Island Music: A front man, side man, Lou Castro does it all in Ocracoke’s music scene

Lou Castro may seem like a quiet one, but get him talking about music and he’s a ball of energy as the joy of his profession flows in a cascade of musical references and past and contemporary musicians. Castro, 48, is a fixture in the music scene on Ocracoke. The number of bands he’s in changes often.

“Music is like my religion,” he says. “It helps me to be a better human being. I try to learn any kind of music.”
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Reflections on the 'Thunder Moon'

Naturalist Sam Bland explores the lure of full moons on coastal animals and residents and takes stunning photos of a recent "supermoon."  The Native Americans referred to July's full moon as the  "Thunder Moon" because of the frequency of thunderstorms during July. They also named it the “Buck Moon” because the male deer are now displaying the growth of new velvety antlers.
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In his first novel, local author brings a bygone era to life

A lot of people say they’re going to write a book one day, but not a lot of people actually do it.  Of those who do, few actually get published, and even fewer sell out of their first printing in just 25 days.  “Well,” said Elvin Hooper, smiling with a youthful exuberance that belies his 65 years of age, “I guess I’ve just always been under the illusion that I was an author.”

Hooper is the author of “Chicamacomico: How it was back then,” and on a recent mid-summer afternoon, in between sips of sweet iced tea, genial conversation, and detours into tangential stories, he discussed why he wanted to write the book, how he made it happen, and what he hopes will come of it.  
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Looking Back: Ocracoke’s Historic Community Square

Located on the harbor in Ocracoke village, the Community Square has long been the hub of this island community.  Made up of the Community Store, docks, and several other businesses, this significant portion of Ocracoke’s Historic District has recently been the focus of a project to rejuvenate the square and preserve the island’s history and culture.
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Outer Banks plastic bag ban turns 5

When it was passed by legislators five years ago this month, the ban on plastic bags on the Outer Banks was one of the few in the country. Since then more than 125 communities have followed suit in banishing one of the most ubiquitous sources of litter on their streets and beaches.

“It makes things a whole lot easier to keep clean,” said Clyde Gard, Dare County’s assistant public works director. “The wind picks those things up, and when it picks it up, it goes on and on and on.”  
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Island History: 94-year-old Blanche Joliff remembers her childhood on Ocracoke

Riding in a horse-drawn cart across the beach to see a shipwreck, dining on “so good” sea turtle hash, going out in her Daddy’s fishing boat, the “Blanche,” named for her; and eating “the most delicious sweet potato pie,” made by her mother—these are some of the things Blanche Howard Joliff, 94 years old, recalls from her childhood at Ocracoke.

Blanche is the daughter of Elizabeth Ballance Howard and Stacy Howard, both native Ocracokers.  Born in 1919, she was delivered at home by Ocracoke’s renowned  midwife, Charlotte “Miss Lot” O’Neal. She grew up at Ocracoke, living in her parents’ house on Howard Street until the early '50s, when she met a young man who was looking into building a highway on the island. 
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Coastal Sketch: Ernie Foster, Hatteras Island waterman

Preservation and heritage have long been important to Ernie Foster, 69, of Hatteras village whose father, Ernal, launched the Outer Banks' first charter fishing operation. Both preservation and heritage will suffer, he knows, without a clean environment. As a member of the N.C. Coastal Federation’s Board of Directors, Foster, 69, serves as representative of the coastal heritage of Outer Banks watermen. He also has become a spokesman for a community that interacts with the coastal environment each and every day all year round.
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Our Coast's Food: Soft-Shell Crabs

Forget tedious hours hand-picking meat from hard-shell crabs. With soft-shells, you eat the whole thing.  They are a delicious delicacy this time of year on the coast and are usually dusted with flour, dipped in the lightest batter, and sautéed until their lacy crusts turn honey brown, signaling the sweet, juicy meat in the papery shell is ready to eat.  
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‘Tale of Blackbeard’ play is being revived for the summer on Ocracoke…WITH SLIDE SHOW

The revival of the play “A Tale of Blackbeard” after a 20-year hiatus is the talk of Ocracoke.
An original musical by former islander Julie Howard, the show had four preview performances in May and will begin its summer run Monday nights at 8 p.m. June 9 through Aug. 11.  
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Remembering the British sailors killed in the 1942 Battle of the Atlantic…WITH SLIDE SHOW

Charles Hassell and Ted Rex learned about a piece of North Carolina history of which they were unaware when they attended the annual British Cemetery Memorial remembrance Friday on Ocracoke.

Elementary school teachers in Raleigh, the two were attending a conference at North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. They talked with Commander David Trudeau, with the Royal Canadian Navy, who was among several military officials in attendance, who explained Canada’s reverence for the Battle of the Atlantic every first Sunday in May.

“We’re expanding our knowledge,” Rex said about the German U-boat brigade that for six months picked off allied convoys like a shooting gallery off the Outer Banks in 1942. “I’d never heard about this. (Attending this event) is like walking down a hall and opening a door,” he said.  
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History teacher on a Harley comes to Ocracoke for a TV lesson on Blackbeard

Stan Ellsworth is an unlikely ambassador of scholarship. He is a biker on a Harley Davidson dispensing American history lessons on his television show “American Ride.” Ellsworth, whose show is on the BYU television network, was on Ocracoke Wednesday to film a segment about Blackbeard and his connection to Ocracoke.

“A lot of folks don’t know what the stories are and the truth about history,” he said between takes at Springer’s Point with historian-author Kevin Duffus. “We need to remember the stories that bind and unite us. We are forgetting them.”  
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Hatteras Storytelling Festival is another winner

There were a wealth of stories told last weekend in Hatteras village at the second annual Hatteras Storytelling Festival. About 170 people came to the Hatteras Civic Center from Friday through Sunday, May 2-4, to hear tales from the island and eastern North Carolina from those who wrote about them to those who lived them.  
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Protecting birds from death by collision with windows

Bird lovers had an exciting winter at Ocracoke this year. Not only were we gifted with the presence of snowy owls wintering far south of their typical range, but we also saw unusually high numbers of cedar waxwings migrate through the village.

Dressed in black masks, with silky brown and yellow plumage and capped with perky crests, they descended upon the berries offered up by our native trees.   They seemed to perform choreographed ballets as they soared through the sky, and their cheery forms, perched on the branches of cedar and wax myrtle trees, resembled ornaments on a well-decked-out Christmas tree.  Sadly, however, many of these delightful birds met untimely deaths here. Some were hit by cars, others killed by cats, a few shot illegally by budding young hunters with BB guns. Most, however, died as a result of collisions with the windows in our buildings. 
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Dumpster Diving on Ocracoke:  Reusing and Recycling

Reaching into the dumpster, I lift out a half-full can of mauve paint, just the right color for my bedroom door. Next I find a set of exercise weights, still in the box with instructions. While I don’t want them myself, I am sure I can find someone who does, so I chuck them into my bicycle basket. Over at the metal debris dumpster I see someone pull out a perfectly good folding bed frame. “Looks like we both scored!” I call out. 

As part of my daily bicycle errand run through Ocracoke Village, I often swing by the Ocracoke Dump, more correctly known as the Hyde County Solid Waste Convenience Site, Ocracoke.  Sometimes I deposit a bag of trash or recyclables, but often I just come to see what people have brought in -- if there is something I or someone else can use. I often meet others who are doing the same.  
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New monument on Bodie Island honors the amazing work of early surveyors and mappers

At the gateway to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, in the middle of woods inhabited mostly by ticks and deer, there is now a monument honoring the only remaining original baseline for surveying on the East Coast. 

Among all the intriguing history on the Outer Banks, there may be none that seems so prosaic.
“We all know this may not mean a lot to very many people, ” Charles Brown, a state Department of Transportation location and surveys engineer, acknowledged during brief comments at the monument unveiling on Friday, “but it means a lot to us surveyors.”  
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We all scream…for oyster ice cream?

We like our oysters any way we can get them -- steamed, fried, baked, in soups and stews or just pried open and dotted with Tabasco. But we were surprised to learn that an ice-cream maker in Wilmington turns our favorite bivalve into a creamy concoction. With sprinkles, we hope.  
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Brown algae is closing in on N.C. waters from the south and the north

Fish kills, decreases in shellfish, murky brown water, and loss of underwater grasses -- these are things no one wants to see in their coastal community waters. But these are the effects of a brown algae that is becoming more and more common in the estuaries of the eastern United States. Brown algae blooms, also known as tides, have, in the last 30 years, become a huge problem in such states as New York, Virginia, Florida, and Texas.

Is it just a matter of time before North Carolina’s estuaries are infected?
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The coming of spring to our coast

Although it hasn’t felt much like spring for the past four days on Hatteras and Ocracoke, the new season begins today. And, despite the nasty weather, signs of spring are appearing along our coast.

Enjoy it in this story and photos by Sam Bland of Coastal Review Online and hope that we see some warmer, spring weather very soon.  
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Tourists flock to Ocracoke to see snowy owls, bringing mini-tourist boom...WITH SLIDE SHOW

Peter Vankevich has been a birding ambassador this winter for more than 100 visitors wanting to see the two rare snowy owls now calling Ocracoke their winter hunting grounds.

There may even be a third one, Vankevich said on a recent morning while driving his red Jeep on the South Point beach where the owls have been seen most frequently.

His posts on his Facebook page prompted locals to drive with him for sightings.  Then his posts on the “Carolina Birders” Facebook page prompted birders from all over the state and beyond to visit Ocracoke in the last several weeks, resulting in an uptick of winter tourists.  
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Island Living: A ‘locust’ homecoming -- or how a former local wound up being a real jerk of a tourist

Island Free Press columnist Joy Crist, who is spending some time with her fiancé away from Hatteras Island and living in the North Carolina mountains, writes about returning in winter as a “locust” or “touron.”

‘Perhaps it is my current proximity to fast food, interstates, and a dozen microbreweries, all of which I have shamefully taken full advantage of,” she writes, “but somehow, living off island for over a year now has transformed me into a big honking jerk when I return home.’
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Hatteras native turns her childhood memories into a series of books for young and old

More than 65 years ago, before Highway 12 stretched between the seven villages and Bonner Bridge spanned Oregon Inlet, small, resilient communities thrived on Hatteras Island.  Lacking a reliable road, direct access to the mainland, and many of the modern conveniences, life on the island was challenging, yet idyllic in its simplicity.

The children, especially, reveled in this time before the road.  The entire island was a safe haven, while its expansive beaches, untamed wilderness, and unique history provided an endless supply of excitement and adventure.

Jeanette Gray Finnegan Jr. who grew up in Buxton before the highway was built, recently began writing a series of children’s books based upon the island’s history, her childhood experiences, and family heritage.
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Has Hatteras islander found a significant Civil War-era fort in Waves?

After piecing together clues found on old maps and historic documents, local historical investigator Mel Covey is confident that he has located a significant Civil War-era fort on Hatteras Island, as well as the underwater spot where artifacts were tossed off a fleeing Union gunboat.

Covey, an island native who grew up in Rodanthe, said that his familiarity with the island waters and topography has helped him pinpoint where Camp Live Oak had been built prior to the famed Chicamacomico Races, when Confederate and Union forces in 1861 chased each other up and down the beach.
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