HAMLET — For the first time in its 40-year history, the annual Seaboard Festival has a title sponsor.
Planning committee members and local officials on Friday announced that REV Federal Credit Union is sponsoring this year’s event, scheduled for Oct. 29, during a ribbon cutting ceremony by the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce.
They also unveiled a banner covering the entrance of the former Hamlet Opera House featuring photos of the Seaboard Festival from years past.
Chris Carpenter, president of the committee, said the festival — which is organized by volunteers — is important to the city because its mission is to promote the history of the former Seaboard Railroad and Hamlet in general.
The only year the festival hasn’t been held since its inception was 2020, due to government restrictions in response to the COVID pandemic.
However, the Seaboard Fest returned in 2021.
“It went really well,” Carpenter said. “I think people were ready to get back out and do things.”
This year, he added, the event will be even bigger.
Vendor spaces were sold out by the early part of this month.
“But we did go in and find ways to add 10 more booth spaces, so this will be the biggest festival we’ve ever had, in terms of how many booth spaces … and vendors we have,” Carpenter said.
The festival is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to Hamlet from inside and outside the Richmond County borders.
“If we have a beautiful day, these streets are full,” Carpenter said. “There’s no way we can ever count them, but when you look at aerial shots of the festival … and see how many people are on the streets, it can easily be estimated at 20-30 thousand.”
As usual, the day will start early with the Seaboard Festival 5k, which raises funds to provide a scholarship.
In addition to the traditional Conductor’s Call, organizers brought back the costume contest, with it being just days before Halloween.
Carpenter said cash prizes will be awarded for the car show for the first time.
There will also be a kids zone sponsored by Pee Dee Electric and multiple fall and Halloween-themed backdrops designed by a local decorating company.
There are also three bands scheduled to play under the shelter at Main Street Park for the event: Hamlet-born guitarist Jonathan Robinson and his band are scheduled to play from 9:30 a.m.-noon; followed by The Sand Band from noon-2:30; and the Special Occasion Band from 2:30-5 p.m.
Robinson will also be playing in the same spot this Sunday from 3-5 p.m. for the Boxcar Concert Series.
Carpenter said the other two bands have large regional followings that are expected to bring a crowd.