Make it a tradition

Published 1:00 am Friday, May 6, 2011

Welcome, Marine Market, to the growing list of festivals, events and activities along Washington’s waterfront.

The Washington Harbor District Alliance’s inaugural Marine Market over this past weekend delivered on what it promised. Almost anything nautical, save for a torpedo and submarine, could be found during the two-day event.

Based on what we observed Saturday and Sunday, the Marine Market should become an annual visitor, perhaps a twice-a-year visitor, to the waterfront. To be sure, there were some who were critical of the Marine Market, including at least one downtown business owner who contended the event cost him business by taking away customers.

For the most part, any festival, event or other activity that brings people to Washington, and its waterfront, is good for the city’s economy. Will all visitors to and participants in the festivals, events and activities visit local shops and eat in local restaurants? No. There is evidence the festivals, events and other activities that take place in Washington throughout any given year increase pedestrian traffic in shops and eateries.

The Marine Market put the spotlight on Washington’s waterfront, and that’s a good thing, overall. That spotlight cast a nautical beam of light on the area’s maritime history and its boating industry.

As with the relatively new Beaufort County Music Festival (which started in 2009) and Pickin’ on the Pamlico, we hope the Marine Market will become a tradition.

Conversations with some folks who attended the Marine Market indicate the event was well received by many area residents and visitors. A comment oft repeated was that Washington needs similar festivals, events and activities nearly every weekend.

“Eastern North Carolina and Beaufort County specifically have a lot of history and economic investment in the marine industry,” said Austin Smithwick with Park Boat Co., one of the Marine Market sponsors, in an interview before the Marine Market docked at Washington.

The Marine Market did more than prove that statement, it offered area residents and visitors a chance to learn it for themselves.

The Marine Market also provided an opportunity for the city to showcase its waterfront boating amenities to boaters not familiar with the city.

“Washington’s waterfront attracts boaters, but its waterfront can and should be more of a hub for boaters,” Smithwick said in that February interview.

We concur, and that’s why the Washington Harbor District Alliance needs to make sure the Marine Market continues to drop anchor in Washington at least once a year.