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‘Back where it belongs’: Hampstead Day returning to Main Street on Saturday for first time since 2014

David Caple and Cara Lewis both remember growing up in Hampstead and looking forward to waking up the morning of Hampstead Day, excited to see their friends and see the town packed with people interacting and having fun.

Involved with planning and organizing this year’s event, Caple and Lewis know contemporary kids growing up in town haven’t had quite the same experience. Hampstead Day has continued, except for last year’s COVID-related cancellation, but since 2015 it has been held outside of town at the Arcadia carnival grounds.

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That changes this year, with Hampstead Day returning to Main Street. The event, which traditionally has drawn from 3,000 to 10,000 or so attendees based on the weather, is set for Saturday, May 29, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“In and around town, people are very excited to have it return,” said Caple, the chairman of this event and the president of the Hampstead Lions Club, which annually puts on Hampstead Day. “To the community members I speak to, it’s back where it belongs.”

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Said Lewis, the event’s civil servants and kids zone coordinator: “I think everyone is very excited to have Hampstead Day come back to Main Street and be in Hampstead. It’s a wonderful way to showcase the revitalization project and for the community to come back after COVID.”

Mayor Christopher Nevin said the same thing about showcasing Main Street after the completion of a four-year streetscape project. Preparing for that project and then ongoing renovations meant Hampstead Day had to hit the road after being held in town for the last time in 2014.

“The big thing for me was bringing it back to town and having the most successful event we could possibly have,” said Caple, who estimated he has put in about 600 hours planning the event. “Bringing this back to town has been incredibly complicated.”

Caple said the event was held consecutively for 46 years before last year. For many years, the Rotary Club sponsored it, but the Lions Club took it over nearly two decades ago, he said.

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Perhaps halfway into its history, Hampstead Day was moved from the third Saturday to the fifth Saturday in May and has become associated with Memorial Day weekend. Opening ceremonies will be held at 9 a.m. at the American Legion Memorial, including the “Star-Spangled Banner” and an invocation.

For the first time, Main Street will be closed to through traffic, allowing people to walk up and down the street eating and patronizing vendors and businesses. Attendees are asked to park at the old North Carroll High School, where two shuttle buses will run a route to two drop-off locations near the festivities.

At present, Caple said more than 80 vendors have signed up to participate, from artisans to nonprofits and civic organizations to churches. There will be live music playing throughout the day, dancers and a kids zone which will include a puppet show, an inflatable obstacle course and drone demonstrations by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.

There will be plenty of food, Caple said, from the fire company and other organizations, providing such fare as smoked pit sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs, funnel cakes, breakfast sandwiches and French fries.

And there will be a car show. Car shows weren’t a prominent part of Hampstead Day until the move to Arcadia.

“It’ll be a great combination of all the things everyone loved about Hampstead Day of yesterday and all the things everyone loved in recent years,” Lewis said. “Being able to walk Main Street and interact with your neighbors and local business owners was lost when it went to Arcadia. We’re excited to have that back and be able to engage with local, Hampstead businesses on Hampstead Day.”

Caple said it was important to work on the event with a large and diverse group of community members. He said Nevin, representatives from the Hampstead Revitalization Committee, Town Manager Tammi Ledley, public works, civic associations and churches have all been supportive.

“I wanted to get everyone involved,” he said. “I believe a high tide lifts all boats. I felt like getting everyone involved would make it a better-run event and I really do feel like everybody in town got behind us.”

He said Hampstead Day is a civic service that the Hampstead Lions Club holds for the community and that any proceeds go toward maintaining Hampstead Lions Club Community Park.

Caple is more than happy to talk about his affinity for the event, the Lions Club’s involvement, the improved safety closing Main Street provides and all the fun things attendees will find in Hampstead on Saturday. Just one subject is off-limits.

“I’m not going to talk about the ‘R’-word,” he said, referencing rain, noting that attendance is largely determined by weather and that the fourth Saturday in May is typically “hit or miss.”

According to Accuweather’s website, there’s a predicted high of 59 degrees in Hampstead on Saturday with a 68% chance of precipitation. Of course, the forecast could change.

Still, he said, even on a rainy day in Arcadia more than 3,500 turned out. And this year, regardless of the weather, Hampstead Day will be back in Hampstead, making for “a completely different dynamic.”

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