This was a carnival atmosphere we all could enjoy

By on June 17, 2011

It’s been a long time since the sights, sounds and smells of a carnival graced these shores.

Judging by the crowds last week, which far exceeded the projections of carnival operators and Nags Head town officials, it had, in fact, been far too long.

We are often quick to find fault with government. When government does something correct, they should be commended.

As part of Nags Head’s 50th birthday celebration, the town decided to end the four-month event series with an old-fashioned carnival on the Windmill Point restaurant site, now jointly owned by the town and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. What to do with the property has been the subject of much discussion.

To the credit of the town (full disclosure — I was part of the committee planning the event) when the idea of a carnival to mark the denouement of the 50th anniversary celebration, there was little or no resistance from elected officials or town staff. Fire Chief Kevin Zorc ran point on the details of how to handle crowds and ensure a safe event, Police Chief Kevin Brinkley, along with many volunteers, worked out the traffic and parking issues.

The town wanted this to be an event where the taxpayer was not on the hook. A deal was struck with the carnival operators — the town would collect 10 percent of all gross receipts once a $25,000 threshold was reached. That milestone was surpassed with room to spare on the second night of the event, a surprise to all concerned.

And what an event it turned out to be. Opening night was Tuesday. The parking lot filled by 8 p.m., and potential patrons had to be turned away until crowds began to clear around 9:30 p.m. And then the lots filled up again and remained full until the closing bell at 11 p.m.

Commissioner Anna Sadler directs traffic in the parking area. (Russ Lay photos)

The crowd was a grand mix of locals and tourists. Teens, a group with little to keep them occupied at night, turned out in droves and were well-behaved and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Best of all, the night air resounded with happy screams, laughter, photo opportunities and the general sound of people having fun. How often do locals and tourists gather together — a sorely needed attribute in an area where many locals form negative opinions of the folks who make living here possible for many residents?

The age of patrons ran from infants to grandparents well into their seventh decade. Speaking to many visitors, parents were thrilled there was something else to do here besides the usual putt-putt and go-kart activities. I watched grown adults consuming fried Oreos and large turkey legs. Local vendors, such as Tubb’s hot dogs, Rita’s, Slice Pizza, Island Dyes, Sooey’s and Big Daddy’s supplemented the carnival’s own offerings.

Midway games did a brisk business, and some old traditions remained. Barkers extracted a week’s paychecks from teenage boys wishing to impress their dates, all in an effort to win a life-sized yellow banana with dreadlocks and a reggae chapeau by tossing a whiffle ball against a backboard and into a targeted area below. The barkers can hit the target 100 percent of the time. I estimate the boys expended $25 per banana, demonstrating a much lower free-throw average.

When all was said and done, the carnival demonstrated the need for more family activities on our beach. Sometimes a carnival atmosphere is just what the doctor ordered; locals and tourists have registered their assent by opening their wallets. We don’t want to become Myrtle Beach, but Nags Head has shown there is a half-way point between that resort and say, Hilton Head. The town deserves its props on this success.

The anniversary committee was spearheaded by residents John Ratzenberger and Susie Walters.


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