HAMPTON BEACH — The region’s biggest seafood festival kicks off Friday as the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival celebrates its 26th year.
The festival runs Friday from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ocean Boulevard in Hampton Beach — the main road that runs the length of the beach — will be closed to traffic as an anticipated 150,000 people descend on the seaside resort.
For the vast majority, they will be there for one thing:
“It’s all about the seafood,” said Jude David, chairwoman of the festival.
The staple of the event is an incredible variety of seafood, prepared in a mindboggling number of ways. Some 60 of the Seacoast’s top restaurants will serve favorites like fried clams, shrimp and lobster (steamed, fried or in a roll), as well as non-seafood items like BBQ Ribs, “Blooming Onions” and desserts.
Throughout the event, some 80 arts and crafts vendors will be promoting and selling locally made products, and hundreds of Ocean Boulevard merchants will be offering end-of-the-season sidewalk sales.
There will also be continuous entertainment on two stages featuring 15 bands and orchestras playing a variety of music — blues, jazz, the oldies but goodies and rock ‘n’ roll. Hampton Beach recently saw a major renovation of its seafront facilities — bathhouses, boardwalks and stages. The result is a much improved waterfront, said David.
“The seashell stage is just gorgeous,” she said.
The festival also caters to kids. There will be a “Kiddie Land” featuring children’s celebrities, magicians, jugglers, clowns, face painting and games.
“It’s really a family event,” said David. “For some people it’s almost like a reunion. We have groups of up to 20 people who rent a place so they can spend the weekend at the festival. You don’t come to the seafood festival without leaving with new friends.”