An Outer Banks Christmas Weekend
By Kip Tabb –
The Outer Banks is quintessentially and wonderfully small-town America, a characteristic that truly comes to the fore during the Christmas season. It’s here during other times of the year, of course—but there is something about this time of the year that seems to bring out the Americana on the Outer Banks.
The Grand Illumination–Manteo
The Manteo tree lighting was Friday night, and standing in front of the old Dare County Courthouse, eating a hot cup of Brunswick stew courtesy of Mr. Olivet United Methodist Church, listening to the Manteo High School Chorus and the First Fight advanced chorus sing, there is this wonderful sense that this is what is right about small town life.
The festivities were hosted by Barbara Hird, or Elizabeth R as most people know her. Her voice is cultured, very British and as an actress she is very quick witted with a marvelous sense of humor—the perfect MC for an evening of performances that range from sublime to . . . perhaps not quite sublime
The high school choirs were extraordinary in the precision of their harmonies and the sound of their voices. They took on some challenging songs and the result was an excellent example of how good a high school choir can be.
Tshombe Selby is always a highlight. A classically trained tenor, the resonance, power and quality of his voice is transformative—his performance of “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts Roasting Over and Open Fire) evokes a sense of listening to opera in one of the great settings of the world.
It’s not just the performances that create the unique feel of the celebration. Manteo, as an example, burns a real log to represent the yule log.
Depending on the age the crowd the highlight of the evening is either the tree lighting—Mayor Jamie Daniels flips a switch to light the tree in the parking lot across the way—or Santa Claus. The tree attracted a number of visitors, but nothing like that fat jolly old elf.
Duck Yuletide Celebration
The Duck tree lighting was on Saturday and it definitely has a small town feel, but with a very “town of Duck” feel to it. The Christmas tree is made of crab pots; since Duck was a fishing village much longer than a tourist destination, it makes sense—but it’s certainly a unique look.
Emma St. James reprised her Jazz Festival performance–a vocalist with a swing era style sound, her voice was perfect for the day. Her version of Santa Baby is one for the ages.
Town restaurants were out in force with tasty offerings in exchange for a donation to the Food Bank.
Santa keeps showing up all over the Outer Banks and he has been marvelous—but hands down the best Santa performance was in Duck—perhaps the best Santa Claus I’ve ever seen. The Duck Santa Claus engaged every child in a real conversation, discussed with them whether they preferred candy canes or chocolate and was always sure to ask if they had been good. “Kinda . . .” one little boy responded. Santa gave him very high marks for honesty.
It’s all part of small town life, of course. Everyone seems to know each other . . . heck, if Santa needed a job other than just being Santa, he would probably be working in a local hardware store.