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Catch of the Day

Hampton Beach Seafood Festival offers fun, good food


HAMPTON - The Hampton Beach Seafood Festival offers fun for families, sustenance for foodies - and don't forget the craft-brewed beer.

In short, the three-day festival aims to please.

Before the ribbon was formally cut Friday night, more than 60 restaurants were already going full steam, with lobsters, clam chowder, scallops and other foods from the sea available at every turn. And it wasn't just about seafood; there were also bloomin' onions, pizza and lots of desserts, too - from cupcakes to chocolate-covered strawberries.

On Saturday, Radio Disney hosted a "Try"athalon and Kiddie Land. Families with youngsters took to the sand for the obstacle course, featuring activities such as basketball and soccer, and train rides and face painting. It continues today from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

More than 150,000 people were expected to attend the three-day festival thanks to good weather and a long list of entertainment and activities for all ages, culinary demonstrations, a lobster roll-eating contest, live music, fireworks and more.

It was a weather-perfect, weekend-long celebration of everything that makes the New Hampshire seacoast - and Hampton Beach - so popular with visitors.

Eileen Richardson visited from northern England along with friends Bernie and June Battle of Chelmsford, Mass. Eileen first came to Hampton Beach in 1990 with the Battles.

"Hampton Beach is so very different to anything we have in England; the sand, the sea, it's just the general atmosphere."

Richardson attended her first Seafood Festival in 2004 when her friends invited her to come for the three-day weekend along with a group of former teachers and administrators from Chelmsford High School. It has become a tradition for the group of friends, who usually spend Saturday at the festival - only to return to their rented cottage to cook lobster and steak.

"I've been coming here for vacation all my life. But we've been coming to Seafood Festival since the second year," Bernie said. "Back then it was held at the state park."

That year, 1989, the one-day event was a much smaller affair. In 1990, the festival moved to the new location on Ocean Boulevard and began drawing larger and larger crowds.

Nancy Woodbury of Bow said, "It's about the people and the food. Her husband, Al, added, "and the beer tent."

Along with friends from Concord, they all enjoyed a good laugh at that. True, the beer tent was a hit, taking up a large space in the tent city on Ocean Boulevard. With so many craft breweries in the Granite State, the beer tent is where it's at, and they had their own stage set up for live music catering to the over-21 crowd.

Outside the beer tent, Ron Stanton of Worcester, Mass., watched the crowds gather. "Wait 'til they start playing music," he said.

Stanton has been coming to the festival since the first one and remembers when it was held at the state park.

"This is our 24th year," he said to his wife, who was busy eating chowder. She enjoys coming for the fish, but he still comes for the Italian sausage.

On Friday, the main stage - the Seashell Stage - saw festival-goers enjoying music by Joey Scott & the Connection, followed by a Hampton Beach favorite, the Reminisants.

On Saturday, the audience swelled, but the live music at the Seashell was still a hit with bands like Soulmate, Rico Barr & the Jump & Jive Review and the 39th Army Band performing.

Today's entertainment will include Extreme Air Jump Rope, Irish Dancers, the Hampton Beach Talent Competition winners, The Continentals and other bands. There will also be a Skydiving Extravaganza by Sky Dive New England. Admission is $5; free for children 12 and younger. The festival opens today at 10 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m.

For a full schedule of events, go to hamptonbeachseafoodfestival.com.


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