kane said on Monday that he hadn’t had a chance to sit down and crunch the numbers.

Kane said he couldn’t estimate how many people attended the festival and paid admission.

"I couldn’t even tell you," said Kane. "I can say I saw a lot of people wearing wristbands."

Organizers said a lot of factors played into the decision to charge an admission fee this year.

One of those factors had to do with insurance costs.

Last year, it cost the chamber $2,600 for insurance on all of its events, including the Seafood Festival.

This year, the chamber’s insurance carrier said it would not be able to provide insurance for the Seafood Festival. The chamber finally got insurance, but it said it cost $20,000.

The chamber also said it has to pay for infrastructure upgrades made at the beach in 2003.

The chamber got a $75,000 loan last year to install electrical and gas lines underground to accommodate all of the tents and vendors.

The chamber has to pay $18,000 for the next four years on that loan.

Noel said not only is the admission collected going toward those added cost but also to Special Olympics and the Rotary Club.

Liz Sullivan, from Brockton, Mass., said the admission fee came as a surprise to her.

"I didn’t know there was going to be a fee," said Sullivan. "Last year, there was no fee. It’s no big deal but I wish I knew beforehand."

Several people said the $4 fee was worth the price of admission.

Sites, Sounds, Suds Please Festival Fans

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Arthur and Dorothy Selbert (above, left) of Albany, N.Y., and Eddie Paquin and Linda Thibeault of Manchester dance to live music performed at the Seashell stage during the annual Seafood Festival. [Photo by Jamie Cohen]

HAMPTON - Incredible.

That was the word that was most used to describe the performance of U.S. Navy Big Band and the fireworks presentation at the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival on Saturday.

"I’ve never seen fireworks like that at Hampton Beach," said Daisy Mendes, who was in attendance with her three children.

The audience was waving American flags as the sky lit up with red, white and blue.

Saturday night’s main event and Sept. 11, 2001, tribute was one of the many highlights of the three-day festival, which came to a close on Sunday night.

"It was just a touching moment," said John Kane, vice chairman of the festival.

Chamber of Commerce president Doc Noel said everyone was talking about the Navy band and fireworks.

But he said the real heroes of this year’s event were the 500 volunteers who gave up their time to aid in running the festival.

The festival opened to modest crowds Friday. But on Saturday and Sunday, the boulevard was a sea of humanity thanks in part to the beautiful weather.

Kane said another highlight of the festival for him was watching the team of 20 skydivers on Sunday.

"It was breathtaking," said Kane.

At the food tents, visitors could not go hungry if they tried.

Fried dough sold for $3, lobster rolls could be had at several booths for between $4 and $7, scallops wrapped in bacon went for $6.

"We’re going to try a little bit of everything," said Griffin Collins, of Lawrence, Mass. "I brought my kids down here to broaden their horizons and the only thing they want to eat is McDonald’s."

The treat that had everyone talking was the fried Oreo cookies.

"They actually fry the Oreo," said Jason Brundage of Providence. "Don’t ask me how the white stuff doesn’t melt because I don’t know."

The beer tent proved once again the place to be.

The place was hopping with live entertainment. Friday night featured singing from Mike Livingston - a mixture of Neil Diamond, Harry Chapin and David Letterman.

"I’m having a blast," said Andrea Yelle, who was on the dance floor.

At the Seashell Stage, numerous people were dancing, including an elderly man moving to Elvis Presley’s "Blue Suede Shoes."

Craft and food vendors said they did good business.

Kane said the crowd that attends the Seafood Festival is a lot different from the crowd that attends the Fourth of July celebration.

"It’s more family-oriented," said Kane.