HAMLET — The countdown has begun as Hamlet volunteers gear up for the 36th annual Seaboard Festival, scheduled for Oct. 27.
Vendors are placed and entertainment settled — all the results of a planning committee that basically started from scratch.
“At first, we were just a small group who didn’t know what we were doing in our new roles and (were) figuring out if we could do this,” said treasurer Chris Carpenter. “But now we function as a full committee.”
Which makes Seaboard president Chuck Cobb grateful.
“I just can’t thank participants enough for stepping up and helping with the planning of the festival,” he said.
After former Seaboard President Kim Lindsey and her fellow officers resigned from their positions amid controversy last January — leaving the city with old records and notes from previous festivals — Cobb volunteered in March to lead festival planning. He had attended the festival — Hamlet’s yearly showcase — but despite a habit of volunteering, had never been involved in its planning.
Things were a little intimidating at first, he said, and he realized he had some big shoes to fill.
“It’s such a large endeavor for newcomers to develop a board and officers to make it as successful as it’s been in the past,” he said. “But we keep it all positive moving forward.”
The new board consists of some novice officers: Carpenter as treasurer, Tony Clewis as vice president and Missy Smith as secretary. Some returning members include Smith’s husband, Duke, who organizes the Seaboard 5K, and Jackie Hatfield, who runs the antique car show.
Diane Mabe is new to her role of handling vendor applications but says she’s ready to show off everything the committee has accomplished.
“We have around 40 new craft vendors this year, and I’m looking forward to everyone’s reaction to those,” she said. Some vendors who had stopped coming to the festival will return this year.
Mabe considers herself an empty-nester after sending her last child to college and says she wants to become more involved with the community. Joining the Seaboard committee was her way of doing that — Carpenter can relate to.
“I’ve lived in Hamlet my entire life, and I can’t remember a year where I can’t remember going (to the Seaboard Festival),” he said. “I saw this is an opportunity to get involved with the community again.” Carpenter is executive director for Habitat for Humanity in Scotland County.
This year’s festival won’t try to compete with those of the past, he said. Instead, the committee wants to learn from them to improve future festivals.
“The one thing I like about this group is that we talk about what we can put forth this year,” he said. “We’ve always discussed what we can do better for this festival” — and hope, too, for the one thing they cannot control: good weather.
During the board’s meeting last Monday, members addressed concerns such as directing traffic, finding enough radios for volunteers and determining how much to pay each performer — all of which Cobb said had been settled.
And both Carpenter and Cobb agree that the guidance they have received from previous board members has been a tremendous help.
“Nancy Averitt has been part of the Seaboard Festival since it started and has been a great mentor to how things ran in the past,” Cobb said. Clewis’s experience with directing vendor traffic also was useful when members discussed the best way to keep vendor traffic moving the morning of the festival, Cobb said.
The coming event will feature familiar food and craft vendors, Cobb said. Local dance troupes such as Bold Moves Dance Company, Dance Sensations and Gymnatics, the Sandhills Shaggers and the Laurinburg Cloggers will add their talents alongside musical performers and other entertainers. Children’s activities also will abound, Cobb said.
“We want to make the citizens of Richmond County proud to be part of the festival,” Cobb said. “We want to make this as great of an event as it has been without losing ground from past years, but also making it better.”
Reach Jasmine Hager at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]