The Crankee Yankee and I go to the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival every year. It’s usually on the first weekend of September. We like to get there early, so we took off at 9am. The town of Hampton organizes the event beautifully. You park in the Winnicunnet High School parking lot, then walk to where one of the school buses picks you up and takes you right to the festival. Tickets (on Saturday) for adults are $10 each, and it’s well worth it.
Since we are there early, the crowd is small and manageable. However, some of the booths are not always ready to serve that early. But there are many who are, and the scent of seafood, chowder, fried this and fried that is already in the air.
There are way too many restaurants to name, but suffice it to say that all the heavy hitters are there. Since you walk everywhere, it’s not only a feast for the senses, but it’s also a walking feast so you burn off lots of calories.
We’ve enjoyed the festival in all kinds of weather, but yesterday was perfect. After many days of hot and humid weather, it was coolish and dry, with a soft sea breeze. The event is in rows of tents that stretch for what seems miles. As you approach the venue, the first tent is for the artisans. There are tables of jewelry, stained glass, wooden puzzle boxes, clothing, essential oils and soaps, glass figurines, garden sculpture, and much more.
The next set of tents is the “food court.” You can get anything from a lobster roll to a bowl of creamy clam chowder and then some. Speaking only for us, this is what we enjoyed:
- fried oysters
- coconut shrimp
- lobster rolls
- clam chowder
- lobster bisque
- strawberry shortcake
- scallops wrapped in bacon
You eat as you walk, or if you can find a clear “stand up” table or a place at the rail facing the ocean, you can enjoy both your food and take in the sights. And oh—what sights there are!
People watching is at its best at an event like the Seafood Festival. People of all ages show up, and, depending on the weather, they wear everything from bathing suit coverups to what looks like pagent outfits. And then there are those who enjoy dressing up as their favorite seafood, mainly lobster. “Lobster Man” was there in *full flower yesterday and walked through the crowds, clicking his claws and smiling.
By noon time, there were tons of people there. Inside the food tents, it felt like being a minnow in a shark tank, juking this way and that to move forward. But everyone was in a good mood and we all “pleased” and “thank you’d” everyone as we squeezed by. There is something about an event like this that brings out the goodness of people.
The atmosphere was fine, people were smiling and enjoying the festival foods, the sea gulls were calling for someone, anyone, to drop some tasty bit of food for them to snatch. During the festival, it’s not at all unusual for someone to look at what you’re eating and ask you how it is and where you got it. This usually leads to a fun discussion about who makes the best <insert favorite seafood dish here>. This is one of the best ways to winkle out some great seafood stops we might have missed otherwise.
All in all it’s a great day with great food. All of the senses are in full dress uniforms; the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes—it’s a banquet for them all. We wouldn’t miss it for the world.
*I wish now that I had taken a photo of him; he wore red sneakers, red warm-up pants, a red and white checkered shirt with a red vest, and he had on lobster claw gloves and topped the whole deal off with a red felt lobster hat.