VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A buzzing boardwalk makes for a successful Neptune Festival.
"Everything has been really, really great. I mean, every hotel has been booked up. All the restaurants have lines out the door, all the stores are full too, which is what we really want to see," said Melanie Gazzolo, director of marketing and special events.
The anticipation was high this year after COVID-19 canceled 2020's Neptune Festival.
Rick Hopson is from Seaford and said this is the first year he has put up a photography booth on the boardwalk. He said the foot traffic throughout the weekend has been incredible.
"I tell you, [Saturday] was insane. There must've been 25,000 people in this place," he said. "Mostly I've been selling the smaller 11 x 14 pieces - [I think so customers] can stick it in the bag and carry [it] along with them."
While local vendors and artists are seeing more money in their pockets, so is the City of Virginia Beach.
Gazzolo said, "in a typical year we bring in over $23.5 million in economic impact to the city and that's what we're looking for this year as well."
Up the boardwalk from the vendors, the beach was filled with people exercising as they enjoyed the "Healthy Haven" for the first time ever.
Bonnie Bell is from Fredericksburg, Virginia and attends the Neptune Festival every year. She's one of the many people who took part in the fitness class on the beach.
"[The fitness class] was wonderful, it was absolutely wonderful," she said. "Fitness - we all need that, especially now so I'm so happy to see this and hope that they will continue it."
Somjai White from Greenville agreed and said, "Of course we're going to go earn some funnel cakes and pies and everything else they have down there, but it's about longevity, health as well. I feel like this is something that needs to be prioritized."
A note to take into next year as the sun sets on the 2021 festival.
Already looking ahead to 2022, Gazzolo said, "We really want to keep moving north on the boardwalk and bring in more artists and hopefully come up with some fun events for everybody."