f, plenty of turf and some sweet surprises.
“We say, ‘Lobster boiled, fried or in a roll, you can get it.’ There’s also your fried clams, fried scallops — that’s really popular in the seafood world,” Hampton Beach Chamber of Commerce Special Event Director Ginni McNamara said. “You have your basic fair food like your bloomin’ onion and your fried dough. Then there are ... all kinds of chowders and bisques. ... Everything is there.”
That’s no exaggeration. From pulled pork and garlic fries to crab and lobster rangoons, it can all be found at the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival, which runs Friday, Sept. 6, through Sunday, Sept. 8, on Ocean Boulevard in Hampton Beach. The boardwalk from A Street to E Street is closed to traffic for the tents of food vendors, craft show, entertainment and more throughout the weekend.
Festival organizers anticipate 70,000 to 100,000 visitors to attend over the course of the weekend. That includes locals as well as groups from around the county, some coming by the bus-load.
“It’s one of the top hundred events in northern America by [American Bus Association],” McNamara said. “The only event that’s bigger is NASCAR in New England, I believe.”
About 60 restaurant vendors will participate in the festival to serve up everything from shrimp, clams, lobster and mussels to chicken tenders, fried dough, ice cream sundaes and even cupcakes. Festival programs include a menu guide with details on what festival-goers can get and where.
“The best thing to do is grab a program and plan it out,” McNamara said. “Come hungry, and wear comfortable shoes.”
Lobster ravioli and mahi mahi tacos are on the menu, even a Montauk salad from Rye Harbor Lobster Pound with shrimp, scallops and mussels tossed in a vinaigrette. There’s ribs, chicken and steak teriyaki and Cajun swordfish, to name a few others.
Guests pay admission to the festival, which includes live entertainment and programs aside from the food. Those looking to chow down can then purchase items from individual food vendors.
The Old Salt, the Beach Plum, Petey’s, Bernie’s Beach Bar, the Ashworth, Brown’s and Ray’s Seafood are just a few of the restaurants participating.
“Old Salt is famous for clam chowder, so they’ll do that,” McNamara said.
A portion of the proceeds goes to the Hampton Rotary to benefit its charities. McNamara said food items can cost anywhere from $5 to $10, but seafood is all based on market value.
Pat Whitley hosts culinary demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday, and chefs from local restaurants will prepare samples after the demonstrations.
Other highlights include a Beach Bungee ride, and Radio Disney will be providing entertainment and games in Kiddie Land. Check out a skydiving show on Sunday at 5 p.m., fireworks on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. and the Lobster Roll Eating Contest on Saturday, at 2 p.m.
Twelve contestants will compete in the Lobster Roll Eating Contest, including the returning champion, who ate 11 lobster rolls in last year’s contest.
“It’s wild, bizarre. We do a qualifying round and the top 12 winners of our hot dog eating contest go on to the lobster roll eating contest,” McNamara said.
In between courses, festival-goers can shop at the arts and crafts sidewalk sales with over 80 vendors. The festival provides free parking, and shuttles.