It’s not unusual to hear Hatteras village locals say that a bad event brings out the best in the community, and there’s ample evidence to back it up.
It’s why the temporary island-within-an-island of Hatteras village, after being cut off from the rest of the Outer Banks after Isabel in 2003, came together to provide boat transportation for kids to school and adults going to work and used the hurricane as a catalyst to create the annual Day at the Docks Celebration – a beloved festival that is now heading into its 13th year.
The community spirit rebounds — and rebounds with gusto — after a traumatic hurricane or storm, and this year, the surge of community spirit is more important than ever as many Hatteras village residents are rebuilding after the Hurricane Matthew-Tropical Storm Hermine one-two storm surge punch in the village, all within a month’s time.
For this reason, as well as the fact that it’s a landmark year for the event, the organizers of the Hatteras Village Christmas Parade, sponsored by the village’s Civic Association, are hoping that this year’s festivities will be better than ever.
“I think we need the Christmas parade more than we’ve needed it in many years,” says Dennis Robinson, president of the Civic Association and parade organizer. “After Isabel, we developed Day at the Docks – not as a celebration of Isabel, but as a way to honor our village and community. We don’t celebrate when we have bad times, obviously, but when we have bad times, that’s when we realize what a close knit community we live in.”
“And we celebrate that fact — not the storm but the fact that we live in such in awesome place.”
Dennis and the parade organizers are calling out to the community for parade participants and volunteers, and everyone is welcome to join in the fun on Saturday, December 10, beginning at 2 p.m.
Local businesses, non-profit organizations, and individuals are all invited to sign up, bring their most creative floats, costumes, and/or vehicles, and make the festive march through the heart of the village.
There is no registration fee to be a part of the parade, and Dennis says that participating is a fantastic way for folks to show their support for the village and also for the island community.
“It’s an opportunity for community awareness for local organizations,” says Dennis. “With so many people lining the streets, it’s a great way to get your business or non-profit to be seen as participating in the community you are serving.”
The sky’s the limit when it comes to floats and themes in the parade. Past years have seen throngs of surfing elves, dogs and horses dressed as reindeer, festively attired sharks, and fishing boats disguised as Christmas Eve-worthy sleighs.
“My only rule is that we only allow one Santa Claus on the Hatteras fire truck, and we only want one because we don’t want to confuse the children,” he adds. “Kids are very smart, and they ask a lot of questions!”
Though all ideas and motifs are encouraged — and 8-10 participants have already signed up to be in this year’s parade — Dennis notes that he is receiving a lot of questions regarding whether or not there’s a theme, and he responds that if there is a theme, it’s all about the 25th anniversary.
The parade originated in 1991 with local fire trucks and emergency vehicles, a healthy handful of impressive floats, at least one mini horse, and a grand finale of Santa Claus riding high on a boat.
Immediately a big hit with residents and participants alike, there has been a parade virtually every year since the 1991 original, except maybe 2003 – after Isabel – when there was an “unofficial” parade with Red Hat Society women and a collection of kids on bikes marching down the highway, regardless of the official parade status.
Dennis, who has been organizing the parade for roughly 10 years, says that the blend of community involvement, an exuberant atmosphere, and the simple fact that the whole island shows up to cheer on the parade participators is what makes the event so special.
“I’m happy to be a part of such a long going event. It’s always different, always unique, and always wows everybody,” he says. “And basically, the whole island comes to celebrate. Everyone is not working as hard as they are in the summer, and we all get to relax and spend time with each other for a little while, so that makes it so unique for us in Hatteras.”
The parade is always followed by an awards ceremony at the Hatteras Community Building. This year, there will also be a party for adults from 8 until 11 p.m. at the Civic Center with refreshments, hors d’oeuvres, and live music from The Machine Gun Band – a popular regional band that plays everything from Def Leopard and Journey to Bruno Mars. The cover charge is $5 per person.
Though this “after-after party” in the evening hours doesn’t occur every year, it was important for parade organizers to make this holiday celebration in Matthew’s aftermath extra special.
“The civic center may be under construction then, but [we’re] still having it even if I have to put sheets over the walls,” says Dennis. “People need a break this year, and this is a great and affordable opportunity for everyone to get together and blow off some steam.”
Though still a month away – the parade is always held on the second Saturday of December so as not to coincide with the Manteo Christmas Parade up the beach – the excitement is already brewing for this annual event, and Dennis and locals all across Hatteras village are hoping that that this contagious spirit will continue to grow, and inevitably result in a fantastic 2016 parade — just as it has for the past 24 years.
“I’m very excited about it this year, and I think it’s going to be a great outlet for everybody,” says Dennis. “It’s an awesome event for our town and for the whole island, and considering it’s our 25th to boot – well, that’s just phenomenal.”
How you can participate, help out, and join in the fun:
ABOUT THE VIDEO
The first annual Hatteras Village Christmas Parade was in 1991, and it was caught on videotape by a Hatteras village couple. Fred and Judy Elcock of Mt. Pleasant, Pa., had been visiting Hatteras Island since the 1970s, and they built a vacation house in the village in 1990.
The Elcocks offered their tape of the parade to The Island Free Press in 2008 for that year’s Christmas Page. Bob Boyer of Frisco transferred the tape to a format that could be used by our online newspaper.
In December, 1991, Judy said at the time, the couple was on the island to tend to details with their new home.
“We saw a flyer at the Red & White about the parade, and decided to go,” she says.
She says her husband enjoys filming family occasions and other events, and he filmed the first parade – in its entirety. It may be the only existing video record of that first Hatteras Village Christmas Parade.
Before is the video of the very first Hatteras Village Christmas Parade, which lasted almost exactly 12 minutes and was a really great event!