a few minutes’ of afternoon showers, which sent patrons ducking into
vendor or demonstration tents along the Hatteras village harbor,
attendees were treated to a sunny Day at the Docks festival on
Saturday, Sept. 17.
in its 12th year, the annual Day at the Docks celebration has become a
favorite for locals and visitors alike and combines a wealth of
competitions, demonstrations, exhibits, and vendors that are all
connected with Hatteras Island’s working watermen or the community in
Ernie Foster of the Albatross Fleet, who along with his wife, Lynne,
has been involved with the festival since its beginning, was delighted
with Saturday’s turnout.
has become what my wife and I hoped it would be – a community and
island-wide event,” says Foster. “And it has stayed true to its
original purpose, which was to recognize and support our local
at the Docks technically started in 2004, roughly a year after
Hurricane Isabel tore through Hatteras village, causing massive damage
to homes, businesses, and the local fishing industry.
year we had a ‘Blessing of the Fleet' as a way to pull ourselves
together and to show we were thankful to survive the most catastrophic
event in my lifetime,” says Foster, who has spent decades luring sport
fishermen to Hatteras Island and whose family quite literally
‘fostered’ the local charter fishing business.
“From there, we put together a working committee, and the [present day] Day at the Docks is the result,” he adds.
as the swarms of people who meandered from harbor-front demonstrations
to the massive tents on nearby lawns and in parking lots can attest,
the festival has morphed into an island-wide celebration of a variety
of organizations, vendors, and people who are all tied to the fishing
I like is that it’s an ‘everybody’ event now,” says Foster. “There are
so many different individuals and groups that are taking a piece [of
the event], and making it better.”
end result of this collaboration is a maze of activity where any given
locale along the waterfront presents an opportunity to join in the fun.
annual Seafood Throwdown – a favorite component of Day at the Docks
that’s now in its fifth year – is held just a couple hundreds yards
away from the Kids’ Fishing Tournament, while a local cooking
demonstration is held just steps away from the concrete marlin contest.
of the coinciding events draw big crowds, with folks taking their time
drifting from one activity to another, in order to properly check out
local fundraising booths or educational exhibits along the way.
Meanwhile, musicians in another tent keep folks entertained.
sheer number of local organizations represented was stunning for 2016’s
installment and included local churches that manned food and bake sale
stands, community organizations such as Radio Hatteras 101.5 and 99.9
FM, the Girl Scouts -- which now has a Daisy group available for local
Hatteras Island kids -- the Hatteras Library, and favorite local
non-profits like Hatteras Island Meals and the Hatteras Island Youth
Education Fund – just to name a few.
non-profit organizations held enticing raffles to boost fundraising for
their specific organization – like a stand-up paddle board offered by
the Hatteras Island Youth Education Fund and a Yeti Cooler stuffed with
goodies as well as a getaway at Watermen’s Retreat offered by Hatteras
of the organizations within the Education Tent, the Community Tent, and
stationed along the outskirts seemingly agreed that Day at the Docks
was the perfect venue to get the word out.
lot of people don’t know that we’re here and that we play great music!”
said a volunteer at the Radio Hatteras booth. “This helps us get the
word out that we have great programming, but we also have updates on
weather, storms, and other information that’s important to Hatteras
particular event celebrates and tells the story of working watermen,”
said David Hallac, the National Park Service's Superintendent for the
Outer Banks Group, who helped man a booth that was stocked with info
and exhibits on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. “We recognize the
great importance of this maritime heritage, and we want to educate the
public on what we do as a part of this [community.]”
while everyone had a chance to learn something new, a number of the
exhibits and activities seemed to be geared towards the youngest
visitors and island residents.
Bandy, meteorologist-in-charge for the NOAA National Weather Forecast
Office in Morehead City, and his colleague David Glenn were also
manning a booth on Saturday, and helped orchestrate the Hurricane
Awareness Town Hall the day before, which was attended by both the
public and local school students.
was important to us to reach out to the school kids here about safety,
knowing when to evacuate, and [overall] awareness… and the sixth and
seventh graders asked some really great questions,” Bandy said. “…And
today, we have an opportunity to talk to a lot of different people
about what we do, and to share information. It is a really great
Ferguson, the Cape Hatteras Secondary School Teacher of the Year for
2015-2016 and the school's foods and nutritional teacher, echoed this
sentiment of how Day at the Docks was a great opportunity to get
younger residents on board with the community of local watermen.
the festival, she spearheaded a live demonstration of how to make a
ridiculously tasty wahoo salad with the help of two of her students –
Delaney and Avery Johnson.
wants to go into a health-related career, while Delaney wants to go
into a culinary career, so this is a perfect fit,” she said after the
crowd-pleasing demo, where attendees lined up for free samples.
“Our goal is to keep the tradition alive, so our kids can have a future [on the island] as well,” said Ferguson.
while local organizations reached out to the kids through coloring
books and kid-friendly competitions, the kids in turn were enthralled
by the long roster of events that grabbed attention – including and
especially the crab races, which were orchestrated by Dan Oden of
Oden’s Dock, and were emceed by Rick Caton of the charter boat Free
a pink bicycle helmet with Mohawk-like tendrils sprouting out of the
side, Caton garnered a big audience for the four crab races held
throughout the day that pitted crabs against each other in an intricate
Kentucky Derby worthy “race track.”
“Every year we figure out a different way to set up [the track], and every year it’s a little better,” said Oden.
all contestants walked away with a prize - which included seaworthy
temporary tattoos – Caton did an excellent job of drawing a crowd and
accentuating the importance of the event – all while wearing an
“Official Crab Race Announcer” sign, as well as the Mohawk bike helmet.
of the crabs here are thoroughbred crabs – they have trained for
years!” he said, making the growing crowd crack up in the process.
“…And it looks like we have some great contenders here – and no
kids also had a blast climbing aboard a U.S. Coast Guard 47-foot Motor
Lifeboat to take control, explore the engine room, and “push all the
buttons,” according to Chet Ceren, Petty Officer 3rd Class, who led
tours of the vessel.
basically here to teach people what we do,” said Officer Ceren. “We’re
active in the community. We coach little league, we help with hurricane
clean-ups… and we want to give people a general understanding of the
[role of the] U.S. Coast Guard.”
And while young attendees were consistently well entertained throughout Day at the Docks, adults were certainly not forgotten.
green signs that read “Cold Beer” lead to a vendor stand manned by the
Hatteras Village Volunteer Fire Department, while the itinerary of
time-tested and food-related events kept every attendee’s mouth
watering throughout the day.
annual Hatteras Island Chowder Cook-off – an event that raises funds
for the Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation – had another banner year
with local restaurants going head-to-head in a chowder cook-off that
delighted the crowds of public judges. After securing a $6 ticket,
visitors got to taste all of the chowders in the competition before
putting their vote into one of the locked boxes that represented each
competitor in attendance.
chowder cook-off is a heated competition to be sure, but for most folks
who buy a ticket and therefore become a judge, it’s all about sampling
a half dozen chowder varieties without ever leaving a single tent.
We plan our whole vacation, and our whole year around this!” said one
vacationer from Virginia, who had several small cups of chowder in hand.
Sol Waterside Grill won first place this year. Second place went
to The Wreck and third to Dinky's Waterfront Restaurant.
addition to the chowder cook-off, the annual Seafood Throwdown has
become a immensely popular component of Day at the Docks – an honor
that’s due to both the two world-class chefs who compete, the trio of
exceptional judges, and the thoroughly entertaining emcee, Bob Barris,
who has hosted the show for all five years, and who gives out the
coveted “seafood tiara” to the winner, along with other prizes and
year’s roster of judges was especially impressive, and included
renowned chef Keith Rhodes of TV’s “Top Chef” and Wilmington’s Catch
Restaurant, Tom Armstrong of Vinnie’s Steak House in Raleigh, and Jack
Thigpen of North Carolina Sea Grant.
surprise fish, which was provided by Jeffrey’s Seafood, was equally
unusual – and was a “ladyfish” or a “poor man’s tarpon,” as it’s called
with a spoon, the star ingredient fish itself was unique enough to get
all three judges out of their seats to see how expert fish cleaner, Jim
Lyons, broke down the whole fish into edible, albeit small, pieces.
year's throwdown pitted Scott Surratt, the executive chef at Café
Pamlico in Buxton against Ross Tolson, chef at Owens Restaurant in Nags
Head. The judges declared Surratt the winner.
addition to the heated competitions and activities or demos along the
docks, there were also harbor or marsh tours available for visitors who
took full advantage of the roster of vessels found along the docks.
Scott, who manned the harbor tours provided by the Albatross Fleet,
explained that these small tours served as an opportunity to both raise
money for the local chapter of North Carolina Watermen United and
introduce a new layer of the Hatteras Island waterfront scene to
did it last year for the first time,” she said, “and it’s a nice chance
to see the area for people who have never experienced it before.”
day cumulated – as it has since the first Day at the Docks – with the
Blessing of the Fleet, during which more than 30 vessels made a
procession from the main channel to the Hatteras Harbor area. Once the
formal blessing was completed, the laying of the wreath in remembrance
of deceased watermen took place in the Pamlico Sound.
despite a little rain intervention, the day ended on a great note, and
the crowds alone were proof that this post-Isabel event has grown into
an attraction all its own -- a fact that was further illustrated by the
number of media outlets that followed and filmed the different
activities throughout the day.
fact, producer- reporter for UNC-TV, Rick Sullivan, documented the
event for an upcoming episode of “North Carolina Weekend,” which will
likely air in 2017, just before the 13th annual Day at the Docks.
large layout makes it difficult to tell, but I think it’s our biggest
event ever,” says Ernie Foster. “I’ve talked to several couples who
stumbled upon [Day at the Docks], and who came back year after year,
and I think that’s very special.”
number of people who dedicate so much time and effort to this – it
inspires me to see it,” says Foster. “It has grown to include watermen
from up and down the coast, and it’s fully embraced by all of us.”
“I’m enjoying the day,” he adds. “This is special for everyone on Hatteras Island.”
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