Original Summer Festival worth the wait

Published 11:16 pm Saturday, May 30, 2009

By Staff
Returning Washington’s Summer Festival to its roots may be a slow process, but it’s the right approach.
Lee Hemink, former executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, helped start the festival on its return to its roots. Now that effort, which began in 2006, is being continued, and ably so, under the leadership of current Executive Director Catherine Glover.
“It’s a slow movement. You can’t do it all at once,” she said during an interview earlier this week.
In the 1980s, during the festival’s early years, most of the money spent on food and other items stayed in the community. The Jaycees, Pamlico Pals, Beaufort County Grange, Kiwanis Club, churches and other nonprofit groups raised money for their programs and services by selling cold drinks, pizza, hot dogs, burgers, fish plates and baked goods during the festival, which lasted three days in its earlier years.
Area residents benefited from those programs and services.
From the 1990s until about three years ago, most of that money left town with professional vendors. When they left the city, so did the money they earned.
Now, it looks like the pendulum is swinging the other way. That’s where it should be. That’s where it should stay.
It’s much better for a local resident’s money spent on two cheeseburgers, a large lemonade and two scoops of homemade banana ice cream to go toward a local civic club’s scholarship program that benefits area students than to pay travel costs for a leather-goods vendor to set up shop in the city for two days.
Current area residents and people who grew up in the area, moved away and return for visits from time to time tended to spend a little more time at the booths run by local groups as they chatted and socialized with the vendors.
More than money was exchanged at those booths. Friendliness and neighborliness was exhibited, too.
Returning the festival to its roots may take another year or two, but it is worth the wait.