Featured Image: Mars Johnson | Marlin Chronicle
Every year, the coastal city of Virginia Beach comes alive with a wave of excitement as the Neptune Festival washes ashore.
This beloved event has been a staple in the city’s cultural calendar for nearly half a century, drawing residents and visitors alike to celebrate art, music and the vibrant coastal lifestyle.
The 49th Neptune Festival is going to span over the long weekend of Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, offering a wide array of activities for all ages and interests.
During this time, Virginia Beach’s oceanfront will be transformed into a lively hub of entertainment, art and culture. This year’s edition is a special one.
“I’m excited about this year because I think there will be a bigger crowd compared to the last 2 years since COVID-19, and I hope it’s back to the normal big crowd of people,” first-year Madison Mellon said.
It all began in 1974 when Richard Kline, the president of the Virginia Beach Chamber of Commerce and owner of RK Chevrolet, approached Fred Napolitano to assist the community in developing a concept for an event that would bring citizens together.
With a vision to showcase Virginia Beach’s unique coastal culture and foster a sense of community pride, the festival was born.
The festival’s founders aimed to create an event that would not only entertain but also celebrate the ocean’s beauty and the city’s artistic spirit.
The mission of the Neptune festival, according to their website, is to “provide a quality, safe and diverse mix of events and activities.” Their goal is also to create a positive economic impact on the city and on all the nonprofit and charitable entities that will fundraise during the weekend.
If you’re a first-year, or you’re new to the city, there’s no better way to meet the boardwalk. The 49th Annual Boardwalk Weekend offers daily concerts at the festival stages spaced out throughout the boardwalk’s blocks and features over 20 performances by local, regional and national recording artists.
“My favorite thing is definitely the live music, it’s high quality and free,” first-year Kailer Rose said. “People should go because it’s a good way to see the oceanfront and meet new people.”
In addition, more than 200 artisans are presenting handmade work on the boardwalk at an Art & Craft Show that has been named fifth out of 200 Fine Art and Design Shows throughout the country.
“I recommend people to go because it has such a variety of things to do or see, I’ve helped some of the vendors before and all of the people are such kind welcoming members of the community,” Mellon said. “Plus there’s not only art, I’ve happened to buy great jewelry pieces too.”
One of the festival’s most iconic events, the International Sand Sculpting Championship, is about to return with incredible sandy creations. Sculptors from around the world showcase their talent by shaping enormous piles of sand into intricate masterpieces.
Visitors marvel at the level of detail and creativity that could be achieved with just sand, water and some skillful hands. Since its debut, it has been the main event of the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival, and it has evolved to be the most distinguished event of its type in the country.
Another highlight of the weekend is the Neptune Festival Grand Parade, which winds its way along the boardwalk. The parade featured colorful floats, marching bands and lively participants in costumes celebrating the ocean’s majesty. Neptune, the mythical god of the sea, led the parade, delighting children and adults alike.
At the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival, sports enthusiasts can partake in a variety of exciting athletic activities along the picturesque oceanfront, too.
Events range from the Neptune’s Surfing Classic, where surfers of all skill levels can ride the waves and showcase their prowess, to the Neptune Volleyball Tournament, which was warmly recommended by first-year Kailer Rose, who participated with his friends in one of the past editions.
The festival’s sports offerings extend to the Neptune’s 8K and 5K runs, inviting runners to embrace the scenic coastal route. Additionally, for those who prefer a more leisurely approach to sports, the festival’s sandy shores provide yoga, dance and barre and HIIT classes.
Whether you’re an avid athlete or simply looking to enjoy some recreational fun by the sea, the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival offers a range of sports and activities to keep you active and entertained throughout the weekend.
As the festival continues to evolve and adapt to the changing times, it remains a symbol of unity, creativity and community pride. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, the Neptune Festival is a must-attend event, promising unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for the coastal charm of Virginia Beach.
By Marie Vittoria Chessa