November 22, 2011

Bike the Light and Hatteras Island Community
Fair combine for a crazy, fun Saturday


On Saturday morning, Nov. 19, the Cape Hatteras Secondary School in Buxton was an unusually busy place.

On one side of the school grounds, heavy equipment was being unloaded, and inflatable rides were being set-up, as volunteers and fair workers carried tables and chairs to the football field. And on the other side of the school grounds, bicycles were arriving en masse, the riders in assorted costumes.

The scene was a culmination of two happily anticipated events: The third annual Bike the Light, and the first Hatteras Island Community Fair.

Bike the Light began in 2009, when Joe Thompson of Spa Koru and Drew Scalia of Hatteras Island Boardsports, decided to create an annual fundraising event that was fun, family-oriented, and “zany.”

The result was “Bike the Light,” an event in which people of all ages can enjoy a morning bike ride to the Cape Hatteras Lghthouse in ridiculous costumes and earn prizes for it to boot. They passed the idea over to the Kiwanis Club, and then-president Bob Keiper, and the Kiwanis has run (or pedaled) with the idea ever since.

“We have folks who plan their vacation around it now,” says Diane Brown, a Kiwanis member and Bike the Light volunteer. “So we’re thrilled it’s catching on, and we’re happy we were able to have it this year.”

Originally scheduled for the first week of October, the event had to be rescheduled because of Hurricane Irene.

“Because we had to postpone it, we decided to piggy-back onto the Community Fair,” says Laura Heitsenrether, this year’s event organizer. “We’re glad we were able to do it, and raise some money for the Kiwanis scholarships.”

Event founders Joe Thompson and Drew Scalia were there and took advantage of the closer-to-Christmas date by dressing as Santa’s elves, which, they admitted, were also the easiest costumes to find at the time. Their bicycle built for two was wonderfully and garishly decorated with green tinsel and holiday ornaments, keeping in step with the holiday theme.

“It took us about five minutes to decorate the bike,” said Thompson.

“But keep in mind that we’re elves, so we do work really fast,” added Scalia.

Other costume stand-outs included a Buxton local in full pirate regalia with a matching pirate bike, named the “SS Irene,” and adult costume winner Carol Wallis, who showed up covered in pink, from her fuzzy slippers to her hot pink wig, with a rubber shoe screwed on to the very top of her matching pink bicycle helmet.

“I’m bubble gum attached to a shoe,” she explained, as she passed out bubble gum to the other participants.

The costumes were indeed worthy of the great prizes that were given out this year, which included Spa Koru, Outback, Buxton Village Books, and Blue Pelican Gallery gift certificates, kites from Kitty Hawk Kites, and copies of Russell Blackwood’s “Life Beneath the Waves” for all participants.

Bikes were provided for free by Ocean Atlantic Rentals for anyone who didn’t have a bike handy but wanted to take a ride, and at noon, the crowd took to the street, causing the signature annual confusion and rubber-necking of passing motorists who happened to be driving by.

And while the crowd was a little lighter this year, primarily because of the later-than-usual event date, everyone was just happy for the gorgeous weather, the fantastic prizes, and the not-quite-typical community fun.

“I’m just happy it survived,” says Thompson, “and we can build on it and be back again next year.”

Just two hours after the costumed cyclists pedaled away from the school grounds, the Hatteras Island Community Fair opened to hundreds of eager attendees. The fair was scheduled to start at 2 p.m., but the parking lot was full at 1:45, and folks were already starting to head towards the booths, rides, and games that sprawled across the school’s fields and tennis courts.

They were welcomed at the gate with two rides that were shipped in for the event, the swings and the Dixie Whizzer, best experienced before -- not after -- consuming massive amounts of fair food.

Past the gates, the field was covered with a number of games, from your standard football throw for prizes to an inflatable alien battlefield for intergalactic laser tag. There were also a number of booths sponsored by local businesses and government branches, such as the Dare County Social Services booth, which was on call to answer any outstanding post-Irene questions.

Ticket sellers at various points around the grounds also encouraged folks to head to the tennis courts, where an assortment of gently used coats, jeans, and other apparel were hanging up on the chain link fence, free to anyone who needed them.

“It’s getting cold out, after all,” said one friendly ticket seller, “so please, grab a jacket if you want one!”

People continued to trickle in and out throughout the day, as the sunny afternoon turned cooler, and the fair continued into the evening. By nighttime the parking lot was still packed, as new attendees arrived to check out the spectacle.

Asked why they decided to come, many attendees responded with a wide grin and an answer of “I’m here for the food!” And in this endeavor, they were not disappointed.

Sponsored by different classes and businesses, the fair food area had a circle of fantastically unhealthy food vendors to choose from, including Mexican cuisine and sliders, popcorn, dainty cupcakes, hot dogs, bake sale items, hot chocolate, Starbucks coffee, and snow cones.

And the funnel cake line, as to be expected, was a good 10 people deep for the entire afternoon and evening.

Picnic tables were set up near the food stands for fair feasts, but the best spot to sit and munch was on the stands placed in front of the large stage. Bands and singers played constantly throughout the day on the elevated stage, and attendees enjoyed a variety of music, from visiting high school jazz bands to local singers and rock bands.

Organizers estimated that at least 1,000 people attended the event, and everyone involved was thrilled with the turnout.

“It has been amazing,” said Antoinette Gaskins Mattingly as she served up hot chocolate.  "This has just been such a great event for the kids, and there’ve been lots of people all day long.”

The goal of the fair, after all, besides raising money for local school projects and organizations, was to show the children of Hatteras Island a good time, particularly the kids who were still coping with an uprooted life after Hurricane Irene. Ticket donations were even available before and during the event, so all local kids could have tickets in hand for rides, games, and all important junk food.

And judging by the screams from the Dixie Whizzer and the smiling sugary faces leaving the funnel cake stand, the fair was incredibly successful in its goal.

All in all, folks who were in Buxton on Saturday , whether it was for the Bike the Light, the Community Fair, or optimally, both, left the school grounds tired, happy, and reeling from a spectacular sugar high.

THE COMMUNITY FAIR SLIDE SHOW (IPad, IPhone and other non-flash compatible device users)

THE BIKE THE LIGHT SLIDE SHOW (IPad, IPhone and other non-flash compatible device users)

 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.