Before the leaves change and pumpkin spice takes over, gather your friends and head to Hampton Beach for one last summer hurrah featuring delicious local seafood, craft beer, and lively entertainment along Ocean Boulevard.
After missing a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival is back and ready to have a spectacular 32nd annual event.
The self-proclaimed “largest festival in New Hampshire” is set to run from Sept. 10-12. Usually bringing in around 100,000 people, Hampton Chamber of Commerce President John Nyhan says they are hoping for between 70,000 and 80,000 attendees this year.
“The thing I love about this festival… is that it’s for the ‘everyday’ person,” Nyhan says. Guests travel from all across New England, as well as New York and New Jersey, often planning their vacations around the festival. “So it’s something that people look forward to – and it’s fun,” he says.
Nyhan emphasized that they have taken numerous coronavirus-related precautions, such as making changes to the size and layout of the festival. He asserted that safety is a top priority.
Embodying the idea of “something for everyone,” the festival is family-oriented. Even the pickiest eaters will be satisfied with around 35 food vendors, Coke soft drink tents, and a new Beach Cabana Bar beer tent with a full stage of entertainment throughout the festival.
Besides the mouthwatering food and drink, the three-day festival features over 70 craft vendors, as well as a beachside exhibit, where 10 artists will create ocean scenes for the chance to win their own booth at next year’s festival. Local shops will be hosting end-of-summer sidewalk sales, so you can stock up on your favorite Hampton Beach apparel.
There will be no shortage of entertainment with two stages – one inside the cabana tent as well as the main stage. Wicked Bites will be hosting cooking demonstrations, and there will be a plethora of live music including well-known names such as Ayla Brown, former finalist on American Idol. Whether you like cover bands, swing music, classic country, party hits or local sounds, you’re sure to enjoy the music – and you may even discover a new favorite artist! Peruse the full set list here.
On Friday evening, judges will sample food from each vendor and give out awards for best chowder, best lobster roll, and many other New England favorites. Winners can proudly display their “best foods” ribbon for festival goers to see throughout the weekend.
The “Thunder Over New Hampshire” Air Show at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth is on the same weekend, so the teams have collaborated on marketing and advertising efforts.
Check out the full schedule of events here.
Saturday of the festival falls on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and organizers wanted to provide a meaningful and patriotic tribute. “The biggest [event] in my mind for the whole weekend is something very special to me… We’re coordinating with the American Legion to have a 9/11 tribute, where we will have live entertainment from New Hampshire Pipes & Drums, we will have color guards from both state, county, and local. We have a guest speaker coming from a Gold Star family who’s very inspirational. It’s going to be a very solemn event, but we wanted to do this to recognize that we didn’t forget about the anniversary,” says Nyhan.
For those looking to burn off some of the delicious seafood and beer consumed throughout the weekend, the annual Harvard Pilgrim Seafood Fest 5k Road Race will be held on Sunday at 7:30 a. m. Runners will end the race at the cabana bar and receive a drink ticket upon finishing to celebrate.
Other special events include two cornhole competitions, a fireworks display sponsored by the Hampton Beach Village District and a lobster roll eating contest.
In addition to the Chamber of Commerce, the festival relies significantly on the help of over 550 volunteers, including 300 gate workers from the Knights of Columbus. Sponsors new and old, the local community, and town public services all contribute to each year’s success. The whole team’s goal is to host a fun and safe festival for all who attend.
Profits from the festival go towards the chamber’s operating budget, as well as significant donations to the Knights of Columbus and the local high school Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) group, who also volunteer at the festival.
Free parking is available at eight satellite locations around Hampton, and buses will be shuttling festival attendees all day. Masks are required on the buses, but will be optional at the actual event.
You won’t want to miss one of the top 100 events in North America – right on our own beautiful Seacoast beaches. The festival runs from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Follow the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest news and updates.
Admission is $10 per day, and children under age 12 get in for free. Prices are reduced for residents of Hampton’s five communities.