Beach Bites

BY Rachel Dickerson Kelly Esposito Jessica Haywood Richard Leder and Jim Pfeiffer

go with the flow

Jellyfish ride the waves into our waters

You know those small squishy blobs on the beach and in the water the ones that kids poke at and parents pull toddlers away from? Those aren’t just blobs they’re jellyfish.

“All jellyfish can sting ” warns Stephanie Misner education specialist at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. “Unless you’re 100-percent sure it’s a moon jellyfish don’t touch it! And unless you’re an expert you can’t be 100-percent sure.”

Moon-jellies are the only species of jellyfish whose tentacles have ctenophores (stingers) that are too small to penetrate human skin — even baby-soft skin. The aquarium ensures a safe environment for curious children (and parents) to touch the tentacles of moon-jellies.

Brett Roach UNCW biology graduate now a scuba instructor remembers a dive off our coast. “On a night dive I was suddenly surrounded by a cloud of moon-jellies. They were everywhere all around me. They glowed like white gold — with hues of green blue and pink.” It’s the unique fluorescent protein inside the jellies that makes them glow in the dark like that. But during the day jellies appear transparent in the water.

As a way to mimic this rare and miraculous experience for the general public the aquarium has special lights in its jellyfish tank to illuminate blooms of jellies in radiant hues of blue. Inside their transparent bodies the jellyfish’s organs are darker and look like lucky four-leaf clovers.

From a molecular identification point of view lucky is just the word to describe the 1960s discovery of this beautiful remarkable protein that revolutionized molecular biology. Prior to its discovery and development molecular identification processes were fallible and far slower highly complicated and tedious. Proteins are too small to be seen by an electron microscope and most of the common methods depended on the painstaking charting (without computers) of tenuous chemical reactions. Liberating molecular biology from its past the jellyfish’s glowing green fluorescent protein serves as a beacon and is an essential asset when scientists look for cancer cells (or any particular cells).

that’s gonna leave a mark

A jellyfish sting is not a fun experience but here are a few tips to ease the burn:

• Alert the lifeguard.

• Don’t panic. Most jellyfish have weak stingers and very rarely is a sting severe enough to be life threatening.

• Rub sand on the area of skin that hurts. This will help remove the microscopic stingers.

• If available rub vinegar on the wound. Vinegar lessens the toxicity of the stingers.

• Keep close attention for anything that may be considered more than slight pain which might indicate an allergic reaction. If the effects of the sting become serious (i.e. joint swelling rash hives breathing difficulties) seek medical attention.

“Did you know jellyfish are not fish?

Jellyfish are plankton. Plankton is anything that can’t move against a current ” says Misner. Jellyfish are marine invertebrates belonging to the class Scyphozoa of the phylum Cnidaria. “They have no backbone ” Misner explains. “Jellyfish is just a commonsense observational name. People see something that looks like jelly in the water and they call it a jellyfish.”People are seeing lots and lots of them.

Beachgoers need to be conscious that although moon-jellies are the predominant local jellyfish there are other jellies also indigenous to the coastal Carolinas which are more toxic: cannonballs lion’s manes and Portuguese man-of-wars. Everyone especially children should always be near a lifeguard while swimming or playing at the beach. Ask a lifeguard every day if the currents and tides are favorable for the formation of jellyfish blooms (large groupings or swarms) because these conditions can change abruptly during warm weather.

An explosion of all types of local jellyfish is causing an imbalance in Wrightsville Beach’s marine ecosystem as well as in many other salt and freshwater systems of the world. Jellyfish blooms are an increasing concern to environmentalists and marine biologists.

“There is a decrease of (jellyfish) predators ” Misner says “Less mahi mahi for instance and fewer sea turtles.”

This could possibly lead to an increase of noxious water and higher food prices. But it could also be good news for the Chinese who love the taste of jellies and so may be good news for us in a roundabout way. In China jellies are eaten raw or cooked after soaking them overnight in water to desalt them. A few innovative fishermen have taken economic advantage of this by building small “jelly fisheries” and exporting their “catch” to Asia. If this trend becomes more popular maybe it could someday be a new industry for Wrightsville Beach. — Rachel Dickerson

music in the air

Summer concerts

From jazz to beach music there’s something for everyone this month so grab your family and friends and be sure to catch a show or two. Though the bands are hot you won’t be — all shows are in the evening perfect for a post-beach picnic. — Kelly Esposito

Mayfaire Music on the Town Concert Series

Location Mayfaire lawn behind Linens ’n Things and World Market

Time 6 p.m. until dark

Info Pets coolers and picnics are welcome or grab something from one of Mayfaire’s 19 eateries. Cancelled for rain.

Cost Free.

Parking Plentiful free parking is available on-site.

Contact (910) 256-5131

Lineup July 4 – The Chickenhead Blues Band (4-8 p.m.)
July 11 – Al’s Place Bluegrass Band
July 18 – Sai Collins Music
July 25 – Rogersville Road

WECT Sounds of Summer Concerts

Location Wrightsville Beach Municipal Park

Time 6:30-8 p.m.

Info Bring chairs blankets and your kids and dance the evening away. If it gets rained out the show will be held on the following Thursday.

Cost Free.

Parking Free parking is available in the parking lot. Wrightsville Beach police will be on hand to help direct traffic and guide cars to overflow parking areas.

Contact (910) 256-7925

Lineup July 10 – After School Special
July 24 – Bert Linton and The 360 Degrees

Airlie Concert Series

Location Airlie Gardens

Time 6-8 p.m.

Info The first Friday of each month is a jazz show and the third Friday features beach music.

Cost Tickets are $8 for adults $2 for children and free for Airlie members. If concerts are cancelled due to weather information will be available at or by phone.

Parking All general admission parking is off-site at the Galleria Shopping Center off Wrightsville Avenue and a shuttle will be available to get to Airlie. On-site parking passes are available for purchase by Airlie members one week in advance.

Contact (910) 798-7700 Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lineup  July 4 – Melva Houston and her trio
July 18 – Mirage

holy mackerel!

King Mackerel Tournament

The 9th annual Greater Wilmington King Mackerel Tournament will take place on Friday and Saturday July 25-26. Registration is on Friday from noon to 9 p.m. at Dockside Restaurant and Marina — 1308 Airlie Road on the Intracoastal Waterway (910) 256-2752 — and there will also be a captain’s meeting at Dockside that day at 7 p.m. to review the rules. The tournament will take place on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. After the tournament awards will be presented immediately at Dockside. First prize is $25 000 with prizes awarded down to 30th place based on 250 boats. The entry fee is $300 before July 15; $350 after July 15. This always-popular event raises money for underprivileged children. “It’s a great pleasure for us to put this on for the town of Wilmington to help underprivileged kids in our area ” says tournament founder Tom Aberle. For more information visit  or call (910) 409-5234. —Jessica Haywood

back-to-school savings

NC Sales Tax Holiday

Don’t forget! The North Carolina Sales Tax Holiday is the first weekend in August. This year it’s August 1-3.

Sales tax exemptions apply to:

• Clothing footwear and school supplies less than $100 per item

• School instructional materials less than $300 per item

• Sports and recreation equipment less than $50 per item

• Computers less than $3 500

• Computer supplies less than $250 per item — Kelly Esposito

o’er the land of the (not-yet) free

Flags of the Revolution

If you’re one of the millions of viewers who have seen the John Adams miniseries on HBO you’re probably curious about the meaning of those mysterious flags in the opening credits. The flags from the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) are unknown to the majority of us but their meanings are deeply ingrained in our culture and relevant to our time. Revolutionary flags capture America’s philosophical youth — our beliefs about human nature and human rights. They illustrate inform and inspire.

Chad Creech manager of All Star Flags in Wilmington is a third-generation flag vendor. His grandfather Carson Conder started the business in Charlotte during World War I. Conder originally owned a small soda shop. When the war started he began taping letters home from the soldiers/sons of neighborhood families in his shop windows. These families started bringing in flags for patriotic display in the shop. Eventually Conder’s business morphed into a flag store. Creech shares the early inspirational sentiments evoked by the historic flags of our founding fathers: “For many people purchasing a flag is a humbling and emotional experience — especially for veterans. There’s a lot of pride and patriotism in the Revolutionary War flags.”

Join or Die Flag

This image was first depicted as a political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin in 1754 in the Pennsylvania Gazette. It reminded the Albany Congress of the dire importance of unity among the colonies. Franklin’s cartoon made the rattlesnake the colonists’ favorite flag emblem during the Revolution. Colonists believed that the rattlesnake native to North America could come back to life after being cut into pieces — but only if its parts were buried together before sundown. Each piece of the rattlesnake was named after a colony. By the time the Declaration of Independence was signed flags were flown with whole snakes signifying the colonies’ strength in unity.

Gadsden Flag

Stretched across this flag is the symbol of a whole rattlesnake and the warning “Don’t Tread on Me.” Several Revolutionary flags used the rattlesnake emblem in their designs but only the Join or Die flag was as popular as the Gadsden Flag. In fact along with the eagle the rattlesnake was a serious candidate for our national symbol. Franklin adorned his home with Gadsden Flags and was so upset when the rattlesnake wasn’t chosen that he responded by calling the eagle “a despicable vulture of the sky.” This flag symbolized the strength and unity of the colonies and their fierce passion to fight for freedom.

Grand Union Flag

This flag is considered by many historians to be America’s first flag but some argue that honor goes to the British Red Ensign — Britain’s maritime flag flown in every colony before the Grand Union Flag. Both flags used the British flag for their cantons (the upper left box of a flag). Their only difference is that the Grand Union Flag added 13 red and white stripes (symbolizing the American colonies) to the red field of the British Red Ensign. Many of the colonists kept their British Red Ensigns and altered them to be Grand Union Flags by simply sewing white stripes to the fields. This flag represented both unity among the colonies and their continued devotion to Britain.

Betsy Ross Flag

Congress made this flag official on June 14 1777 (Flag Day) but didn’t propose how the stars should be arranged. Many versions were made but the Betsy Ross design became most popular. Following its legend the flag was named after the seamstress because she suggested the more efficient five-pointed-star design to George Washington who wanted six-pointed stars and whose personal flag used a six-pointed design. This flag is considered our nation’s “First Stars & Stripes.” The 13 stripes and stars symbolized the colonies. Red symbolized valor; white symbolized purity; blue symbolized justice. —Rachel Dickerson

auto bravado

Classy-Chassis Car Show

If you like to look at vintage vehicles while strolling under tall shade trees in a historic setting (and who doesn’t?) boy do we have an event for you! On July 5 beginning at 9 a.m. at historic Poplar Grove Plantation more than 150 classic cars trucks and motorcycles will be on display at the Classy-Chassis Car Show. A country flea market will also be featured selling everything from live plants to jewelry to gently used goods. Food and beverages will be available to enjoy in the gazebo at the picnic tables or in the air-conditioned barn while you listen to music by sponsor Kool 98.7. Visitors will vote for their favorite cars. To enter an antique vehicle the cost is $15 before June 25 and $20 after. Admission is free. For more information or to register a car visit — Jessica Haywood

blue note

Cape Fear Blues Festival

On July 25-27 blues fans will have nothing to be blue about. Why you ask? Because those are the dates of the 13th annual Cape Fear Blues Festival. The perennially sold-out Blues Cruise will once again take place on the Henrietta III riverboat and will feature three bands three bars and three decks. Other weekend blues activities include outdoor concerts workshops live club shows and an all-day blues jam and festival concert at Legion Stadium. The Blues Cruise tickets are $47 per person. Tickets to the blues jam and festival concert are $13 in advance $17 at the gate on Saturday and free on Sunday. For more information or to purchase tickets call (910) 350-8822 or visit  — Jessica Haywood

one good tern deserves another

Guided tours of Mason Inlet Bird Preserve

Looking for something to do that’s fun and free on a Friday morning? Head down to the north end of Wrightsville Beach for a field trip with the birds at the Mason Inlet Bird Preserve.

“Birds add to the overall quality of our lives ” says Walker Golder deputy director of Audubon North Carolina. “They enhance the experience of being at the beach.”

Enhance? Yes. Excite? Definitely. Thanks to the hard work of the Audubon Society and the town of Wrightsville Beach the birds are nesting so successfully that they’re building nests right next to the rope at the preserve’s edge. If you walk close along the ropeline however watch out for diving moms and dads. They’re worried you want what all foxes stray cats gulls raccoons and ghost crabs want — their chicks!

Despite these more traditional predators “human disturbance is the key threat to the birds ” Golder says. “It’s important that people don’t walk through the area. One person walking through it under the wrong weather conditions can cause the death of chicks and the loss of eggs.”

No one wants that. To help see these cute youngsters poke their sandy spotted heads out from their nests Andy Wood director of education for Audubon North Carolina and Adriane Michaelis manager of the preserve bring spotting telescopes to the Friday field trips. If you’re lucky you might even see rare birds like the snowy plover pacific loon or reddish egret which have been seen nesting at the site for weeks at a time. If you’re a photographer make sure you bring your camera equipment.

“Photographers from National Geographic come here to take pictures ” says Wood. “We’re very thankful to the community for their work especially to the Chamber of Commerce for helping make this spot special.” Everyone working together Wood says helps to ensure the health of our beach’s beautiful environment and the safety of the homes and businesses of the town’s landowners. Not to mention the birds.

Regulars at the Preserve:

Common Tern

Sterna hirundo has long legs and a red sharp bill. He’s the one you need to watch out for next to the rope! But don’t worry too much. Unlike northern terns he almost always swoops away at the last minute to avoid hitting you.

Wilson’s Plover

Charadrius looks a lot like a tern but his darker sandier feathers and beak are perfect camouflage on the beach. Ask Mr. Wood or Ms. Michaelis to help you find one with the spotting telescope.

Least Tern

Sterna albifrons are almost identical to the common tern with a short sharp bill and black feathers on top of their head. Their legs are not as long though making them the “shortie” tern on the beach.

Black Skimmer

Rynchops niger is the “boss” of the preserve because he’s the biggest nesting bird. He has a big long beak that’s colored black and reddish-orange and he uses it to scoop up fish from the sound.

American Oystercatcher

Haematopus palliates has a long reddish-looking beak that might be funny-looking but is great for catching oysters and mull crabs to carry back to their chicks. — Rachel Dickerson

Friday Field Trip

Come on out to our shore for the tour. Mason Inlet Bird Preserve field trip participants meet at the cul-de-sac in front of Shell Island Resort at 9 a.m. You’ll see the Audubon guide’s close to the information kiosk. If you’re new to the area there’s a public parking lot next to the resort on the south side. 

will it float?

Wooden Boat Show

On July 26 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Cape Fear Community College will host the 9th annual Wooden Boat Show on the banks of the Cape Fear River in Historic Downtown Wilmington. Boats and furniture constructed by students from Cape Fear’s boat building program will be on display and awards will be given in various categories like best sail best paddle or rowboat and best in show. Students will also hold demonstrations on wooden boat building techniques like steam bending — using steam to bend wood. The boat show is being held in conjunction with the Simmons Sea Skiff Club — a group dedicated to continuing the work of T.N. Simmons who developed outboard-powered wooden fishing boats capable of navigating the open ocean anywhere from the North Carolina coast to New England. There will be 15-20 Simmons Sea Skiffs on display as well as several boats journeying from a Charleston South Carolina boat show. For more information call Ed Verge at (910) 362-7151 or email him at [email protected] . —Jim Pfeiffer

mixed martial arts finds a home

Clash at the Coast July 19 at the Schwartz Center

Mixed martial arts better known as cage fighting involves a fusion of different martial arts including striking and grappling styles. Athletes must be accomplished in not just one or two fighting styles; they must have high-level belts in several disciplines to be competitive. Fighting styles employed in mixed martial arts include boxing kickboxing Muay Thai karate Greco-Roman wrestling judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Mixed martial arts first emerged in 1993 with the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The idea was originally conceived to find the best martial art styles for real unarmed combat situations. At first there were few rules or concerns for safety and the sport was banned in North Carolina in 1995. Promoter Doug Muhle worked to have the ban lifted citing immense popularity opportunity for revenue and the fact that the sport had cleaned up considerably since the beginning of the ban. The ban was lifted in 2007 and the sport has already become a popular draw.

Muhle a fighter himself and a recent super heavyweight gold medalist in the Pan American games is an enthusiastic advocate for the sport. Top fighters are world-class athletes he says and many of the best mixed martial arts participants in the world are from right here in eastern North Carolina.

This July mixed martial arts is coming to Wilmington in an event put on by Muhle’s company Carolina Fight Promotions. Just the second event in North Carolina since the ban was lifted the Clash at the Coast promises to be an action-packed night where some of the world’s best fighters will finally have the opportunity to compete in front of a home crowd.

Clash at the Coast is scheduled for July 19 at the Schwartz Center in Historic Downtown Wilmington. The doors open at 7 p.m. and fights begin at 7:30 but get your tickets fast — Muhle expects the event to sell out. Visit  for ticket information. — Kelly Esposito

MMA at the beach

Evolution Mixed Martial Arts Academy owned by Jeremy Owens is a perfect example of why mixed martial arts (MMA) is America’s fastest growing sport. Opened in September 2007 and located one block from the ocean in Wrightsville Beach Evolution offers beginner to advanced classes in all three areas of martial arts: Jiujitsu Muay Thai kickboxing and wrestling. “The academy is cutting-edge ” says Owens and word is spreading fast: there are already more than 100 members. Owens a 2004 Hawaiian Jiujitsu State Champion trained at legendary BJ Penn’s Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Hilo Hawaii — where he grew up. “Wrightsville reminds me a lot of Hawaii ” says Owens. “And there’s a lot of great talent here also.” The positive vibe must be contagious. “People from all over train at our academy; we just had some pro fighters from Texas come here and train ” Owens says. Whether your goal is to become a champion learn self-defense techniques or just try out a new sport Evolution’s modern facilities dedicated experienced staff and relaxed environment make it the perfect one-two-three combination. For more information call (910) 509-0701 or visit .

presto change-o

Kids Making It fundraiser

Since 2000 the nonprofit organization Kids Making It (KMI) has focused on long-term woodworking mentoring programs that empower at-risk youth to “transcend their challenges and grow into responsible employed law-abiding citizens.” Located on Water Street in Historic Downtown Wilmington KMI includes a woodworking shop and retail store so that kids can build what they imagine and then sell what they’ve built keeping 100 percent of the profits in the process. It’s a place their Web site says where kids can successfully meet the world. And now at the first Making Magic fundraiser benefiting the Kids Making It woodworking program you can meet KMI. On July 19 at Level 5 at City Stage local magicians will amaze everyone with their illusions. There will be a magic show and workshop at 2 p.m. where kids can take home a magic trick they learn on the spot and a Magical Reception including roving magicians food and drinks live and silent auctions raffles door prizes and a magic show beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the 2 p.m. show and $35 for the evening show (21 and older for the evening show please) and are available at KMI (15 S. Water Street) Crescent Moon in the Cotton Exchange or by phone at (910) 815-3426. —Richard Leder