For many folks, Bay Days means live music, crafters, food trucks and beer on a sunny September weekend.
While not about to abandon a successful formula, Bay Days organizers often talk about pulling the focus of Hampton's biggest outdoor festival back to Chesapeake Bay.
This year, there's action to go with the talk. With visits from the cast of television's "Aqua Kids" and a team that uses a robot to yank garbage from the floors of streams, rivers and bays, the 2013 edition of Bay Days has upped the ante on environmentalism.
"We are really focusing intensely on the bay," said Page Kremp, who serves on the board of directors for the downtown festival, which takes place Friday-Sunday, Sept. 6-8. "We're really trying to focus on educating children in a fun way ... It just seems right. That's what Bay Days is all about, preservation of and education about the Chesapeake Bay."
George Stover is traveling from Baltimore to Hampton to film a segment of "Aqua Kids," an independent TV show for teens that explores subjects including marine biology and ecology. It now airs on some 143 stations nationwide, including WTVZ-TV, Channel 33, where it's seen at 7:30 a.m. Mondays.
Stover said it all started with his personal desire to protect the planet. "I'm a SCUBA instructor," Stover said. "For years, I'd been watching the reefs in the Caribbean die. They're just covered with algae. Eventually, it's like, 'Oh, my God. If we're going to save the oceans we have to start with kids.' Nine seasons later, it's pretty amazing that this show from Baltimore is in every major market in the country."
Using young hosts and cast members, "Aqua Kids" has visited Hawaii, Alaska, the Florida Keys, and many watery locations in between.
"I think we've accomplished a lot," Stover said. "We've started a movement in which kids are very interested in saving the waters, they want to be oceanographers ... I think some things are improving. The Chesapeake Bay has improved over the years. I can't say that's because of us, but we're making people aware of things that need to be done."
Cast members will be on hand at Bay Days to meet the public and explain their mission. On Friday morning, before the festival gets started in earnest, the cast and crew will join a team from the Living Classrooms Foundation and film a segment on the health of the bay.
"The average person doesn't understand when they put fertilizer on their lawn, where it really goes. It all goes somewhere and it ends up in your water," Stover said. "Water is going to be one of the most precious resources we have in the future, I guarantee you."
Members of The Rozalia Project are traveling from Vermont to teach local folks just how trashy their local streams and rivers have become.
Project founder Rachael Miller and her team will operate an $80,000 robotic system that will allow local residents to see any garbage that's collected on the bottom of the Hampton River.
"Technically, it's a VideoRay Pro 5 remotely operated vehicle, but we call it Hector the Collector," Miller said. "It doesn't touch the bottom at all, it's like a submarine. There's a tether that connects it to the control station. From there, people will be able to see everything that it sees."
If the water is murky, the team will direct it using Blueview-brand Sonar. An arm can grab pieces of debris and bring them to the surface. Over four years, the project has removed thousands of pieces of trash.
Even more important is the awareness that Hector the Collector helps to spread.
"When people watch the display screen, we hear lots of 'ooohs and ahhhhs,' Miller said. "There's a lot of suspense in flying the ROV over the bottom of the sea. You don't know what you will see next. You don't know if you will see a crab, come face to face with a fish, or run into a pile of beer cans. It's always a surprise."
Want to go?
What: Hampton Bay Days outdoor festival
When: Noon-10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7; noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8
Where: Downtown Hampton along Settlers Landing Road, West Queens Way, King Street, Wine Street and Eaton Street.
Admission: Free. Limited parking will be available for $5.
More information: http://www.baydays.com, 727-1102
Bay Days highlights
Located at Carousel Park, the Bay Days Bay Education area will feature visits from the stars of television's "Aqua Kids" program and the Rozalia Project, which operates a robot that swims through water collecting submerged garbage. Hours are noon-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday. http://www.aquakids.tv, http://www.rozaliaproject.org
Amy Ferebee and Bobby "BlackHat" Walters, 5:30 p.m. Friday
Mike Aiken Band, 6:15 p.m. Friday
Snuff, 8 p.m. Friday
U.S. Army TRADOC rock band, 11:30 a.m. Saturday
Big Wide Grin, 1 p.m. Saturday
Sweet Harmony featuring Susan Greenbaum, Bria Kelly, Kim Persons and Lana Puckett, Gina Dalmas, Heather Edwards and others, 1 p.m. Saturday
Major and the Monbacks, 4 p.m. Saturday
Phoebus Rio, 4 p.m. Saturday
Baddadz, 6 p.m. Saturday
Lewis McGehee, 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Slapnation, 3:30 p.m. Sunday
A 25-minute fireworks show will take place at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.