Small Town Feel Mark OBX Holiday Celebrations
Article and Photos by Kip Tabb –
If the Thanksgiving Weekend is the official beginning of the Holiday shopping season, then the following weekend has to be the official beginning of the true spirit of Christmas and all the holidays that seem to occur at this time of the year—at least that’s the case on the Outer Banks.
If there is one ceremony that seems to define the holidays on the Outer Banks it’s got to be the tree lighting in downtown Manteo.
It’s hard to describe what a perfect slice of small town America it is. There is such an extraordinary feeling of being a part of a community that treasures it’s neighbors that describing the events and people doesn’t seem to do justice to the experience. Yet it is the people who create this wonderful evening.
Centered around the steps of the old Dare County Courthouse, this was the best attended Manteo tree lighting I have seen. It seemed as though there were a good 1200 or 1500 people there, all crowded together in a two block area.
On the stage there were performances by children’s choirs, Manteo school choirs and dancers of all ages. Around the edges of the crowd the Mr. Olivet United Methodist Church was back with their Brunswick stew—hot, tasty, perfect for the evening, and free. There was hot cider inside from the Dare County Arts Council inside the Courthouse; outside Front Porch Coffee was pouring free hot chocolate. Children could pose for a photo from a scene from Frozen. There’s a Yuletide log that burns every year and out on Shallowbag Bay the annual boat flotilla of lights was just wrapping up as the festivities began.
Yes, Santa and the lighting of the tree are the highlights of the evening, but somehow it’s the whole event that creates the memory.
Manteo–and Roanoke Island–is very much the center of the local Holiday celebrations.
Winter Lights is a visual feast for the eyes that the Gardens do every year, lighting every path and it seems like every tree with thousands and thousands of lights. Truly an event that must be experienced to be fully appreciated.
Then, the following morning, there was the annual parade. Again, a wonderful part of the Manteo tradition—and the rains very nicely held off until the last float got home.
Manteo is not the only Outer Banks town celebrating the Holiday spirit. The Village of Duck has begun its own tradition—and a different and wonderful one it is.
Most places have a Christmas tree lighting. In Duck, daring to be different, they stack crab pots 20’ feet high or so into a pyramid, put lights on them, a duck on top and light their crab pot Christmas tree for the season.
The event has all the elements of a traditional small town Holiday celebration with a few twists. There is hot chocolate and coffee and donuts and cookies. That’s traditional
And Santa—arriving in a fire truck with siren wailing. This, Santa may be the best we’ve ever seen. Engages with children in a way that very few Santa’s manage.
On stage the town has been bringing in Emme St. James & Her Jazz Gentlemen from Richmond. St. James is an amazing vocalist who regularly performs at the Duck Jazz Festival. Not too many of her Gentlemen accompanied her this year, so local gentlemen—and musicians—Dan Martier on drums and Joe Mapp on guitar filled in. Great music, great sound.
This is one of the most dog friendly events imaginable. In fact, the town invites the Outer Banks SPCA to set up a booth and offer pets for adoption at the event.
Next to the SPCA table was Food for Thought, a local charity that makes sure every child in Dare County Schools has a nutritious breakfast and lunch. This year they will be serving some 700 students.
Some times it gets a little tiring going from event to event, but then the there is the joy of children as they tell Santa of their wishes and hopes and the smile that brightens everything when he reaches in his bag and pulls out a candy cane and says, “Now you make sure to write that down on your list and send it to me.”
It is a reminder of the child that is within all of us, the spirit of giving and the meaning of holiday celebrations.