After a year of hard work transforming the grounds surrounding Ocracoke’s historic Island Inn into a public park and common area, volunteers with the Island Inn Commons Landscaping Project have revitalized the site yet again for the holidays, with the addition of thousands of lights.
The 1901 Island Inn, (also known as the Odd Fellows Lodge), has been undergoing an extensive renovation since the property was acquired by the Ocracoke Preservation Society (OPS) in 2018, and the new holiday display is yet another enhancement to the already much-improved community space.
“This is the first time since OPS owned the property that we did Christmas decorations,” said Ken DeBarth, president of OPS. “It wasn’t decorated by the previous owners, either, so I believe it’s the first time that [the site] has had decorations in many years.”
The new décor is thanks to Debbie Wells and volunteers Trudy Austin and Claudia Horwitz, who spent the last 4-6 weeks planning and implementing the display.
Wells is overseeing the landscaping aspect of the multi-pronged Island Inn project – a project that entails creating the public greenspace and gardens, adding community restrooms to the site, and restoring the historic structure itself.
“Trudy made the plan, and I gave her the order list [for supplies], and we got everything we needed,” said Wells.
“There are 8,000 lights total, which is [equal to] 1,600 feet of lights,” said Austin. “It took two and half weeks to get them all up… and with all the lights on, I can already see what I can add next year.”
In addition to the thousands of lights, the Island Inn Commons welcomed some new arrivals – a trio of giant wooden moose that were constructed with the help of the Ocracoke School’s shop class.
“There was a guy here a couple of years ago who had a big moose – it was really giant – and he would move it around to people’s yards in the middle of the night,” said Wells. “It created a real stir, and the moose looked incredible, so I was captivated by the idea of a moose.”
Wells acquired the pattern and the lumber, and with the help of the Ocracoke students, the moose family was created for the site from scratch. The largest of the group stands an estimated 11 feet tall, and the moose are an unmissable site within the Island Commons display.
Before the moose arrived at their new home, they took a quick tour of Ocracoke village, pausing at the ferry docks, and cruising along N.C. Highway 12 for some head-turning photo ops.
“The ferry was the first stop, and then we shot a picture of them [walking] downtown, like they were heading to the gardens from the ferry,” said Wells. “The ferry guys were great and were very generous, and let us put them on the ferry for a little while [for photos].”
The lights were unofficially turned on for the first time on Tuesday night, December 5. While there was no formal event planned, word spread, and roughly 50-60 Ocracoke Islanders came out to the Island Commons to celebrate the new display.
“It wasn’t a big, publicized event, but thanks to word of mouth, people showed up,” said DeBarth. “It’s just another indication of the community support for the project, and we’re so excited to see the property finally decorated properly.”
How you can help the OPS and the Island Inn project
Donations are always accepted online and can be made via the OPS website. More information on the OPS, which includes a link to the online gift shop, can be found at https://www.ocracokepreservationsociety.org/shop.
For more information about the Island Inn project, click here.