Sea Witch offers a ghoulishly good weekend

by Michael Short on October 27, 2010

By Michael Short

An estimated 150,000 people may descend on Rehoboth Beach this weekend to take part in the 21st annual Sea Witch Festival.

This year’s festival proclaims that visitors should let “the ghoul times roll” and good weather is expected to draw huge crowds.

That’s a far cry from the first festival. Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce President Carol Everhart remembered that 5,000 people showed up that first year. A storm came through, struck the event tent and left it “flat as a fritter,” she said.

Expecting to be run out of town on a rail, Everhart found that the event was considered a success. It’s grown every year since.

The Sea Witch Halloween and Fiddlers Festival began as one of the first of the area’s fall festivals. At a time when summer ended on Labor Day, the idea of attracting tourists well into the fall for the “shoulder season” was almost unheard of.

From those humble beginnings, the event has grown to include parades, kids games, a fidder’s convention, a broom toss, trick or treating, a pet costume contest, the hunt for the elusive “Sea Witch” and  a run and walk on Sunday morning.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Everhart. “I think people have an opportunity to dress up and act silly . . . and walk right down Rehoboth Avenue. It’s just a really nice, fun day.”

Most events are free of charge, prompting Everhart to say that it’s “like a thank you from the business community.”

“Any destination type event, whether you are  Disney or Dewey, has to be clean, safe and friendly. And after that, it has to be affordable,” she said.

Events begin on  Friday night, Oct. 29 and continue  all-day long through Saturday and Sunday. The festival was originally a one-day event, but has long since outgrown those days.

Sea Witch has been honored by Delaware tourism officials as an Outstanding Special Event and Annual Hall of Fame Event.

Many, if not most of the events, are in costume. And when we say costume, we really mean costume. You can and will see anyone and anything this year, which really adds to the atmosphere of the weekend.

There are a few events that are always the most popular. The parade on Saturday morning is a must see. The fiddler’s convention on Saturday afternoon in the convention center is a must for anyone who likes foot stomping music.

The pet parade on Sunday showcases everything from poodles to parrots (no livestock, wild animals or reptiles please). The miniature monsters parade down the boardwalk and include mummies, spiders, policemen, cheerleaders and at least for this year, probably some pretty scary political costumes.

The  people parade begins at 11 a.m.  and it includes mummers, floats, music, Nur shriners, decorated cars, local bands and thousands of participants in costumes.   The parade begins at the Convention Center and proceeds east down Rehoboth Avenue toward the Bandstand before continuing westward to Village by the Sea.

The parade is arguably the biggest draw. On a good day, “it’s like July 4th,”  Everhart said. Plan to come early, so you have to get a good view of the costumes that some participants start working on a year in advance.

The hunt for the Sea Witch is also a family favorite and the 5k Fall Classic and One Mile Fright Walk beginning at Grove Park at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning attracts an estimated 500 plus runners and walkers.

A crowd favorite is the  wacky broom toss at 3 p.m. on Saturday. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Participants line up and throw their brooms from the boardwalk as far as possible. The winner is the contestant with the best arm or perhaps the most aerodynamic broom. Anyway, the farthest toss wins the prize.

But there really is plenty for everyone to do all weekend long. There are beach games, including a Frankenstein relay (bring your best monster walk), balancing a peanut on your nose and a beach ball roll (let the ghoul times roll).

There is music and comedy and the Spooky Spats Family Show on the Bandstand on Saturday and Sunday as well as scarecrow making contests, hay rides, face painting, horse shows on the beach and a kids pirate treasure trail.

There is a Kiwanis Club Haunted House, crafts, pony rides, blacksmithing, movies, storytime and live theater. There is monster art, a boo balloon launch, a pumpkin pie eating contest, a rock climbing wall (there is a charge for the rock climbing) and various games and costume contests in areas in Rehoboth Beach and beyond like some of the outlet stores and local restaurants on Route 1.

On Saturday at the bandstand, there’s even something called Kiss The Bulldog.

For a complete listing of all the frighteningly fun happenings this weekend, go to www.beach-fun.com or call the Chamber of Commerce at  302-227-2233.

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