August 1, 2011

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station will celebrate
Heroes Day and centennial on Aug. 4

The Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Museum complex, located at Milepost 39.5 on Highway 12 in Rodanthe will have its sixth annual American Heroes Day on Thursday, Aug. 4, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the village of Rodanthe on Hatteras Island.  It will also be celebrating two other related events at the same time -- the centennial of the new replacement 1911 Life-Saving Station and National Coast Guard Day, which is always Aug. 4.

Chicamacomico was part of the United States Life-Saving Service (USLSS) and was the first station built in North Carolina.  The original station, dating from 1874, is still on the site as one of eight buildings belonging to the Chicamacomico Historical Association.  The men of the United States Life-Saving Service (1871-1915) were the original rescue heroes, the “storm warriors” who made dramatic and heroic rescues of shipwreck victims whose lives were in peril from the sea. Nationwide, the USLSS’s men responded to more than 178,000 lives in peril from the sea, of which they saved over 177,000.  This is a startling rate of success of 99.2 percent, while their own loss of life, usually under the worst possible conditions, was less than one per cent In 1915, this service merged with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service to form the United States Coast Guard, which routinely continues this tradition of heroism.

With that inspiration, Chicamacomico decided to honor and celebrate true American heroes of the past and the present.  Participants invited include the U.S. Coast Guard,  Coast Guard Auxiliary, local volunteer fire departments, local law enforcement agencies, local EMS units and ocean rescue squads, Cape Hatteras Electric,  NPS Cape Hatteras National Seashore,  Outer Banks Lighthouse Society, and perhaps some last-minute surprises.  Equipment on display and/or in use will include fire engines, ambulances, police cars, Coast Guard helicopter, rescue boats, and others. There will be numerous displays, demonstrations, and exhibits as well as hands-on activities and participation events and live period music.

Any one of the “one-time events’ is worth the price of admission.  The Search and Rescue Demo could be straight from the movie “The Guardian.”  A Coast Guard 47-foot motor life boat will be in the ocean off Chicamacomico’s beach.  It plays the role of a vessel in distress with a man overboard.  An HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter arrives, circles, locates “victim” in the water, hovers, and then a rescue swimmer jumps from the helo into the ocean. He assists the victim into the basket and is hoisted into the Jayhawk and then whisked away to safety. Three different methods are demonstrated.

The personal watercraft water rescue is another simulation.  There are professionally trained local volunteers who can be on the scene of a water rescue in a dramatically short amount of time.

The Beach Apparatus Drill is a historic re-enactment of a rescue method used by the U.S. Life-Saving Service.  It involves a large two-wheeled cart filled with life saving equipment or “apparatus,” the firing a projectile with a  black-powder cannon to get lines to a stricken ship (The “wreck pole” in the drill simulates the mast of a ship.) and then sending out equipment to save the lives of those on board, one soul at a time.

The Beach Apparatus Drill, commonly referred to as the Breaches Buoy Re-enactment, has long been Chicamacomico’s most popular program.  Chicamacomico is only one of two places in the nation to do the full drill re-enactment on a regular basis. The drill teams are all volunteers of active-duty U.S. Coast Guard personnel. It is performed every Thursday at 2 p.m. during June, July and August.
All of these organizations are heroic to us,” say the Chicamacomico organizers. “Some are obvious by saving lives, but others are saving history, nature, or culture.  All selflessly serve the public like the Life-Saving Service did.  And, unfortunately also like the Life-Saving Service, do not always get the public recognition they .
This is a fundraising event for the non-profit 501c3 Chicamacomico Historical Association so that it may continue these kinds of events and keep the history of heroes alive.

To help celebrate the 1911 station’s centennial, around back there will be the restorer of the building to give demonstrations and answer questions. Also there antique gas engines, antique sewing machines, a genuine original 25-foot shad boat of the time, a barber shop quartet and sea shanty troubadours will be on site.

Many special guests have been invited.  They include Capt.  Anthony Popeil, Commander USCG Sector North Carolina; Lt. Commander Steve Bonn, US Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City and one of the heroes of the book Rescue Warriors-The U.S. Coast Guard, America’s Forgotten Heroes (books to be autographed will be available) ;  BMCS Ron McCready, Officer in Charge, Motor Lifeboat Station Oregon Inlet;  BMCS Chris Wright, OIC MLB Station Hatteras Inlet; National Park Service Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent Mike Murray; Joe Schwartzer, Director North Carolina Maritime Museum System; Warren Judge, Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman; Virginia Tillet, Dare County Commissioner, and Ken Wenberg, the station’s restorer.

Special centennial souvenirs will be available.  They include one-of-a-kind centennial T-shirts, coffee mugs, and art prints. All are one-time, limited editions that surely will become collector’s items.

Chicamacomico’s 6th Annual “American Heroes Day” and the 1911 Life-Saving Station Centennial
Schedule of Events


Event Location

10:00 Event Opens (All emergency vehicles: NO sirens or lights this time)
10:30 Opening Ceremonies - Main Stage Area

Posting of Colors, United States Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, Alexandria, VA.
Welcoming Remarks: James Charlet, Chicamacomico Historic Site Manager.
Guest Speaker for the1911 Centennial: Capt Anthony Popeil, Commander, USCG Sector North Carolina.
Guest Speaker for the 6th Annual American Heroes Day: Joe Scwartzer, Director, North Carolina Maritime Museums System
1911 Life-Saving Station Restorer: Ken Wenberg

-Browsing time for exhibits, displays, tables and talking with Special Guests

12:00 S.S. Mirlo Rescue Story & Sea Chantey Singer John Golden Ramp of 1874 Station

1:00 Beach Apparatus Drill Starts at 1874 Station

(Teams USCG Motor Lifeboat Station Oregon Inlet & Station Hatteras Inlet)

2:00 Water Rescue Demo (Chicamacomico Banks VFD Water Rescue Unit) On the Beach

3:00 USCG Search & Rescue Demo (SAR), Jayhawk Helicopter & GC 47-foot Lifeboat On the Beach

(USCG Air Station Elizabeth City and USCG Motor Lifeboat Station Oregon Inlet)


  • Hot dogs, chips & sodas for sale!
  • U.S. Coast Guard Station Oregon Inlet- static display of 25-foot response boat and tow truck
  • U.S. Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet- interactive demonstration of fixing vessel water leaks
  • Chicamacomico Banks Volunteer Fire Dept & Water Rescue Unit- static display and inspection of ladder truck and jet-ski, and tow truck. See demo above.
  • Dare County Sheriff Department- live demos of K9 Officer and dog, static displays and inspection of patrol car and 5 ton “storm truck”
  • Dare County Emergency Medical Services –static display of EMS ambulance and equipment
  • Kill Devil Hills Ocean Rescue Unit – static display of truck and lifeguard equipment
  • Salvo Volunteer Fire Department – static display and inspection of company fire engine
  • North Carolina Highway Patrol – static display and inspection of SUV Patrol vehicle.
  • Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative Bucket Truck-climb in trucks, try on lineman gear, ride way up in the bucket!!
  • Tables, displays, handouts, and conversations with – Interaction with Special Guests, Dare County Emergency Management, NPS Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Outer Banks Lighthouse Society.
  • 1911 Centennial Participants- Restorer Ken Wenberg in the old cookhouse, Period 25-foot shad boat, antique sewing machines, antique gas engines, pPeriod songs from Sea Notes, John Golden, and Juliann & Richard
*This is a tentative schedule and subject to change due to the fact that active-duty emergency personnel and equipment are present and may be called out before or during the event.

For additional information, contact the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station at 252- 987-1552, or e-mail [email protected] .  Visit the website at to learn more about the organization and see information about other events and offerings

 Comments are always welcomed!

     Subject :

     Name :  (required)

     Email :  (required, will not be published)

     City :   (required)    State :   (required)

     Your Comments:

May be posted on the Letters to the Editor page at the discretion of the editor.