HAMLET — Organizers of the 2016 Seaboard Festival are hoping for a high turnout following a year of refining the venue to include more skilled artisans and performers and a more diverse selection of food vendors.
But vendors, entertainment and food aren’t the only changes festival-goers should expect. This year — in compliance with a city ordinance — no pets are allowed.
“We’ve had a problem with that,” said Shirley McDuffie of the Seaboard Festival Committee. “And we just want everybody to have a good time. Some people like dogs and some people don’t, but it’s a city ordinance. I’m a dog lover, too, but my dog’s going to have to stay home.”
With a predicted daytime high of 81 degrees under sunny skies, the weather should be nearly perfect, McDuffie added.
Mayor Pro Tem and city councilman Jonathan Buie said the festival reflects well on Hamlet and brings fresh faces to the city.
“The Seaboard Festival brings not only people from our own community, but people from communities around us,” he said. “This allows the opportunity for these individuals to see what our town has to offer. Downtown businesses benefit from this event as well.”
Participation from vendors is up from previous years, McDuffie said, so there will be more to see and do.
“At this point, our spots in the street are all filled and we’re expanding into the old A&P parking lot that the city now owns,” she said. “It’s increased this year, and we’ve had to actually turn down some vendors because we didn’t have any spots left. We have a person who will be blowing glass and will be making items on the spot. And of course, we want to thank the city of Hamlet for the support they’ve given us with the police department, the fire department and also the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.”
Hamlet Museum Director Stephanie Thornsbury said she’s looking forward to the foot traffic at the visitor’s center, and expects to see people moving through the museum.
“They’ve got over 50 new craft vendors who have never been there before,” she said. “And there are new food vendors that I’m very excited about. We have 205 spaces altogether, and that’s more than we’ve had before. But we also have the Hamlet NC Happenings app now, and the first event it will be used for will be this year’s seaboard festival. The app will be updated regularly with our events.”
Hamlet NC Happenings is available for download from the Apple App Store and on Google Play. Designed by Jack Thornsbury, Stephanie Thornsbury’s 12-year-old son, the app is front-loaded with information about the Seaboard Festival, including directions, the festival map, food and craft vendors, information about the depot and museum, and a chat channel for communicating with nearby friends.
“He’s done a great job and I’m proud of him,” Stephanie Thornsbury said.
“Our opening ceremony is at 9 a.m. Saturday on the steps of the Hamlet Post office,” McDuffie said. “We have a new sponsor this year, Food Lion. And the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority, they are always a big sponsor. Watson-King Funeral Home always sponsors the Conductor’s Call Contest, which is at 3 o’clock. The 5K is going to be big, and we’re really excited about it. The car show behind the historic passenger depot is something to see every year. Trophies are awarded for things like best interior and best street rod. Registration for that is from 9 a.m. to noon.”
McDuffie said another thing people might notice that is different from previous years is the location of the festival’s two stages.
“One is at the bottom of the street, in the park,” she explained. “And we will also have a stage in the old A&P parking lot where we will have entertainment all day.”
She said that the popular Conductor’s Call contest is another returning favorite offering a chance for competitors to win prizes. It happens at 3 p.m.
“We have a junior division for ages 6 to 12, and ages 13 and over are the senior division,” McDuffie said. “In each division the first prize is $100, and then $50 and $25 in each division. Usually they sign up the day of the festival, or they can sign up at the Hamlet Visitor’s Center or at the information booth.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.