Seafood Frenzy: 150,000 Attend Three-day Festival

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23rd Annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival

By Suzanne Laurent

Hampton Union, Tuesday, September 11, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

The crowd moves along Ocean Boulevard during the 23rd annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival Saturday. [Ioanna Raptis Photo]

HAMPTON -- Friends Cyndi Gierczak of Hampton and Noel Kristie of Epping finally got their lobster and crab hats at the 23rd annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival on Saturday.

"We always get so distracted by the beer tent and food each year, we forget to get the hats," Gierczak said.

The two women headed off in search of their favorite dish — coconut shrimp. Their husbands were already on the hunt for scallops and lobster rolls.

Gierczak said they took advantage of the free shuttles and parking that was offered in 11 locations throughout Hampton. It beat the costs of the closer lots that were charging $15 to $25 to park for the event each day.

"It's so great that the town does that," Gierczak said.

The American Bus Association has acclaimed the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival, presented by Seacoast Harley-Davidson, as one of the top 100 events in North America. The three-day event began on Friday evening and continued through Sunday, ending with skydiving demonstrations.

Festivalgoers had their choice of tempting seafood from more than 60 top Seacoast restaurants. While many walked around food in hand, looking for the next thing to tempt their taste buds, some took advantage of long temporary "shelf-like" tables along the boardwalk looking out at the ocean.

There were chowders, bisques, lobsters, mussels, clams, oysters, "blooming onions" and many sumptuous desserts. There was also "land food" such as barbecued ribs, hot dogs and pizza for those who preferred turf over surf.

Bob Vais of Redding, Calif., was enjoying a boiled lobster Saturday afternoon.

He said he and his wife Charlotte have been coming to the festival for the last six years.

"We plan our vacation up and down the East Coast each year around (the festival)," he said.

Vais said lobsters are to New England as Dungeness crabs are to the West Coast.

Donny Marshall, who was visiting with his family from Columbia, Conn., agreed.

Marshall said he planned to "eat his way" around the festival all day.

Speaking of lobsters, Sao Young, 29, of Lowell, Mass., broke the lobster roll eating record Saturday afternoon during the third annual contest sponsored by the 401 Tavern of Hampton.

Young wolfed down 13 rolls in 10 minutes, beating out 13 contenders to take home the grand prize of $1,000. The previous record was 12 rolls at last year's festival.

When asked about pigging out in front of an audience, Young said the "crowd gets you pumped," adding, "It's like any sporting event."

Young, who is studying computer science at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Mass., said he would use most of his prize money for school loans.

"We come here just about every year," said Paul Robichaud of Pepperell, Mass., who was sharing a plate of fried clams from the Beach Plum with his wife Maria.

Donning a crab hat and mirror sunglasses, Greg Gould of Colebrook was enjoying a cup of lobster chowder from the Old Salt Restaurant.

"This is my first time here," he said. "I've pretty much wanted to do this for a long time. It's fantastic."

Kelly Regan of the 401 Tavern was busy serving up oysters on the half-shell and lobster rolls. She gave away the Tavern's lobster roll recipe, and owner Desi Lanio didn't really mind.

"We make them with just a little mayo, dill and celery," Regan said.

The weekend also featured continuous entertainment on two stages with 15 bands and orchestras playing everything from jazz to oldies.

Chef Pat Whitley gave culinary demonstrations Saturday. More than 80 arts and crafts vendors, sidewalk sales from Ocean Boulevard merchants, and kids games rounded out the event.

Hampton Rotarian Larry Marsolais estimated the crowd swelled to 40,000 on Saturday. Festival chairwoman Jude David estimates 150,000 people attended the festival over the three days.

"We have 348 volunteers helping out over the three days," he said.

Bob and Donna Kologe of Thomaston, Conn., were visiting the Seacoast courtesy of their children.

"My parents took us here every summer while I was growing up," Donna Kologe said. "Then we brought our kids. They treated us to the weekend in Hampton."

She said she hadn't been to Hampton Beach in 20 years and she was thrilled to see the new boardwalk and Seashell Stage.

"Even the ocean air smells better here," Kologe said. "There's nothing like it."


Best Booth Design:
Old Salt
Best Lobster Roll:
Beach Plum
Best Chowder:
Whale's Tale
Best Bisque or Stew:
Rye Harbor Lobster Pound
Best Non-Seafood:
Petey's Summertime Seafood
Best of the Festival:
OM Mikado
Best Dessert:
Best Spirit:
Most Creative Cuisine:
La Bec Rouge
Best Item on a Stick:
St. James Lodge
Judge's Favorite:
North Hampton Firefighters
Freshest Catch:
JR's Famous Steak and Seafood

Mikey D. Morrison, of the band "So It Goes", and a waiter at LeBec Rouge perform by the restaurant's food stand during the annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival Saturday. [Ioanna Raptis Photo]

Contestants, including Jason Vaughn of Hampton, compete in the Seafood Festival's third annual lobster roll eating contest Saturday. [Ioanna Raptis Photo]

Beth Berger and Jack White of Dough Express. [Ioanna Raptis Photo]

Diana Carr of Seafood Shack works the fryolators as customers move through the food tent at the 23rd annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival Saturday. [Ioanna Raptis Photo]

People move along Ocean Boulevard during the 23rd annual Hampton Beach Food Festival on Saturday. [Ioanna Raptis Photo]

Participants compete in the third annual Lobster Roll Eating Contest during the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival Saturday. [Ioanna Raptis Photo]

Sao Young of Lowell, Mass., wins the third annual Lobster Roll Eating Contest during the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival Saturday. [Ioanna Raptis Photo]

Nate Deprofio signals his count as he competes in the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival's lobster roll eating competition Saturday. [Ioanna Raptis Photo]
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