Gala to Celebrate Debut of Hampton Beach Complex

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Gov. Lynch to take stage for ribbon-cutting ceremony

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, June 1, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
The new Seashell Stage is ready for its opening night. Courtesy photo

HAMPTON -- Memorable music moments over the years at Hampton Beach range from Bill "The Singing Cop" Elliot taking the stage in the 1940s to the famed Air Force Band Tops in Blues putting on one of the biggest shows ever to grace the Seashell Stage in 2007.

Officials hope more memorable moments are in store this weekend as a gala celebration will open the new Seashell Stage, a featured part of the new $14.5 million redevelopment project at the beach.

The Friday and Saturday, June 1-2 event will include family activities, numerous bands and fireworks shows at 9:30 on both nights.

Gov. John Lynch will be on hand Friday night for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony from 7 to 8 p.m. on the new stage. The ceremony will include a performance by the New Hampshire Police Association Pipes and Drums.

Former state Sen. Bob Preston will also be on hand, remembering late Hampton Beach icons who played significant roles in the success of the beach.

"I think this is a great start for the new Hampton Beach era that we are all looking forward to," said John Nyhan, chairman of the Hampton Beach Area Commission.

The new Oceanfront Pavilion complex features a new visitors center, function hall and stage with seating for 750. The redevelopment project also includes two new bathhouses, more organized parking, better marked streets and pergolas for shade.

The Hampton Beach Area Commission fought tirelessly behind the scenes to get the project approved by the state Legislature. Nyhan said the completion of the project has refocused the commission's efforts to make Hampton Beach a family-friendly tourist attraction.

"This is an opportunity for the entire community to celebrate what has been done to date, realizing a lot more work needs to be done," said Nyhan, who hopes the improvements will spur further redevelopment at the beach.

The commission is coordinating the gala, along with a committee of representatives from the town, state, Greater Hampton Chamber of Commerce, Hampton Beach Village District, Hampton Arts Network, Hampton Historical Society and local community and business leaders.

Numerous businesses stepped forward to fund the festivities, including a $25,000 donation from presenting sponsor Service Credit Union.

"This renovation means a great deal to Hampton Beach," said Daniel Clarke, vice president of member services for SCU. "It is the symbol of an exciting future ahead."

Nyhan said the goal of the gala is to honor the past and also the future.

The Hampton Historical Society will contribute to that effort, hosting on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. various activities for families on Ocean Boulevard, from D to F Street, which will be closed to traffic.

The Hampton Arts Network will present an art show as well as numerous activities and make-it/take-it art projects for children.

Betty Moore, director of Hampton's Tuck Museum, and coordinator for the gala's historical events, said the day's activities will also offer a diverse perspective of Hampton Beach through the years.

"I think people will enjoy seeing how families have summered here for more than a century," Moore said. "Times may change, but spending the summer at Hampton Beach has been a tradition for a long time."

One of the displays will be "Beach Fashions at Hampton Beach," a lighthearted look at the ever-evolving swimsuits that have graced the beach's bathing beauties over the years, from 1898 to the present.

"We wanted to host a gala that showed the history of Hampton Beach but also the new Hampton Beach and what it looks like today," Nyhan said. "In this new era we want to create events and activities for the entire family. This weekend will showcase many of the type of events of what we like to see in the future."

In tribute to the past

The Hampton Beach Village Precinct will honor four late Hampton Beach icons this weekend.

"We wanted to take time and honor these individuals who recently passed because they were very important to the beach," said Maureen Buckley, a commissioner for the Hampton Beach Village Precinct.

Preston will present the tributes during the opening ceremony Friday night. Recognized will be Jack Knox, Terry Sullivan, the Rev. Duane Windemiller and Jimmy "The Commish" Kennedy, a former Hampton Beach commissioner.

Buckley said all four individuals contributed in various ways to the betterment of the beach.

Buckley said Knox booked all the entertainment at the old Seashell Stage for more than a decade.

Sullivan owned the Casino Fast Food and the Cascade Cafe.

"He was a big supporter of the events at Hampton Beach," Buckley said.

Windemiller conducted the invocations during the Hampton Beach Village Precinct annual Town Meetings for many years and rejuvenated the Hampton Beach Community Church, aka the "Singing Church."

Buckley said Kennedy was a former precinct commissioner and was involved in many activities, including the Christmas parade and numerous political campaigns.

BJ "Doc" Noel, president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, recalled Kennedy garnered national media attention for his role in the famous fund-raising camel ride through Hampton Beach in June 1981.

At the time, Mike Daboul challenged Kennedy, saying he couldn't lose 40 pounds by June 1 and that if he did, he would ride a Bactrian camel the length of the beach to the Galley Hatch Restaurant. Kennedy won and beach history was made.

Prior to his death, Kennedy was one of many working hard to save the town's Mounted Patrol Unit.

Lifeguard chief honor

The new lifeguard station will officially be named after lifeguard chief Jimmy Donahue in honor of his half-century-plus service at Hampton Beach. The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Donahue is starting his 53rd season on the job this year.

Former Seacoast Parks Supervisor Brian Warburton will oversee the dedication, which will include remarks from former Executive Councilor Bev Hollingworth, state Rep. Fred Rice and N.H. State Police Col. Robert Quinn.

"He is our five star at our five-star beach," Warburton said, adding Donahue is more than deserving of the honor. "The James W. Donahue, Jr. Lifeguard Station is the ultimate thanks for a lifetime of service to Hampton Beach, a beach he truly loves."

The state Executive Council voted in February to give state parks authorization to name the lifeguard station after Donahue.

Gala sponsors

Major sponsors for this weekend's events are Service Credit Union ($25,000, the presenting sponsor), Unitil ($10,000), Hampton Beach Village District ($10,000), Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce ($5,000) and Ram Printing ($2,000).

Other sponsors ($500 to $1,000) are Coastal Economic Development Corporation, Provident Bank, Centrix Bank, Optima Bank, Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, Aquarion Water Company, New Hampshire Distributors, Smuttynose Brewing Company, Wheelabrator Technologies, Casino Properties, Le Bec Rouge Restaurant, Tobey & Merrill Insurance, Friends of Nancy Stiles and Castaways Seafood and Grille.

Book signing

Hampton author Evelyn Thornton will be signing copies and speaking about her new memoir "To Walk with My Brother" from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at A Taste of New Hampshire Gift Shop in the Seashell Complex. The book captures her late brother Wayne's lifelong challenge to transcend the limits of physical disability. Wayne inspired construction of the original wheelchair access ramps at Hampton Beach at the site of the new Seashell Complex. Information available at


Hampton Beach State Park gala Friday and Saturday, June 1-2

SEASHELL STAGE: Friday, June 1

5 p.m. — Eastern Sound Orchestra

6 p.m. — Paul Wayne

6:45 p.m. — New Hampshire Police Association Pipes and Drums band (Sponsored by the Friends of Nancy Stiles)

7 p.m. — Opening ceremony with ribbon-cutting by Gov. John Lynch.

7:50 p.m. — Rico Barr and the Jive Review

8 p.m. — The Continentals with guest performance by Bob Gauvreau

9:30 p.m. — Fireworks

SEASHELL STAGE: Saturday, June 2

Noon — Winnacunnet High School Jazz Band & Choral Group

1 p.m. — Acoustical Cocktail Band

2 p.m. — Sugar Beats Acapella Group

4 p.m. — Old Bastards

6 p.m. — James Donahue Dedication

7:30 p.m. — Hush dance band

9:30 p.m. — Fireworks

HAMPTON ARTS NETWORK exhibits and activities will run 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, June 2:

Art gallery — Works of local and statewide artists, main tent

Personal appearance by Will Moses, artist/author book signing, main tent

Balloon twisting by Geoff Merrill, near the tents, 10-11:30

Kite flying by Kites over New England, on the beach

Chalk art, on the pavement of Ocean Boulevard

Stone Piling, on the north side stage

Mermaid houses, on the beach

Scavenger hunt, at the events area and the beach

Bubble machine, on a table near the main tent

Craft table (rock painting, whale socks, sand art, etc.) near north side stage

Face painting, near kiosk tent

Blue Ocean touch tank, kiosk tent

Fish prints, shell craft and jellyfish mobiles, near kiosk tent

Memory wall on Ocean Boulevard, near the tents

Music melodies — John Reynolds, Mike Sevarius, kiosk tent

Mural painting on site by Adam Bastille, beach

Sea serpent parade, tent area on Ocean Boulevard

ME — Make your own framed picture, near the pavilion and on the beach

Poetry sign boards displaying poems by local poets, near the main tent

Bob Coleman woodworking, kiosk tent

Susan Sheehan — lamp worked beads, kiosk tent

Monte Nikkel — specialized jewelry making, kiosk tent

Andrea Williams — weaving specialist, kiosk tent

HAMPTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY exhibits and activities will run 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, June 2:

DVD — "Postcards of Hampton Beach" made for the HBVD 100th anniversary, HHS tent

DVD — "On This Spot" — Changes in the Seashell area, HHS tent

DVD — "Hampton Then & Now," HHS tent

DVD — "Saltmarsh Farming on the New Hampshire Seacoast" Joshua Silveira, HHS tent

Area authors, local history of Hampton, main tent

Children's book readings, HHS tent

Classics Alive storytelling - Loris Burbine presents "Corduroy" by Don Freeman, HHS tent

Framed postcard collection of Hampton Beach - the collection of Bob and Ann Radwin, HHS tent

Changing fashions at Hampton Beach — 1890s-1990s, HHS tent

Silhouettes by Lillian G. Clarke: 40 Years at Hampton Beach, HHS tent.

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