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Last July, FestEvents of New England put together the first-ever Salem Willows Seafood Festival, which was a tremendous success for all involved. An estimated 15,000 people came to the three-day festival that featured live music, local vendors, fireworks, and, of course, seafood. This year, the festival returns to the historic Salem Willows Park for the weekend of July 10–12 and hopes to outshine last year’s success with even more events.

Along with a Lobster Roll Eating Competition on Saturday and a Lobster Plunge into the Atlantic on Sunday, this summer’s festival will feature culinary demonstrations hosted by Wicked Bites showcasing the region’s most famous chefs as they prepare sensational seafood snacks to sample. There will also be a Kiddie Land center for little ones to enjoy featuring games, face painting, entertainment, and rides, as well as a Beverage Courtyard for adults.

While this event is fun for the whole family, the real beneficiaries are Salem businesses, both those participating in the event and those downtown. “The 2014 event was a tremendous success for my Salem Willows business,” said Angelo Meimeteas of The Clam Shack. “The event brought in people from all over the North Shore and even Salem residents who had not been to the Willows since childhood.”

Vini Kurti, owner of Adriatic Restaurant and Bar and a participant in last year’s event, also had great things to say about the festival: “It was a huge success for my establishment. We had great revenues and most of all great exposure.”

And it wasn’t just the participating businesses that benefitted. “The estimated 15,000 people who visited the Salem Willows Seafood Festival were seen shopping, dining, and exploring downtown Salem,” said Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem. The festival was the shimmering flame that attracted visitors to Salem and caused an economic overflow into the rest of the city as people were exposed to and inclined to enter and peruse the many wonderful businesses that line the streets of Salem.

FestEvents, the organization that put on this event, donated $5,500 in festival proceeds last summer to the Salem Parks, Recreation & Community Services Department as well as the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem. The festival was such a success that a Country Fest has been added to the Salem Willows calendar for August 28-30 this summer and will feature bands, brews, and BBQ.

Make sure to mark your calendars July 10-12 for a weekend of fun and good food in support of the North Shore community.