DENTON — A weekend of family-fun activities and performances from local musicians filled the schedule at the 26th annual Caroline Summerfest as thousands of people packed downtown Denton for Caroline County’s two-day end of summer showcase.

Event organizers said festival attendance neared record levels again this year as more than 11,000 festival-goers packed the streets in Denton for Summerfest, which featured three stages of regional and local entertainment, a pedestrian parade, fireworks, strolling performers, kids’ art activities, a classic car show, and food and gaming vendors, benefiting local nonprofits.

Also making a Summerfest visit Saturday was Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan and his running mate Boyd Rutherford. Hogan and Rutherford walked downtown Denton, greeted residents and tried some of the local food. Lieutenant governor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown also was scheduled to appear at Summerfest Saturday but traffic from a Bay Bridge accident caused Brown to change his schedule.

The 1950s-themed Summerfest kicked off at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15, with a proclamation ceremony on the Caroline County Courthouse steps. In the audience were Robert and Mila Hathaway, who married on the courthouse steps earlier in the day.

“We have been coming to Summerfest for years, and we wanted to always remember our wedding day as opening day of Summerfest,” said Robert Hathaway of Seaford, Del. “Caroline County puts on a wonderful event each year. It is a special event for us now.”

After opening ceremonies, large crowds enjoyed food and games from many local nonprofits and businesses. Later Friday, the crowds cheered local youth participating in the pedestrian parade, which featured the marching bands from Colonel Richardson and North Caroline high schools.

Live music continued for the remainder of Friday evening and began again at noon Saturday.

“The music has been exceptionally good this year,” Caroline Summerfest Event Coordinator Sue Simmons said. “We have such wonderfully talented local musicians. They all put on a tremendous show for the crowd.”

Bands playing at this year’s festival included Oh Boy! A Tribute to Buddy Holly; Mike Hines and the Look; the Ashley Mitchell Band Trio; The Cruisers; and Radio Edit.

“Friday night we had an excellent crowd, and again Saturday night, by late afternoon, the streets were packed again,” Simmons said. “It is a tribute to all the great organizations, businesses and nonprofits in Caroline County that make this such a wonderful event.

“Over the last few years, we have seen a big increase in attendance,” she said. “It is great to see those new numbers holding from year to year. Everything has run smooth. All of the volunteers have done an excellent job again this year. We are lucky to have such a great bunch of new and returning volunteers.”

New Caroline County Public Schools high school spanish teachers Jessica Bickert and Sarah Graybill recently moved to Caroline County and attended the street festival.

“This is amazing to see so many people out here,” Graybill said. “We’ve had a lot of fun out here. It has that great small-town festival feel.”

Local high school students Lilly Post and Caity Adams came to Summerfest Saturday and were found admiring the chalk drawing of the Caroline Summerfest sun logo by Denton artist Patrick Jurena in front of the Caroline County Courthouse.

“It is a great drawing,” Post said. “Perfect for this festival.”

The trip to Summerfest was the first for Post and Adams.

“It is really cool this town has this going on,” Adams said. “It is nice to have something to do here in the summer. It has been a lot of fun.”

One of the more popular areas again this year was KidZart!, which featured a variety of family-friendly free activities and crafts at the open lot off Market and Third streets. The event was again sponsored by Caroline County Council of Arts Inc.

“(The kids) really enjoy having a place to go and work on a variety of crafts,” said Marina Dowdall, Caroline County Council of Arts director. “We are happy to sponsor KidZart!. This year, the Fiber Center did the felting activities. The staff for Recreation and Parks volunteered and did a wonderful job helping.”

The Choptank “Rivah Run” was held Saturday morning at Martinak State Park and the Choptank River Yacht Club.

After an afternoon and evening of fun, festival-goers watched a 30-minute fireworks display as Summerfest came to a close.

The 2014 Caroline Summerfest media sponsors were radio sponsors 96.7 WCEI and 94.3 WINX and print sponsor The Times-Record. The festival is supported in part by a grant from the Caroline County Council of Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Maryland Tourism Development Board. The Town of Denton and Caroline County Recreation and Parks produce the event with the volunteer support of hundreds of citizens and local nonprofit organizations. More than 100 area businesses support the festival through donations and in-kind gifts.

Follow Caroline/Dorchester Editor Dustin Holt on Twitter @Dustin_StarDem.

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