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May 30. 2013 10:08PM

Give Hampton Beach a hand

HAMPTON BEACH — Locals and longtime visitors have always known Hampton Beach is the place to be in the summer, and a new weather.com poll backs up that belief.

Hampton Beach was chosen as the top beach in New England and one of the top six beaches in the country through a poll on The Weather Channel's Facebook page, which has more than 1.5 million fans.

It is the first time in the six years of the poll that a New Hampshire beach has been selected.

"I think all the efforts we've been doing to improve the beach down here are starting to pay off," Chuck Rage, chairman of the Hampton Beach Village District Commission, said.

In the last two years, the state has completed a $14.5 million project that includes a new and bigger bathhouse in the beach center as well as an ocean pavilion with a major function room. Two additional pavilions, including bathhouses, were built at the southern end of the beach parking area and to the north, near the Lady of the Sea memorial.

The town of Hampton has also invested between $12 million and $14 million on infrastructure improvements; many businesses along Ocean Boulevard have followed suit, Rage said.

"All these different entities down there, the district, the town, the chamber and the state, we're all working very closely as a team to improve things down there," he said.

The changes have not gone unnoticed by visitors.

Vic and Donna Ceccarini of Worcester, Mass., were enjoying a day at the beach on Thursday with Donna's mother, Rose Ricardi, as they do many days each summer.

"It's just up the road and really beautiful," Vic Ceccarini said.

He has been coming to Hampton Beach since he was a child, and recalled his days of collecting bottles on the beach with friends to redeem for two cents each so they could play in the arcade.

"This beach is like a little jewel; it's central to everything," Vic Ceccarini said.

He also appreciates the improvements made to the beach and the state of New Hampshire's commitment to taking care of its recreational areas, he said, resting beneath one of the new shade awnings near the shore.

Down in the waves, 3-year-old Owen Dube splashed around while his mother, Justine Dube of Manchester, dipped her toes in nearby.

She said they are regular visitors to the beach in the summer, whether for the water, the weekly Wednesday night fireworks, the free, live, nightly music at the Seashell Stage or to view the sand sculptures created during the Master Sand Sculpting Competition each June.

"I think it is one of the most people-friendly (beaches), kid-friendly, too," Justine Dube said.

The lively beach scene was one of the many reasons, Hampton Beach was selected, in addition to the many happenings, businesses and restaurants that line the coast.

Each summer the Hampton Beach Village District puts on 80 to 90 live shows, in addition to the sand sculpting competition and a week devoted to children in conjunction with the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce. There are also Monday night movies on the beach, and myriad other events. A full summer schedule is available at www.hamptonbeach.org.

"You don't get things for free anymore anywhere and we do it all," Rage said.

The beach is also consistently ranked as one of the cleanest in the country for water quality by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

gmacalaster@newstote.com


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