Two years ago, there were four witches on the water. Last year, a little more than a dozen. This year, more than a hundred witches hit the Kennebecasis River in Hampton to work their magic – and conjure up donations for the Hampton food bank.
The third annual Witches on the Water event ran Saturday at the Hampton River Centre as part of the Hampton Fall Fest. Co-organizer Nicola Scott said the event drew more than 180 witches, warlocks and mystics, who glided on paddleboards in a costume event to raise money for the Hampton Food Basket.
"It was more than we could imagine," Scott said. "We're still in awe of it."
Scott, Beth Pollock and Michelle Brenton first took to the water with a friend in 2021, and last year they informally put out a call for anyone who'd like to join them, with 18 witches and 50 to 60 spectators coming to the river. Scott said she thinks the stunning pictures helped raise the profile of the event, and this year it was included as part of the municipality's fall festival.
"When we were on the water, they just kept coming and coming," Scott said. "It was amazing to see the variety of costumes, there were families there, there were individuals, a few brought their dogs."
Chris White, Hampton's director of economic development and tourism, said Fall Fest was "incredible," with residents from Hampton and the surrounding areas "coming out in droves."
She said the municipality has been building it out over the last few years and wanted it to be a "community event, with other activities including a dog costume contest at Ole Foggy Distillery, pumpkin decorating at Kredl's Corner Market, a costume contest at the Hampton Brewing Co. and a crafting session hosted by the Hampton Alliance for Lifelong Learning that drew 45 children on Saturday.
The municipality hosted a Great Pumpkin Walk at the Dutch Point Trail that decorated the walking trail with pumpkins and stamps to collect a prize, which organizers had to refresh after running out Saturday, White said.
"It's wonderful to get people outdoors and engaged with their community," White said.
Scott said the witches were "overwhelmed by the generosity of the community," saying there were 1,400 pounds of donations for the food basket, as well as more than $900 in cash donations plus donations made directly online.
Scott said there were participants from as far away as Miramichi and Fredericton, saying the event has a "unique" draw because "what adult doesn't want to play dressup again?"
Scott said there were a few splashes, but all participants were required to have life jackets and they had spotters on the water, as well as the fire department standing by.
Scott said the success of the event left her and her fellow witches "speechless" as they gathered for brunch after.
"We were sitting at the table and looking at each other, like, what just happened?" she said.
Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal