Fun Trumps Everything
The philosophy and times of Carol Everhart.
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“They said it was $5,000. And I said, ‘Does that include me?’ And they said yes.” The chuckle turns to full laughter. “Even 20 years ago, that was not a large budget, even for an event of a relatively small scale.”
Yet Everhart came up with an idea: Halloween. It comes with costumes and a built-in spirit of fun, she told the committee. Pumpkins and mums would not be expensive to buy. Neither would straw. Or produce. It was perfect. But the chamber committee wasn’t keen on the idea.
“They said, ‘Oh no, no. We’re not talking about October. We’re just talking about the weekend after Labor Day.’ But from my vantage point, it was the only possible option they had,” Everhart says.
The chamber relented. The first festival drew about 5,000 people—”which was not what I would have considered a success,” Everhart says.
Walking down Rehoboth Avenue the Monday after the event, Everhart spotted one of the board members walking toward her. “I immediately thought, ‘Well, I’ll probably be asked to depart right now.’ But he came right up to me and shook my hand and said, ‘So, what does it feel like to have such a success on your hands?’”
These were the seeds of what would become the Sea Witch Halloween and Fiddlers Festival, now considered one of Rehoboth Beach’s most successful annual celebrations. Today Sea Witch draws more than 150,000 visitors during the last weekend in October. And you can bet no one is fretting about the shoulder anymore.
Rehoboth celebrated its 21st annual Sea Witch Festival this year, surrounded by the myriad businesses, cultural attractions and restaurants that have come to define the town. Looking back as president and CEO of the Rehoboth-Dewey Chamber of Commerce—a position she’s held for 13 years—Everhart says that even with the challenges presented to her in the early days, she knew the potential of Rehoboth and Dewey.
“I thought the event was something that absolutely, positively could be a tremendous success,” she says. “I knew that Rehoboth and Dewey were destined to grow.”
Chip Hearn has been a Rehoboth Beach business owner for more than 20 years. During the early days of Sea Witch, Hearn owned a restaurant on Rehoboth Avenue. He recalls many of those ghostly winters and shoulder seasons, back before anyone thought to make the beach town a year-round destination. Everhart, he says, was instrumental in transforming all of it.
“It’s all about Carol’s vision for things,” says Hearn. “If you had told me 20 years ago that Sea Witch would have this many people, I would have told you that you were absolutely bonkers. And it’s not just about Sea Witch. It’s about the jazz festival, the film festival, all of it. There’s a million other things happening down here in the fall now.”
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