Festival launches summer fun

Published 6:59 pm Saturday, June 1, 2013

bluecrab-emblemRides lighting up the night, the smell of carnival treats in the air and beach music to dance to, the Washington Summer Festival has become an eastern North Carolina institution. For 30 years, families have flocked to the event that kicks off summer with fireworks and fun.

Beginning Friday at 5:30 p.m., the Summer Festival will be in full swing: vendors, music by the Craig Woolard Band, wrapped up with fireworks over the water at 9 p.m. Saturday the fun continues from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., according to the schedule of events.

But in its 30th year, the festival is evolving, according to organizers. Festivities wrap up a little earlier this year and a concerted effort to involve more local vendors is shaping the event.

“We’ve got about 70 vendors; of those, half of them are local,” said Robin McKeithan, business manager for the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and one of the Summer Festival organizers. “That’s been our mission over the past several years because you want to provide a festival that appeals to the locals.”

Locals won’t have to give up their Saturday Market fix, either, McKeithan said.

The open-air market held every Saturday from April to October on the corner of Main Street and Stewart Parkway will be moved to Water Street at Festival Park and vendors, rather than packing up at noon, have been invited to extend their hours.

When Sunday rolls around, the festival will take a distinct turn from the traditional Washington Summer Festival of the past 30 years, as the North Carolina Symphony comes back to town for a repeat performance. The symphony played last fall in honor of Beaufort County’s 300th anniversary.

“It will be a great complement for the event,” said Washington Tourism Development Authority director Lynn Lewis. “This just adds another element to attract people to come down who normally wouldn’t come.”

“The goal was to provide something for everyone,” said Catherine Glover, executive director of the Chamber.

While the concert is free, $40 will get symphony lovers in to meet the conductor at a pre-symphony reception at the North Carolina Estuarium, said Glover. The ticket price includes food catered by On the Waterfront, beverages and a reserved seat front and center at the performance. According to Glover, the reception, symphony and the summer festival are all sponsored by a very generous donor: PotashCorp-Aurora.

“Without them, none of this would happen,” Glover said.

For more information about the Washington Summer Festival, including the North Carolina Symphony’s performance, see the schedule of events on this page or call the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce at 252-946-9168.