Hampton Beach Carnival -- 1915

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"Our Town" By James W. Tucker

Hampton Union

Thursday, July 19, 1951

The thirty-seventh annual Hampton Beach Carnival will be held this year during the latter part of August. It will be a big worthwhile event, but from the standpoint of the civic interest engendered by the affair, it will not hold a candle to the first Carnival which was staged in 1915 by a small, newly organized and financially poor Board of Trade.

The first Carnival began officially on Labor Day, September 6 and continued through the following Sunday, September 12. Practically everyone in our town and that includes beach and village sections, participated.

The 1915 crop of Hampton babies was either in the baby show or in the baby carriage parade. Boys and girls of all ages participated in the many special events of "Children's Day" and in many attractive programs of various types of sports. Adults participated in at least three long and colorful parades.

The first Carnival was a real community enterprise, as were all the Carnivals which followed for a period of ten years. Then local interest began to dwindle and now is almost entirely lost.

It is a shame that civic interest in this unique event has waned to a point where it now barely exists. If civic interest had not evaporated, the Hampton Beach Carnival might have been built up to a point where it would have compared with the Carnival at New Orleans or with St. Petersburg Festival of the States.

There are a dozen reasons why our annual late summer event is no longer a truly community affair. But it will do no constructive good to rehearse even one of these reasons.

It may that to recount some of the events of that first carnival, staged 36 years ago, will awaken a desire for a wider and more genuine community interest in the 1951 Carnival and all the Carnivals which will follow in future years. Such an awakening might prove as helpful to our town as the Festival of Britain is proving to England.

Carnival Good Publicity

Previous to 1915, the beach season ended abruptly on Labor night. On Tuesday morning after Labor Day you could have fired a shotgun at any point in the business section and in any direction, without endangering a soul. The Carnival of 1915, and Carnivals for many years to follow changed all of that. And while it was true that hotels and guest houses did not profit to the extent that all other types of businesses profited, they at least had the advantage of the good publicity which the Carnival brought to Hampton and they had some business which they otherwise would not have had.

In the first place, the 1915 Carnival was given a beautiful setting. Every place of business and most of the summer homes were profusely decorated with flags, bunting, "Welcome" signs and colored lights. Streamers of vari-colored electric lights were stretched at short intervals across the boulevard from Boar's Head to Haverhill street.

The Boston Globe said, "Hampton Beach is a veritable fairyland of light and color, augmented each night by clouds of kaleidoscopic confetti thrown by carefree and happy crowds of revelers who had plenty of fun without resorting to even a sign of rowdyism."

Higgins' Band gave four concerts daily and the stellar attraction of the week was aviator J. Chauncey Redding and his Burgess-Wright bi-plane ascending each afternoon to the stupendous height of 2,000 feet.

The Manchester Union said: "Wonderful demonstrations were given by Aviator Redding of actual warfare as carried on in the great war of today, showing the people how large armies are put to flight by these fighting birds of the air." What Chauncey actually did was to drop paper bags filled with flour onto a forty foot square fort, the ramparts of which had been dug in the soft sand just east of the Ocean House. And, of course there were wonderful displays of fireworks every night.

Full Week Program

Each day of the 1915 Carnival Week had a special designation. For instance, Monday was "Labor and Trade Union Day" and many Trade Unions were present to witness the All-Star Haverhill Shop league and the Exeter A. A. ball game in the afternoon and to enjoy the numerous other events.

Tuesday was "Children's Day," in charge of Miss Cora Miner and Edmund Langley. There was a baby show, in which "Don" Ring won first prize in the "Toddler" class; a baby carriage parade and sports for the youngsters. And the boys and girls were made happy in the afternoon by a display of Japanese daylight fireworks.

Wednesday was "Fraternal Day" and many fraternal organizations took part in a big afternoon parade and a program of track and field events, including a Marathon race which was started in Portsmouth. Thursday was "Governor's Day" and Governor Roland R. Spaulding of New Hampshire was present with the members of his military staff.

The program included a really magnificent parade of decorated automobiles and auto and motorcycle races on the hard sands of the beach. During the evening of Thursday, there was a colorful Mardi-Gras parade and the pageant of the crowning of the Carnival Queen and King. Miss Blanche Thompson, 17-year-old Haverhill girl, whose parents owned the Seacoy Cottage on Ocean Boulevard, was the first Carnival Queen.

Friday was "Agriculture and Grange Day" in charge of John Janvrin. There was a wonderful, two-mile parade of decorated floats and the long program of sports for Rockingham County agriculturists. Included was a milking contest, horseshoe pitching, wood-sawing and chopping competitions and a wheelbarrow race. Saturday was called "Flag Day" and the program included a ball game and a "Charlie Chaplin Parade."

On Sunday, Aviator Redding took the Carnival Queen for an airplane ride. The Haverhill Gazette said, "Miss Thompson startled the great crowd by plucking a cap from her brother's head, pulling it down over her hair and calmly taking a seat on the leading edge of the lower wing of the plane in which she soared high above the heads of all." And with the Sunday night concert by Higgins' Band, the First Annual Hampton Beach Carnival was brought to a very successful conclusion.

Hundreds of permanent and summer residents of our Town took part, either as members of the many committees which directed the affair or as participants in the long and varied program of events. And everyone was proud and happy to cooperate in a civic undertaking which lent prestige to old Hampton and added to its fame as a clean, wholesome recreational center.

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