SUMMERSIDE — Don Quarles calls it the community’s festival.
The Summerside Lobster Festival’s executive director says that was the whole point of revamping the former Summerside Lobster Carnival — to get the entire community involved.
The event, which has taken on a new life, is set to begin Monday.
“The biggest thing is that we moved everything down to the waterfront. We really wanted to focus on it being a waterfront festival. Summerside is such a beautiful place. Why not take advantage of it,” said Quarles. “We’re getting a huge tent donated by the Confederation Bridge. All of our performances are going to take place in that tent. We have sandcastle building on the beach. We have a whole kids’ summer zone happening all week.”
New events have been added, some eliminated and others revamped for what Quarles called a week focusing on community and, of course, the lobster.
“This event started 59 years ago revolving around lobster fishing in the community,” he added. “That’s the whole idea of the Go Lobster campaign — 18 restaurants, 18 different lobster menu items, completely different, all for under $18. The whole intent was to bring it out into the community.”
Gone are the traditional daily lobster suppers, although the Summerside Legion will offer up the fare sporadically throughout the week.
The week of activities begins with a bang Monday, as the parade weaves its way through the city, leaving the Marine Terminal, going past Green’s Shore and ending at Credit Union Place.
The theme? Lobster, of course.
“It is going to be quite exciting,” promises Quarles, who noted, as of midday Wednesday, there were 60 entries from across the Island and beyond.
Those interested can still enter online, for free, at summersidelobsterfest.com.
“We are encouraging people to get creative. We are going to have some quite unique floats this year,” said Quarles. “We’re trying to elevate the creativity in floats. We are asking people to just go wild with the lobster theme. Some people have gone beyond, which is fantastic.”
For those less creative, help is available at parade decorating parties.
Anyone interested in volunteering can stop by the Marine Terminal at 6:30 p.m. Friday where there will be a barbecue and entertainment. Floats can be left at the terminal after 3 p.m. Saturday and those wanting to decorate can stop by throughout the weekend.
The official opening is set for 3 p.m. Monday inside the tent at Green’s Shore with an old tradition returning — the cracking of the lobster.
Returning are step dancing competitions, a revamped Youth Talent Showcase, the Downtown Sidewalk Sale and the popular SOS Cardboard Boat Race.
And every night, as is tradition, there will be harness racing at Red Shores at Summerside Raceway, culminating with the running of the Governor’s Plate on Saturday, July 19.
One thing synonymous with the former carnival — the midway — will be missing.
“Our intent... was to create a different environment,” said Quarles. “Yes, some people will miss riding a Ferris wheel, however, the hope is that some of the other activities that are going on are going to completely impress them.”
The focus is going to be on offering entertainment and various offerings simultaneously at different venues throughout the city.
Although last year’s carnival ended with a surplus, Quarles’s hope is that the new festival will be self-sustaining and only grow in the future.
Helping reach that goal is the community itself, he added.
Red Shores has come on as community sponsor, the City of Summerside is taking over the event and various businesses and individuals, through the Friends of the Festival Campaign, are offering their support.
At the end, it will be the community, though, through informal and formal surveys, that will decide what worked and what didn’t.
“We’re rebuilding this event. It’s got such a long history and tradition. We want to make sure it’s not forgotten,” said Quarles. “It’s the community’s festival. We want to keep it that way. The only way to do that is to get feedback from the community.”
A full schedule of events can be found at summersidelobsterfest.com.
The Summerside Lobster Festival runs from July 14 to 19.