Virginia Beach Neptune Festival lures visitors, locals and dogs

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A golden retriever from the Southeastern Virginia Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training organization poses at the Neptune Festival Friday, Sept. 30. (Kate Mishkin/Southside Daily)

A golden retriever from Southeastern Virginia Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training at the Neptune Festival Friday, Sept. 30. (Kate Mishkin/Southside Daily)

When Hans and Annemarie Hamann drove into Virginia Beach from Naples, Fla. Thursday morning, they were nervous. The sky was gray, and it was windy at the Oceanfront. They were reluctant to set up their tent. But by Friday morning, the skies had cleared, just in time for the 43rd annual Neptune Festival.

The Hamanns weren’t the only ones who traveled a long distance to come to this year’s Neptune Fest, which runs through Sunday. Visitors at the event on Friday came from as far as Michigan, New York and Colorado for the music, food and festivities at the Oceanfront. They came with family. They came with dogs. And some of them, like the Hammans, came for the commerce.

“I wouldn’t drive 17 hours if it wasn’t good for business,” said Hans Hamann, who sells hats and jewelry.

Others, though, seemed more inclined to take a break from the everyday.

Ryan McCorvey and Alex Handback were were in town from Alabama for their bowling ball business, but stuck around for the festival. Kerry Hegarty, who is from New York state, was vacationing all week in Virginia and decided to come to Virginia Beach for the day. Tammy Wood came from Waynesboro, Va. with family just to “get away.” Kim Werner, who is from Washington, D.C., and her dad Bob Werner, who is visiting her from Florida, came down together from Washington with Kim’s 115-pound Great Dane Tinkerbell. They’re used to people asking all about Tinkerbell, who’s tall enough to drink out of a human drinking fountain.

On Friday afternoon, locals and tourists alike wandered the boardwalk, perusing boutique tents, eating fried food and listening to music in a venue that spanned 34 blocks. Other major festival attractions include an 8K run and a 5K run, a parade and the International Sandsculpting Championship.

The 43rd annual Neptune Fest drew visitors from up and down the East Coast. (Kate Mishkin/Southside Daily)

The Neptune Fest drew visitors from Hampton Roads, other parts of Virginia and other states on Friday. (Kate Mishkin/Southside Daily)

One local attendee even came to advance a cause, a furry one with four paws.

At the tent for Southeastern Virginia Golden Retriever Rescue, Education and Training (or, GREATT) golden retrievers wandered around, playing. Jane Kron met her golden retriever Lucy at the same tent at the same festival two years ago. Now, she’s vice president of the organization’s Southeastern Virginia chapter.

Her golden retriever had just died, and Lucy cuddled right up to her.

“She helped us heal,” Kron said.

Having a tent at the Neptune Festival is a great way to raise awareness and attract potential owners, Kron said. Right now, she has a number of golden retrievers looking for homes. The organization has taken in 45 this year, including a few from Istanbul.

“The goldens just draw people in,” she said. “It’s fun.”

The festival starts at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. It ends at 11 p.m. on Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday. A full schedule is available here.

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