Tradition continues: NC Seafood Festival returns to Morehead City waterfront for 2021 celebration

Crowds pack the streets of downtown Morehead City Saturday morning for the second day of the 35th North Carolina Seafood Festival. It returned in person this year after going virtual in 2020 due to the pandemic. (Elise Clouser photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — The North Carolina Seafood Festival made its triumphant return to the Morehead City waterfront this weekend with its 35th event featuring food and craft vendors of all flavors and styles, live music, cooking demonstrations, carnival rides and much more.

Festivities kicked off Friday at noon when vendors opened up to begin hawking their goods. Rides opened up soon after, luring children and families in for thrills well into the night. By dusk Friday, the squeals of delighted youngsters mingled in the air with the scent of fried delicacies as countless eventgoers packed the Morehead City waterfront.  

The fun resumed Saturday morning, starting with 5K and 10K road races through the streets of downtown before vendors and rides reopened. The streets were already crawling with festivalgoers by late morning Saturday, which NCSF organizers described as typically the busiest day of the three-day weekend.

Seafood Festival Board of Directors 2021 Chairperson Dale Gillikin said things seemed to be getting off to a positive start Saturday morning, with excellent weather and a festive atmosphere. She said people seemed excited to be coming back after a year away.

The annual festival, held the first weekend in October, can draw up to 200,000 people to Carteret County, but like many events of its kind, last year it went virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic. With vaccines now broadly available, the festival and many other organizations have returned to in-person events, even in the face of elevated COVID-19 case numbers lately due to the delta variant.

Many people seemed glad the festival had returned.

“I’m glad they held it this year, I thought it might get canceled again,” said Kara Stull of Newport. “….It’s something fun to bring the kids to.”

For some, it was their first time coming to the Seafood Festival. Sara Morris said she moved to North Carolina only a few months ago and was visiting for the day from Knightdale. She said she was enjoying the festival atmosphere and being in Morehead City.

“I’d definitely come back again,” she said.

Aside from the food – including local and regional seafood vendors denoted by Got to Be N.C. Seafood flags – this year’s festival featured a Cooking with the Chefs tent for demonstrations, musical performances spread across multiple stages, the Port of Pours, featuring beers from multiple North Carolina breweries, a Flounder Fling, oyster shucking and carnival rides and games.

The 35th N.C. Seafood Festival appears as a roaring success, but it hasn’t been without some controversy. The town of Morehead City, which has hosted the event every year since it began in 1987, filed a complaint last month in Carteret County Superior Court against downtown property owner John Poag. Mr. Poag claims ownership of municipal roads the town says it has full control and authority over.

The action sought a preliminary injunction against Mr. Poag, which hadn’t been issued as of Sept. 23.


Contact Elise Clouser at; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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