Virginia Beach Neptune Festival Announces New Leadership
Christopher “Kit” Chope to Succeed Nancy Creech as CEO
December 14, 2021, Virginia Beach
Borrowing from Ben Franklin’s famous idiom, there is agreement among longtime Virginia Beach residents that nothing is certain—except death, taxes and Nancy Creech leading the Neptune Festival. Spoiler alert: absolute certitudes no longer exist. The 91-year-old grande dame of Virginia Beach business, government, society and philanthropy, who began as a volunteer with the Neptune Festival in 1974 and would later become its President and CEO, will be passing the torch to the next generation. The 48-year-old non-profit organization behind “Virginia Beach’s Official Celebration,” and over 40 other annual events, has announced that Christopher “Kit” Chope will be taking the reigns as Neptune Festival CEO on January 3rd, while Creech remains in the President position to assist Chope during a transition period.
“We all knew I couldn’t do this forever!” Nancy Creech, laughed. “When the opportunity arose to have Kit come on board to help expand our positive impact on the community, I couldn’t turn it down. His experience, leadership style, likeability, community-wide engagement, and love of the Neptune Festival make him the perfect candidate. He’ll do a wonderful job expanding the Neptune Festival’s role as Virginia Beach brand ambassador and community supporter. We couldn’t be more pleased he agreed to take on the challenge.”
“I’ve been lucky enough to have served in many demanding and fulfilling roles in my career, but I have to admit, I might be most excited about this move,” said Chope. “My wife and I love Virginia Beach—the people, the lifestyle, and the culture. The Navy brought us here, but this has become our forever home. The opportunity to lead an organization which already has so much vital impact and does such charitable good for Virginia Beach was one I couldn’t miss.”
“We couldn’t be more pleased,” Neptune Festival Chairman of the Board Dave Burton, added. “We knew it was inevitable that Nancy would one day want to step back to enjoy more time with her family, but we also knew finding someone capable of filling her demanding role would be a challenge. We have found that in Kit. With Nancy’s assistance through a transition period, Kit’s leadership and fresh perspectives will serve to continue the broadening of Neptune Festival’s impact. We are fortunate he has agreed to come on board.”
Chope’s leadership experience is rich. Most recently, he served as the Vice President of Sustainability for The Port of Virginia. Prior, Chope enjoyed a 26-year Navy career which began as a grad from The Citadel with a B.A in International Politics, included service as a tactical jet aviator, earning an M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College, and culminated in command of Naval Air Station Oceana, the East Coast’s Master Jet Base in Virginia Beach.
Having served the majority of his military career in Virginia Beach, Chope and his wife, Commander Melissa Chope, Executive Officer of Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, have been able to plant deep roots in the community. Kit Chope serves on several nonprofit boards, such as Achievable Dream Virginia Beach, Navy League of Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach Vision, as well as the Neptune Festival. He is a 2014 alumnus of the CIVIC Leadership Institute and served as the past chair on its board.
The Virginia Beach Neptune Festival is a private, non-profit 501-C3 organization, producing over 40 events per year. With an annual operating budget of $2.1M, derived through corporate sponsorships, admissions tickets, merchandise sales, and site revenues, the organization, in cooperation with its wide range of sponsors and non-profit partners, contributes to the charitable, educational, cultural, recreational, and economic development of the Hampton Roads region.
Its flagship event, the three-day Neptune Festival Boardwalk Weekend alone annually generates $23.5 million in economic impact, $16.9 million in direct impact by Boardwalk Weekend visitors, and $1.19 million in direct municipal taxes. Investing in and partnering with other regional businesses whenever possible, the Neptune Festival spends, on average, over $1M annually with local businesses, service providers, vendors, and suppliers.
Neptune Festival shares revenues with partnering charitable organizations such as EQUI-KIDS, The Governor's School for the Arts, Toby's Dream Foundation, Virginia Beach Lifeguard Association, Virginia Beach Rotary, Town Center Kiwanis Club, Virginia Beach Police Foundation, Virginia Musical Theater, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and Symphonicity, and others.
The Festival’s Boardwalk Weekend is consistently recognized as one of the Top 100 Events in North America, among the Top 20 Events in the Southeastern US, and the largest annual special event in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 2022’s Boardwalk Weekend is scheduled for September 30th—October 2nd. More at NeptuneFestival.com
Incoming Neptune Festival CEO Christopher “Kit” Chope, with former CEO and current President, Nancy Creech.