HAMLET — Volunteers for this year’s 35th annual Seaboard Festival on Oct. 28 will hit the streets at 5 a.m., using color-coded maps to guide vendors to their spots. But festival-goers don’t have to show up till 9 or later.
Begun in 1982 with 16 vendors, the party celebrating “the Hub of the Seaboard” — a reference to the town’s railroading history — now boasts 200 vendors who will sell everything from food to flower arrangements.
“We really have something for everybody,” Debbie Holmes, treasurer of the organizing Seaboard Festival board, said Tuesday. “We start early, but I tell you, it’s a good day.”
It’s so good that the board has bought advertising time as far away as West Virginia. Close by, it’s difficult to drive through Richmond County without seeing at least one sandwich sign posted by the side of the road.
The advertising apparently works. Festival crowds have topped 30,000 in past years. This year, Holmes said, organizers hope for 40,000.
“It’s like a homecoming for the city,” longtime Seaboard board member Shirley McDuffie said of the festival. The day involves “a lot of family reunions and class reunions and just old friends getting together.”
People on the streets proclaim, “I haven’t seen you for years!” or “How’s your mother?” she said. “That’s one of the things that thrills me.
“It’s just a boost for the town. A lot of people take a lot of pride in the Seaboard Festival.”
The day will open with a ceremony featuring Mayor Bill Bayless and the color guard of Richmond Senior High School’s Junior ROTC, she said.
But that won’t happen until McDuffie and as many as 50 other volunteers have been on the streets for four hours, wearing special vests and tees, guiding the clog of vendors to their spots — often the same spots they have had for years.
Festival volunteers include those from Hamlet women’s organizations, as well as teenaged students seeking to fulfill requirements for volunteer hours.
All the buzz
New to the festival this year will be chainsaw artist “Mountain Mike” Ayers of Maggie Valley, who speed-carves cigar store Indians, owls, bears and a long list of other critters and people.
“It’s going to be so fun,” Holmes said, enthusiastically. “That’s where I’m going to be” volunteering. Ayers will be in the library parking lot.
The festival board has enlisted Ayers, owner of Whetstone Woodworks, to craft a half-dozen or more pieces during the festival. The board has promised to donate one work to the Friends of the Hamlet Library, which has begun selling $1 raffle tickets for what it hopes will be a bear.
Ayers will draw the winning ticket at 4 p.m. the day of the festival, said Jane McCall of the Friends.
“We’ve been really excited about it,” she said, although she isn’t sure what she would do if she won a tree stump turned bear. Maybe put a Santa hat on it at Christmas, or an orange bow in the fall, she theorized.
“Thank goodness the Seaboard Festival thought of donating his first sculpture,” McCall said. Proceeds from the raffle will finance children’s and adult programs at the library.
Tickets are available from the eight Friends of the Hamlet Library members and at the library. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 Saturdays.
Throughout its 35 years, the festival has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the city and its organizations.
What’s for sale
Approximately 75 percent of the 200-ish vendors will sell handmade items, said Seaboard vice president Renee Grvybowski.
Artists and crafters will range from wood carvers to upcyclers — those transforming furniture and other household items into “new” creations. At least two custom jewelers and three potters will attend, as well as those offering hand-sewn clothing for babies to adults, Grvybowski said.
Food items for sale will include local honey, a commodity that has come to be expected at the fest.
• The Seaboard Festival 5K will begin at 8 a.m. at Calvary Baptist Church, 406 McDonald Ave., Hamlet. The 3.1-mile race course will loop over rolling hills, and will include an aid station at the 2.2-mile mark.
Those wishing to participate must register in advance at https://runsignup.com/Race/NC/Hamlet/SeaboardFestival5K. Registration will end at noon Oct. 25. Organizers will not allow race-day registration.
The top 250 finishers will receive wooden laser-engraved finisher’s medals. The top three female and male finishers will receive awards, as will top finishers in several age groupings.
The award ceremony will be at approximately 9:15 a.m. at the church parking lot.
• The festival’s car show allows the owners of classic and antique vehicles to compete for prizes on the lawn of the historic depot. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. the day of the festival. Those wishing more information may call 910-557-5570.
• Local singers and dancers will perform throughout the day. Singers, choirs and bands will be onstage at the old A&P parking lot, across from City Hall on Main Street. Dance troupes will perform near the historic depot.
• The Conductor’s Call event will be at 3 p.m., on the stage across from the historic depot. Contestants will call out “All aboard!” in their strongest voices in order to vie for prizes of $25 to $100. The contest will have levels for children and adults.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.