June 1, 2011

No fireworks for Hatteras or Ocracoke, but there will be July 4 celebrations


There will be no fireworks again this year on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, but there will be celebrations of the July 4 holiday.

In past years, fireworks were a tradition in the villages of Hatteras, Ocracoke, and Avon.

However, a tragic accident on Ocracoke two years ago has influenced the way the islands celebrate Independence Day.

While employees of a company that contracts for fireworks shows were setting up for the annual fireworks near the North Carolina Center for Advanced Teaching (NCCAT) complex in Ocracoke, there was an explosion that killed four people and badly injured one.

After that accident, the North Carolina General Assembly passed laws requiring more detailed and intense training for anyone working with fireworks – including local volunteers.

The stringent requirements for training have taken fireworks out of the picture for smaller venues, especially those that relied on volunteers.  The training is simply not practical or affordable.

In addition, finding sites for the fireworks displays have become more problematic in the small villages.

Hatteras village and Ocracoke at one time had fireworks displays that were set off on seashore beaches, which is something that the Park Service is no longer interested in permitting.

The Ocracoke Civic and Business Association’s July 4 Committee tried really hard to bring back the fireworks, but after several weeks of exploring different sites from which to launch the display, the members ran out of options.

Fred Westervelt, who is on the committee, said that NCCAT declined the use of the traditional site near their building in order to protect their grasses.

He said the committee had explored the possibility of using a barge out in Pamlico Sound as a launch site, but ultimately both the state and private businesses declined, citing liability concerns. 

Within the village, there are no safe land sites for launching, and the National Park Service has forbidden the use of the beach, Westervelt said.

Another possibility, using Big Foot Island, a spoil island, was declined by environmental agencies, he said.

Nevertheless, the committee has scheduled a full day of July 4 activities on Ocracoke, including the popular Old Time Parade.

The schedule is:

  • The Boy Scouts will kick off the day with a flag-raising ceremony at 9 a.m. at the Ocracoke School.
  • The Sand Sculpture Contest will be held from 9:30 a.m. to noon, organized by Jennifer Kidwell.
  • A Classic Car Show will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on the Pony Island Motel lawn.
  • The Ocracoke Lighthouse will be open for visitors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors will be allowed to go inside the ground floor but will not be able to climb the stairs.
  • Sky divers will land late morning or early afternoon, depending on the weather and the wind, in the grassy area near the Pony Island Restaurant.
  • The traditional parade will begin at 3 and go through the village.
  • Donald Davis will do storytelling from 5 to 6 p.m. at Books to be Red.
  • Square dancing with Philip Howard doing the hog calling and David Tweedie providing the music will be at 6:30 p.m. in Community Square.
  • Live music will continue the rest of the evening with either Molasses Creek or Coyote.
  • Activities for children will be held on the lawn across from the Island Inn.
  • Further details on all these activities are pending.

On Hatteras, both the tri-villages and Hatteras village plan events.

Mary Helen Goodloe-Murphy said there will be an event, sponsored by the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Civic Association, at 2 p.m. on July 4 at the Community Building.  It will include the now traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence and other activities

In Hatteras village, the Hatteras Village Civic Association and the Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation are again sponsoring a street fair. Last year, the celebration ran from late afternoon into the evening. It was called Freedom Fest and included music, food, and arts and crafts.

Also, at the Hatteras event, the Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation will have a drawing to choose the winner of a one-week vacation at Serendipity, the beach cottage that starred in the feature film, “Nights in Rodanthe.” Go to the foundation’s website, www.hicf.org for information and to purchase tickets. Tickets can also be purchased at Blue Pelican Gallery in Hatteras, Every Blooming Thing in Frisco, Buxton Village Books in Buxton, Risky Business Seafood in Avon, Island Convenience and Vacation Traditions in Rodanthe.

More information on these island events will be published as they become available.

(Ocracoke reporter Connie Leinbach also contributed to this article.)


All residents and visitors should remember that the use of all fireworks, including sparklers, is prohibited on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, including the beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  Anyone who sees illegal fireworks should call 911 to report them.

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