40th annual Summer Festival to be held this weekend

Published 3:05 pm Monday, June 5, 2023

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For the 40th year, the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce’s (WBCC) annual Summer Festival will usher in an unofficial start to the summer season with rides, concessions, vendors, live music and the promise of a good time this weekend starting on Friday afternoon (June 9). 

For Robin McKeithan, assistant director of the chamber, helping to plan and organize the Summer Festival runs in her family. Her late father, Mac McLean was a volunteer for the festival when it started under Bo Lewis’ leadership. 

“He was a huge advocate for community volunteerism, and I do feel like that’s something I got from him,” McKeithan said. “I never thought I would be doing this, but here we are 13 years later. It means a lot to me,” she said counting the number of years she has helped plan the festival. 

Summer Festivals long ago were three day events that had ski shows on Sundays, and though it has changed over the decades, support from the community has not waivered.

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“If something has been successful for 40 years, there has to have been support behind it,” WBCCC President Catherine Glover said. Glover has helped organize the festival for the last 16 years.  “To have a history of 40 years behind something is pretty impressive,” she said.  

Recent Summer Festivals have had a greater focus on inviting more local vendors and making the festival a fundraising opportunity for local nonprofits. 

“We use local and support local as much as we can for the Summer Festival,” McKeithan said. 

McKeithan and Glover are Beaufort County natives who have attended the Summer Festival for most of their lives. Their best advice for newcomers, especially if they have children, is to purchase armbands for unlimited rides from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for $25 on Saturday, June 10. Attendees need to bring plenty of cash, because there are limited spaces where they can use a debit or credit card. An ATM is planned to be on site. McKeithan and Glover recommend wearing cool clothing to combat the forecasted warm weather and the biggest tip is to arrive early. 

Because the festival is not a ticketed event, it is difficult to determine how many people will be in Washington this weekend; however, McKeithan and Glover estimate “thousands” of people will descend upon downtown. Being early will make it easier to find a parking spot and a spot to park a lawn chair down at Festival Park to listen to live music. 

The festival is free to attend. There will be rides, fireworks, live music and events happening both days for the community. The festival will take place at the Waterfront by Stewarts Park. Vendors and concession stands will line the area. Summer Festival hours will be 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Saturday. 

The Summer Festival is a fundraising event for WBCCC that accounts for approximately half of the chamber’s yearly budget.