Clean, beautiful, wide beaches are what Virginia Beach is known for, but it’s not the only thing this area offers. Actually, there is so much to do and see that you will have to come back again and again to experience it all. Considering that Virginia Beach is within a day’s drive of two thirds of the U.S. population, this shouldn’t be too hard for most. Besides the state parks, the water activities, the wildlife viewings, the vibrant shopping and dining scene, and the ever popular Boardwalk that you can enjoy year round, there are also fun festivals and events throughout the year. The largest of them, the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival is held in September, with this year’s installment running the 26-28. I had the opportunity to speak with Jim Coggin, the Tourism Sales Manager for Virginia Beach to get the inside scoop on this large beach festival.
RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.
JC: The Neptune Festival is September 26th through the 28th and this will be the 41st year the event has been held.. It draws between 350,000 and 450,000 people, so it’s a large event. We draw folks locally, as well as within our drive market, which would be the Northeast States – Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey.
“If you can’t find something fun, then you are just a boring person! There is something for everybody.”
RAL: So it expands past just the Virginia Beach area?
JC: It does. The locals look at it as a way to take the beach back, but it also has become an economic driver for Virginia Beach from all of the out of town guests. There are many who travel to the area for the event; I was talking to a colleague from New Richmond who said that his family and friends travel here for the festival and stay to make a fun weekend out of it. Many locals will even do “staycations” for the event where they get a hotel room to stay in while they enjoy the festivities. It’s actually a full weekend, one of the busiest of the fall, and many of the hotels offer two- or three-night Neptune Festival packages, so they usually sell out. Most people want to stay at the hotels near the boardwalk, so those ones sell out especially fast.
RAL: With many people traveling to the area for the festival, does this event mean quite a bit to the community?
JC: With all of the shopping, lodging, restaurant and attraction sales it really has a huge economic impact on the city for that weekend. Festivals are a very important part of Virginia Beach – it not only provides something fun for our 445,000 year round residents to look forward to, but also for those who love to travel to our area.
RAL: So what is the event, what is going to go on at the festival?
JC: The event has several different components to it. We have the actual festival itself, which is what they call Boardwalk Weekend, with concerts, food vendors and craft vendors up and down the Virginia Beach Boardwalk for 32 blocks. This is a traditional festival where you can buy all the latest knick knacks and get some great food along the way. That will be taking place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Another part, one of the highlights of the festival, is the International Sand Sculpting Championship, where people come in from all over the world to build these magnificent sand sculptures. They usually have about 22 sculptures created for the competition, with the best one taking home a prize. This takes place under a tent the size of a football field and extends three or four days longer than the rest of the festival. Throughout Boardwalk Weekend there will be concerts during the day and evening on three oceanfront stages and many other events, including a 5k and 8k run, a volleyball tournament, a regatta, a parade, and fireworks in the evening.
RAL: Wow, there is a lot going on, it sounds cool. What is the environment like at the festival?
JC: It is a very casual, family-friendly event. Being a local, it’s something I look forward to each year. Our tag line in Virginia Beach is “Live the Life” because that is what we locals get to do every day, so we like our festivals to reflect that. The Neptune Festival is one way that the locals get to live the life and it’s fun for us to share that with our out of town guests as well. It’s our largest festival and my favorite event of the whole year, plus the weather is usually pretty good for that weekend.
RAL: So you said this is a family-friendly event. Is this something for everyone?
JC: Yes, it is. If you can’t find something fun, then you are just a boring person! There is something for everybody.
RAL: Haha, great! Does this festival support any special causes in your community?
JC: Well, the event is free for everyone, except for the sand sculpting. There is a $5 fee for that event and the proceeds go to charity. The charities the festival supports are the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Governor’s School for the Arts, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Equikids, Rotary, Jaycees, and Navy MWR Funds.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
JC: Virginia Beach provides a family-friendly, clean, safe environment that is easy to get to and economically feasible to visit. It’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg to stay here and on top of that the festival is free! The weather is great and we’ve got so many attractions and things for folks do, like going out with the dolphins, kayaking, visiting the state parks, dining at our great restaurants, and shopping. For those of us who live here, we get to do these things every day, so we want people to come visit and live the life that we do as locals.
To learn more about the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival, visit their website.