HAMLET — By Friday morning, workers had spray-painted hash marks and “T” symbols to delineate vendor spaces along Main Street. They had laid cones and stretched crime-scene tape to protect areas from errant parkers. And they’d hosed off the porch of the visitors’ center to rid the area of tracked-in sand and mud.
All of those preparations were for today’s 35th annual Seaboard Festival, expected to bring tens of thousands of folk to this tiny railroad burg to celebrate its past as the Hub of the Seaboard. Friday was festival volunteers’ busiest day — until they all went to bed before the sun went down, so they could get up before it rose again to guide vendors to their slots.
“We are sold out (and) we have no cancellations” from approximately 200 vendors, Kim Lindsey, past president and chief organizer of the yearly festival, said Friday. “We’ve got Chamber of Commerce weather. There’s no reason not to come” to the festival.
“It was small when it started (in 1982), but it was mighty,” Lindsey said — the first festival boasted 16 vendors. Now, “it’s turned into a heckuva day.”
Opening ceremonies for the 35th festival will be at 9 this morning, in front of the post office on Main Street. The festival will shut down at 5 p.m.
This year’s most-anticipated addition to the Seaboard is chainsaw artist “Mountain Mike” Ayers of Maggie Valley, who speed-carves figures from raw wood. He has promised to carve several train-themed pieces, Lindsey said. On Friday afternoon, he visited Hamlet’s various railroad museums and bought a rusty lantern he thought he might incorporate into a sculpture.
Ayers’ other planned carvings “are all a secret,” Lindsey said, “but they’ll be interesting to watch” being carved.
Ayers brought a carved black bear for the local library, which has been selling raffle tickets. That piece will be awarded at 4 p.m., in the library parking lot.
At dinnertime Friday, Ayers was waiting to set up his carving cage, a large device designed to keep onlookers from being shot by flying wood chips. Festival-goers will find him in the Hamlet Library parking lot today.
Ayers was a late arrival. Lindsey said she had seen a number of vendors roll into town by early Friday morning.
On Main Street on Friday, workers taped off the old A&P parking lot — where the main musical stage is installed — to keep festival-goers from parking overnight.
And, representatives of Shorty’s Porties placed their festival necessities at crucial points.
Things to see:
⦁ The festival car show will offer classic and antique vehicles on the lawn of the historic depot beginning at 9 a.m.
⦁ The award ceremony for the Seaboard 5K run will be at approximately 9:15 a.m. at Calvary Baptist Church, 406 McDonald Ave.
⦁ New this year will be the Amazi’n Blazi’n Fire Truck, a 14-passenger truck and inflatable. It will be parked in the kids’ area off Champlain Street and offer visits with Sparky the Fire Dog, as well as kids’ activities.
⦁ Among food vendors, festival-goers will find competing pork-barbecue offerings, as well as the festival’s first-ever coffee seller. In a break with Seaboard tradition, those vendors set up Friday evening.
⦁ Mountain Mike will not be the only one crafting on site. A glass-blower and pot-thrower will demonstrate their techniques. Their booths will be in the mid-100s area on the festival map.
⦁ Several vendors will sell railroad-themed decor, among them a woman who puts fairy lights into old wine bottles on which she has painted local sites, including the historic Hamlet Depot.
⦁ Local singers and dancers will perform onstage all day 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 for children and adults will be at 3 p.m., on the stage across from the historic depot. Contestants will vie for prizes by calling out “All aboard!” in their strongest voices.
Reach Christine Carroll at 819-817-2673.