Future of Harvest Fest in Jeopardy
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, July 26, 2011
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- This year's Harvest Moon fall festival may not be held, as officials have no location to host the two-day festival, that typically occurs on Columbus Day weekend at Hampton Beach.
For the past three years, the arts and crafts festival has been held on the vacant lot where the Old Salt Restaurant used to stand. But this year, the lot is not available, as its being leased out to the Ocean Gaming, a charitable gaming establishment at 81 Ocean Blvd.
Hampton Beach Village Precinct commissioners, who put on the annual event, discussed the dilemma at their last meeting and addressed rumors they were planning to scrap the event all together.
Hearing about those rumors, former Precinct Commissioner June White — who founded the festival — lashed out against commissioners
"It's there to help businesses," White said. "Whether you like me or not, it doesn't matter. It's not about me. I put a lot of work into it but I don't get anything out of it. But for the businesses, I think you ought to give it another chance."
Commission Chairman Chuck Rage said no one has discussed eliminating the event all together.
The problem, he said, is officials have no venue on which to host it.
"We are still looking for a venue," Rage said. "With all the construction going on we're not sure where we can have it."
Another issue is that funding for the festival was slashed by $5,000 by precinct voters at the annual Town Meeting. Beach resident Ute Pineo made the motion because she feels the event is barely recognized by locals and is not the rousing success as some say.
Precinct Commissioner Maureen Buckley admitted she is not sold on the festival.
"I'm not big on the fall festival," Buckley said. "It's not a personality issue. I just don't think it's successful. However if the two commissioners want it, that is fine."
Buckley said the festival has never caught on with tourists or the business community. "I realize we want to extend the season but I have gone to all the businesses and we can't seem to get them involved in it," Buckley said. "That's a problem. If the idea is to indeed extend our season, we need our people to become involved and its not happening."
Commissioner Gary Kubik said eliminating the festival all together would be a mistake.
While the festival is not as popular as the other events the precinct holds, Kubik said it is still fairly new.
"It takes time for these events to grow," Kubik said. "I think it would be a big mistake to let this go. We are always talking about extending the season. If we eliminate it, we are doing exactly the opposite of what we said we wanted to do which is extend the season."
While they may not be able to host it this year, Rage said he would like to keep the event.
"The idea is great, it's just not big enough," Rage said. He would like to see the precinct partner with the chamber of commerce, which has discussed putting on a carnival that week.
White said she doesn't believe combining a carnival with the festival is a good idea. The chamber, she said, wants to have rides, food and a beer tent.
"One of the reason why we got rid of the beer tent at the fall festival was because we want people to go to the restaurants," White said.