Thursday, October 3, 2019

Ocracoke Island . . . A Month After Dorian. What You Can Do To Help.

Photo by Casey Robertson
I am writing to you from inside our gutted home that was built by my wife’s grandfather, Lawton Howard, in 1957.  Although he grew up on Ocracoke Island and his family roots went all the way back to the quartermaster on Blackbeard’s ship, Lawton left Ocracoke Island in 1927 at age of 16 to find employment in the Philadelphia area, working for the Core of Engineers as a welder on dredges and tugs. He met his wife Connie in the big city, and they raised a family there.  But Lawton always considered Ocracoke Island to be his true home. Upon retirement, Lawton and Connie returned to Ocracoke and built this small cottage.  Knowing that the storm of 1944 had the greatest flood level known, Amy’s grandparents wisely chose to build their house above that mark, an elevation that served them well during their lifetime.  
Hidden treasure! When we gutted our house, we found a stud where Amy's grandfather had signed his name . . ."Lawton Howard. Moved in June 22, 1957." Underneath, we had the Samaritan's Purse volunteers continue the story by signing their names.
Dorian Comes to Town
The Variety Store takes advantage of its lost sign to inspire the village

At the Howard family’s shop, the Village Craftsmen, there are wooden signs that mark the flood levels since the shop opened fifty years ago. In 2004, hurricane Alex surprised the village and flooded hundreds of visitors’ cars, but not many structures. In 2016 hurricane Matthew brought four inches more and the water invaded some of the lower buildings in the community. Hurricane Dorian’s 7 foot storm surge jumped that level 2.5 feet higher, bringing about 10 inches into the store.
Dorian's tide line is the smaller sign on Village Craftsmen building, behind the others. . . about 2.5 feet above Matthew.
In a historic community, many of the most susceptible structures are the historic homes. But Dorian water levels also invaded spaces thought to be safely out of reach. . . The Post Office, the bank, the school, and the United Methodist Church.  Ocracoke Alive’s home base at Deepwater Theater received about 3 ft of water. The space was built to be easily cleaned out with minimal floods, but this far exceeded anticipated levels.
Dorian flood waters reached the level of the door windows at the Deepwater Theater
In the wake of hurricane Dorian, many residents face existential questions. Coming so closely on the heels of hurricane Matthew, was Dorian an aberration or the new norm? How do we respond to a catastrophic community event? Rebuild and hope for the best?  Raise houses? Abandon ship? What decisions should be made by this generation, and what should be passed on to future generations? The answers to these questions will take months and years.
Debris from the tear-out at Jason's Restaurant fills the parking lot. Jason had just completed a renovation of his business in the winter of 2018-2019. The Post Office flag flies in the background.

Ground Zero
Debris along side the road heading out of Ocracoke Village
While we mull over our options, most of our time is occupied with demolition, deconstruction, mold mitigation, and stabilizing what remains. Fortunately, Ocracoke has a large fan base and resources and service groups have poured in to assist with tear-outs, provide supplies and feed the community and volunteers working dawn to dusk. The Ocracoke Fire Department overflows with canned goods, baby supplies, cleaning equipment, tubs, generators, and clothes (Residents have begun to affectionately call it Fire-Mart).

The shelves are stocked at the "Fire-Mart"

            Around the island, double container trucks with claw cranes work to keep up with the towering piles of house debris, mattresses, appliances . . . a lifetime worth of stories & dreams amongst the rubble. County Commissioner Tom Pahl remarked at community meeting on Sunday, that by the time these clean-up crews reached the end of Lighthouse Road, they could have turned around and started again. This debris is hauled to the Lifeguard Beach parking and deposited. Gradually, the 400 flooded cars are being gathered by tow trucks, but there are still quite a number around town.

A claw truck makes the rounds near Ride the Wind surf shop. To the right is a storage container for the Ragpicker shop
When will life return to normal? When can visitors return?
The growing pile at the Lifeguard Beach parking.
            I always like to tell visitors that the magic of Ocracoke Island is its perfect combination of remote isolation, quaint historic village, stunning beaches and marshes, and unique restaurants and shops.  But with all of these assets, it is our welcoming community that anchors this place and draws visitors back each year.  Three hundred years of hosting travelers from around the globe has seeped into the bedrock of Ocracoke villagers. If you have visited us here, chances are you have come away feeling like you are part of our extended family. That resilient spirit is hard to wash away.

Still celebrating community. Philip Howard calls a squaredance on the new docks at the Community Square, built by the  Ocracoke Foundation this summer. Photo by Casey Robertson.

            Many supporters are eagerly contacting us, hoping for information on when they can return to show their love to the island. While news of Dorian’s damage to Ocracoke has quickly slipped off the national radar, our recovery will not be so speedy. No definitive dates have been given, but we have been led to understand that in order for recovery to progress, Highway 12 heading to the north end on Ocracoke will need to be repaired. An early timetable estimate on that is mid-November.  Once that route has been reestablished, it will be much easier for the truckloads of building supplies and workers to reach the village.
            In the meantime, Ocracoke residents will have a long and challenging winter ahead. For most workers and businesses, the financial break-even point of the season is the end of the summer. Fall is when funds are set aside to sustain through the off season and ramp up for the next year.  Many islanders have not only lost year-round housing, lost employees who have moved on, they have also lost a sense of security and stability.
How can I help?
            Ocracoke Alive is recommending two ways that you can donate to help the community.

1. Assist Ocracoke Alive through a tax-deductible donation to help repair Deepwater Theater at  or mail a contribution to Ocracoke Alive, PO Box 604, Ocracoke, NC 27960. Donations made through our Ocracoke Alive General Contribution Fund will help us get Deepwater Theater back in operation so that this fall and winter, our space will be available for student and community activities and meetings. As you can imagine, a multipurpose space is much in need with so many structures damaged. Fortunately, we had moved many of our supplies to our new storage shed, but we still anticipate about $25,000 in repairs. The Outer Banks Community Foundation has generously started us off by awarding Ocracoke Alive $5000 to replace contents lost (fridge, tables, displays).

2. Make a General Contribution to Ocracoke through the Outer Banks Community Foundation Dorian Disaster Fund. These monies will pass through the Ocracoke Fire Department Board for distribution in the community. When making the donation, you can determine if you would like it to go to a more general fund for Hatteras and Ocracoke, or focus just on Ocracoke.

Ocracoke is a resilient community. As we work together, core spirit of the village has earned the admiration of the aid workers who have arrived on the scene. Thank you for your support in helping us heal. We look forward to having you back here when the dust settles.
Lou Castro & Marcy Brenner of Coyote, and Gary Mitchell and Fiddler Dave of Molasses Creek play for the squaredance. Photo by Casey Robertson

Friday, July 12, 2019

Ocracoke Alive Summertime Activities, an Invitation to our Ocrafolk School Fall Retreat Week, & a Latino Mini-Fest on July 13.

Ocrafolk School Fall Retreat 
Ocracoke Alive Summertime Shows
A Festival Latino de Ocracoke Mini Festival (July 13)
Don't Forget to Give Us Your Ocrafolk Festival Feedback

Ocrafolk School Fall Retreat Week: Renewal and Lifetime Learning on Your Favorite Little Island

Even though we are just dipping our toes into summertime Ocracoke activities, Ocracoke Alive is also hard at work looking towards fall and the return of the Ocrafolk School Fall Retreat, October 20-25. This amazing gathering gives fans of Ocracoke an insider’s guide to the island, and a golden opportunity for personal renewal while exploring new frontiers through one of six courses (listed below).

Small class sizes allow for individualized attention from teachers and a one-of-a-kind opportunity to expand horizons. Participants will enjoy great local food, inclusive tours, and unique activities as they make new friends and meet some of the most fascinating residents of this remote Outer Banks Island. For more details on courses, housing, and activities, visit our webpage at Proceeds from Ocrafolk School support student and community programming on Ocracoke Island.

The historic Berkley Manor is our home base for the 2019 Ocrafolk School.

Ocrafolk School 2019 Classes
Decoy Carving: Carve & Paint a Redhead Duck Decoy with Jason Daniel

This class will be taught by Jason Daniels, an Eastern North Carolina native who has been living on Ocracoke Island for 17 years. Students will learn how to craft a finished decoy using traditional and modern techniques. Starting from a block of wood, Jason will cover defining details like feather features, side pockets, primaries, tertials and elements of the duck’s bill.

Drawing with Love (and a Little Science) with Kitty Mitchell

Students will learn a variety of techniques to help them “see” like an artist. Don’t worry if you “can’t draw a straight line,” that’s what rulers are for! This class offers a non-judgmental, practical, and spiritual approach to drawing. Participants will learn a variety of “drawing on the right side the brain” techniques and will try different kinds of mediums. There will be practice in proportions, shading, perspective and foreshortening. The class will feature studio work and plein-aire drawing around our beautiful island, weather permitting.

Exploring Ocracoke’s Past, Present, & Future with Ann Ehringhaus

This class will begin by exploring Ocracoke’s fascinating maritime past. These were times of early settlers and pirates who fished and lived from the land. Students will get to meet some of the descendants of these original historic families. This portion of the course features a visit to the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum, a trip to nearby bird islands and Portsmouth, a historical 19th century sea-coastal village.  Moving into Ocracoke’s present, Ann will guide the group on a tour of island infrastructure, with visits to the Water Plant (est. 1977) and the Tideland Electric Cooperative. Expanding to consider Ocracoke’s future, the class will talk with the National Park Service and other islanders about challenges and possible life changes ahead. This class will be experiential, including group discussions, food tastings, and on-site visits.

Jewelry Making with Robin Macek

This class will encompass a wide range of jewelry techniques including beading, leather wrap, wire wrapping, and ring and rosette creation. Students will work with a variety of materials like gemstones, wood, bone, glass beads, and leather. Robin will be teaching many of the universal jewelry skills such as wire wrapping, attaching clasps, combining findings, and connecting headpins to chain. No experience necessary. Class participants will be able to WOW their friends with the pieces they bring home from their week!

Cooking with Island Chefs with Debbie Wells and Guests

The cooking class for 2019 is going to bring some great Ocracoke chefs together! Both Ruth and Daphne have played critical roles in the development of the Ocracoke food scene, providing dynamic food to their loyal and devoted customers over many years. Ocrafolk School is honored and thrilled to have them for a full day each, leading the cooking class. Together, students will spend some quality time in the kitchen, learn basic techniques, explore new ingredients and experience some traditional island fare. Class time is fun and creative with everyone having their hands in the action.

Mind and Body Renewal with Desiree Ricker and Guests

Ocracoke is rich with residents who practice various forms of wellness, from meditation and yoga to massage and Reiki, herbalism and aromatherapy to nature intelligence and meridians of TCM. This is a rare opportunity to explore authentic practices to allow you a chance to find what resonates with you. Taught by local professionals, this course will touch on several methods of mind and body wellness so that students may gain a deeper knowledge of practices for a healthier and more integrated life.  Students of this class will participate in a wide range of learning techniques including movement and hands-on experience, as well as seminars and self-practice.

Looking For Summertime Family Entertainment on Ocracoke? Ocracoke Alive Has Ya Covered! 

This summer, Ocracoke Alive has three shows that will keep you and your troupe entertained all week long while visiting our little island. Here is the lineup!

A Tale of Blackbeard Musical (Mondays)

History, action, romance, and humor are artistically intertwined in this production featuring an Ocracoke Island cast! This musical play, by Julie Howard, (directed by Desiree Ricker) recounts the final days of Blackbeard and crew on Ocracoke Island, the budding romance between one of his young sailors and an island girl, and the battle that sealed Blackbeard's fate. Shows run on Mondays, July 1-August 12, at 8 PM at Ocracoke School Gym Auditorium.
Visit for more information.

Season 2: Dingbatters (ALL NEW COMEDY) Guide to Ocracoke (Wednesdays)

This #1 Hit Show is back for a brand new hilarious season with All New Comedy-Skits. Join Desiree Ricker, David Tweedie, Gary Mitchell, and Peyton Piquard in this ultimate guide to Ocracoke visitors (and residents) of all ages! We'll reveal answers to burning questions like . . . How to Score Awesome Housing on Ocracoke, What Happens at a Bicycle Riding Training Seminar, What Can I Find for Sale at an OcraCats Fashion Show, and the answer to visitors' favorite question . . . What's It Like to Live Here All Year Round?  A definite Must See!

Molasses Creek Band in Concert (Thursdays)
For 26 years, Molasses Creek’s high-energy performances and heartfelt songwriting has brought the love of their coastal home to the stage. The band’s elegant harmonies and arrangements, stellar songwriting, blazing instrumentals, and quirky sense of humor have won loyal followers throughout the United States and around the world. Molasses Creek has just released their 17th recording, Catch the Wind, and will feature songs off of their new album along with audience favorites. Join Gary, Fiddler Dave & Kim for a one-of-a-kind Ocracoke evening!

Join Ocracoke's Latino Community for Mini Festival Fundraisers for November's Festival Latino de Ocracoke on July 13th, & throughout the Summer.

Join us at the Ocracoke Community Center on Saturday, July 13 as we celebrate Latino culture with members of our Ocracoke Hispanic community. This fundraiser for November's Festival Latino de Ocracoke, will feature a Taco Fiesta (starting at 3 PM), song and dance performances by residents and our Ballet Folklorico de Ocracoke (5 PM), a presentation of the the candidates for Queen of the November's Festival, and a Grand Dance (9 PM) with performances by El Trio Kartel de la Sierra & DJ Palankas. Don't miss it!

Keep your eyes out for other Latino Festival fundraisers throughout the summer. And mark this year's Festival Latino de Ocracoke on your calendar, November 8-10.

Did You Attend the Ocrafolk Festival 2019?
We Want Your Feedback!

Ocrafolk Festival attendees are often surprised at how many of their feedback ideas come to life when they return to Ocrafolk Festival the following year. We would love to hear from you! Click on the image below to fill out our feedback form. You could win two tickets to next year's festival!

That's All for Now!

David Tweedie ~ Executive Director

Desiree Ricker ~ President, Assistant Director
Sharon Brodisch ~ Vice President
Gary Davis ~ Treasurer
Katy Mitchell
Chad Macek
Gloria Perez
Shae Youell

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Ocrafolk Festival Artwork Released, Kids’ Inspiration Sparks at Ocracoke Arts Week, Ocrafolk School Returns in October, and more. . .

Ocrafolk Festival Artwork Released
Kids’ Inspiration Sparks at Ocracoke Arts Week 
Courses Announced for Ocrafolk School Fall Retreat,
October 20-25 

Deepwater Project Update 
Ocrafolk Festival Early Bird Ticket Sales End April 30
Donald Davis Storytelling and Dessert Tickets Released

A Tale of Blackbeard Rehearsals in Full Swing
(Look Out for That Cutlass!)

Ocrafolk Festival Artwork Released

She’s done it again! When we wanted a special image to encapsulate all our warm wonderful feelings about Ocrafolk Festival we approached Kitty Mitchell. Kitty is the Ocracoke School Arts instructor, a past member of Molasses Creek band, and has created some of our favorite festival art over the years. Once we had Kitty’s black-and-white design, we shared it with our layout artist Justin Casey to prepare it for the poster and T-shirt. And here is the result!

Kids’ Inspiration Sparks at Ocracoke Arts Week

You never know when inspiration will strike and launch a youngster on the path of lifetime of creativity. Ocracoke School Arts Week is one of the favorite programs that Ocracoke Alive helps produce in partnership with Ocracoke School.  This year, Ocracoke youth hand-made Italian pasta, Greek dishes, and tamales, learned about African drumming patterns and Senegalese culture, crafted Eastern Carolina decoys, threw pottery and built a raku kiln, designed their very own digital arts animations, stitched whimsical felt art characters, wrote and performed songs, poured stunning acrylic paintings, and metal crafted colorful canvases. Many thanks to Nancy Leach, and the support of Ocracoke Occupancy Tax, Ocracoke Alive, housing donors, and private sponsors.

Photos by Carol Woolgar

Ocrafolk School Fall Retreat Returns October 20-25
Courses Announced

In October, the much loved Ocrafolk School Fall Retreat will be returning to the island. This week long “school” offers an insider’s guide to Ocracoke that will spark creativity and a sense of community. Instructors and guest teachers will guide adult participants through their choice of one of six specialized courses. Students will enjoy handcrafted local food, inclusive tours, and unique activities as they make new friends and meet some of the most fascinating residents of our remote Outer Banks island.

2019 classes include Cooking with Island Chefs with Debbie Wells, Jewelry Making with Robin Macek, Mind and Body Renewal with Desiree Ricker, Decoy Carving with Jason Daniels, Drawing with Love (and a Little Science) with Kitty Mitchell, and Exploring Ocracoke’s Past, Present and Future with Ann Ehringhaus. Class sizes are usually limited to 6 to 8 people. Ocracoke Alive has a 11 rooms reserved on “campus” at the historic Berkley Manor and the adjacent Berkley Suites, as well as four rooms at Oscar’s House Bed and Breakfast. 
Find out more about Ocrafolk School

Deepwater Theater Project Update

David Perez and John Brock have been working hard over at Deepwater Theater converting our pencil sketches and imaginative scribbles into real world structures. In the next two weeks, we will be finishing  the 16 x 16 storage shed, as well as the front deck expansion. Our faithful team of board members, Blackbeard cast members, and community volunteers have also been scouring the inside theater, repainting, and clearing away a scramble of vines from the property to expose the beautiful live oaks that line the driveway.  The season’s first Deepwater Theater shows will be Molasses Creek in Concert on May 30, and A Dingbatters (All New) Comedy Guide to Ocracoke (Season II) on June 5.  Pre-Sale Tickets are available through the Ocracoke Alive website, by calling 252-921-0260, and also at the door. Discount tickets are available for groups and seniors. We do recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time as shows do sell out. 

Ocrafolk Festival Early Bird Ticket Sales End April 30
Donald Davis Storytelling and Dessert Tickets Released


Just a quick reminder that Early Bird tickets sales will end on April 30. After that date, Weekend Pass prices will increase to $65. Day Pass prices will be released in May.

Also, tickets have been released online for Donald Davis’s Storytelling and Dessert Evening on Saturday night June 8th at the Ocracoke Community Center. Tickets are limited to this event, so it is wise to purchase them before festival weekend.
Links to Early Bird and Donald Davis Tickets

A Tale of Blackbeard Rehearsals in Full Swing
(Look Out for That Cutlass!)

Avast! Avast! The Captain is our man! With Blackbeard’s return to Ocracoke (actor Peyton Piquard), rehearsals for A Tale of Blackbeard musical by Julia Howard are in full swing. Although Julie has not yet arrived on the island to play live accompaniment, Director Desiree Ricker is at the helm with a steady hand, guiding the cast and the good ship Adventure on its steady course towards destiny. Opening night is July 1st, 2019. The production will run at Ocracoke School on Mondays at 8 PM through August 12. Even if you’ve seen the show in past years, there are many new surprises you won’t want to miss! Tickets can be secured ahead of time online, or at the door.

Ocracoke Alive Hosts Salem Select Choir

On April 12th and 13th, Lynne German’s Salem Select Choir inspired Ocracoke School students and community members with beautiful performances. These visitors are all members of the Salem High School Madrigals Choir in Virginia Beach. Having performed on stage with the Virginia Chorus Women, at the Virginia Convention Center for Leadership Events, and in the local community for Black History Month events, their singers represent their school well with their energy and musical talent. Thanks so much for their contribution to the Ocracoke community, and also to all the folks on the island who helped make their visit possible!

That's All for Now!

David Tweedie ~ Executive Director

Desiree Ricker ~ President, Assistant Director
Sharon Brodisch ~ Vice President
Gary Davis ~ Treasurer
Katy Mitchell
Chad Macek
Gloria Perez
Shae Youell