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September 17. 2013 11:31PM

Salemfest continues to grow

SALEM — Salemfest, which began as a small group of community organizations a decade ago, has expanded to include nearly two dozen local nonprofit organizations and businesses that provide a weekend of activities and fun.

This weekend marks Salemfest’s 10th anniversary and Betty Gay, one of the festival’s founders and organizers, said this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever.

With a charity road race, an international dinner, and the St. David’s Episcopal Church Craft Fair among the events, Gay said there will be plenty to experience for everyone.

The idea to tie all the community groups together to celebrate Salem with one big blowout came 11 years ago during the first St. David’s Craft Fair. She said she noticed several other local organizations were holding events on the same weekend.

The first Salemfest was in 2004, even though Mother Nature didn’t feel like cooperating that inaugural year.

“The first one, there was a hurricane and people got drenched, but we did have a good turnout,” said Gay.

Over the years, both the turnout and the weather have improved.

“We started with six groups involved, and now we have 27 groups,” said Gay. “All the proceeds go to benefit nonprofits. There are some local businesses involved, but all their fundraising is also designated for nonprofits.”

A highlight of the weekend is the Salemfest 5K run and walk hosted by Rockingham Christian Church. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. with the race and walk beginning at 9 a.m. at the Woodbury Cchool.

The craft fair remains one of the highlights of the weekend, and will be held at St. David’s Episcopal Church on Main Street from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

One of the festival’s hallmarks is the food available at more than a dozen event sites throughout town.

“You’ll be able to eat from breakfast to nightfall,” said Gay.

Chief among the culinary delights is the Triumphant Cross Lutheran Church’s International Dinner on Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and children under 12 eat free. Gay said she recommends showing up early, as the dinner is always well attended and features food from about a dozen different countries.

Other events during the weekend include the Kelley Library’s annual book sale on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., a classic car show to benefit the Salem Animal Rescue League in the Salem High School parking lot Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Salem Boys and Girls Club celebrating America’s Day for Kids on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Overall, Gay said the weekend is about raising awareness and donations for the numerous nonprofits and local causes that take part in Salemfest.

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