First Posted: 10/22/2014
HAMLET — Main Street will see its busiest foot traffic of the year on Saturday as Richmond County celebrates the 32nd annual Seaboard Festival.
The festival, which celebrates Hamlet’s heritage as the “Hub of the Seaboard,” is always held on the last Saturday in October. It began in 1982, according to the city of Hamlet’s website, as a display of railroad memorabilia on Main Street sponsored by what was then known as Richmond Technical College as part of a study on railroad history and its impact on Southern culture. Its popularity prompted a group of civic-minded residents to make it an annual event.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine, the Seaboard Festival will feature more than 200 vendors, carnival and fair-style food, dancing, entertainment, craft demonstrations, a car show, 5K run and the Conductor’s Call contest with cash prizes, said Seaboard Festival President Marissa Grooms.
Also expected at the festival will be a giant, inflatable Smokey the Bear as well as the N.C. Forest Service helicopter. Crafters, as they’re known at the festival, will be on hand making and selling items ranging from kitchenware and lawn flags to homemade wreaths, scarves and silverware.
Grooms said local Lions and Rotary clubs will be on hand selling drinks. With elections around the corner on Nov. 4, political candidates will be on hand passing out fliers, pressing the flesh and urging residents to vote.
At 3 p.m., the Conductor’s Call contest, a fairly new featured event at the Seaboard Festival, will take place at the lower stage in front of the Hamlet Depot with children’s and adults’ levels. Contestants will warm up, give their best “All Aboard,” and attempt to win cash prizes for first, second and third place.
Perhaps the first event for the day will be the 5K race starting at 8 a.m. Participants will meet in the Calvary Baptist Church parking lot, located at the intersection of McDonald Avenue and Austin Street in Hamlet. The 3.1-mile course is a loop covering rolling hills and an aid station will be located at the 2.2-mile mark.
There will be awards for the first male and female runners overall and the first, second and third male and female for the following age groups: 12 and under, 13-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and 60 and over. The registration fee is $35, but there will not be any race-day registration.
“We’re hoping for 25,000 this year depending on weather and what else is going on,” said Grooms. “But anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 come to the festival.”
Although a lot of people come to the Seaboard Festival to get early Christmas shopping done, check out the museum, train-spot or to try out some fair-style food, some show up for the fellowship. It’s become an unofficial homecoming weekend for former and current residents of Richmond County. Grooms said it’s a chance for people to catch up with one another.
“We have people that come from South Carolina and other states. It’s a regional thing. We see people from the coast all the way to Charlotte,” she said. “A lot of people come because it’s a reunion weekend.”
As a result, former residents often return home to enjoy local entertainment, class reunions and church homecomings surrounding Saturday’s festivities on Hamlet’s Main Street.
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.