Beach Bites

BY Emily Brown and Cory Mac Pherson

enchanted evening

Airlie Gardens welcomes you to the brightest Christmas tradition

If youre like most of us you cant wait for the Christmas lights. Every year you ride through local neighborhoods “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” at decked-out houses. This holiday season why not climb out of your car to experience lights on a larger scale up close and personal at Airlie Gardens?

This year marks the fourth anniversary of the holiday experience known as Enchanted Airlie. The celebration begins November 28 (the Friday after Thanksgiving) and runs Thursday Friday and Saturday nights until December 20. There are two entrance times each evening one from 5-7 p.m. (perfect for the little ones) and another from 7-9 p.m.

A Wilmington tradition that began in 2005 Enchanted Airlie was created so that families could spend time outdoors enjoying holiday decorations. Theres something very intimate about the Enchanted Airlie experience. As patrons stroll down the gardens paths they come close to the brilliant light displays and ornaments that glow in the winter night. Guests get the added bonus of viewing the exquisite holiday flowers and plants that fill Airlie during this time of year.

Last year Enchanted Airlie drew an estimated 20 000 visitors. Superintendent of gardening Andy Johnson suspects that number will be even larger this year. “Enchanted Airlie is getting more and more popular each year ” he says. Its easy to see why: The event provides inexpensive family-oriented entertainment for a wide array of people.

Though the lights are the stars of the show they are only one aspect of Enchanted Airlie. Visitors can also expect to be serenaded by Christmas carolers of all ages. Local vendors will be on the garden grounds so that guests may enjoy refreshments as they stroll through the night. For the children and young at heart the worlds jolliest celebrity Santa will make appearances each night.

Guests who have attended the event before will see many of their favorite displays along with a few new surprises sure to catch the eye. This year there will be more lighted bottle trees throughout the gardens and a brand new display of model trains.

The elaborate model train displays set up and maintained by volunteers from the Cape Fear Model Railroad Club are a major attraction for many of the visitors to Enchanted Airlie. Intricate train-track designs will again weave indoors and outside while the trains roll past the happy children and grown-ups alike.

The Enchanted Airlie experience is even more spectacular when you consider the incredible effort that goes into getting a production this size up and running. Approximately 30 000 Christmas lights are strung throughout the gardens all of which are hung by hand. Every bit of decorating even climbing into the trees to hang lights in hard-to-reach places is done by 10 staff members. All in all it takes these dedicated workers nearly six months to set up and strip down all the lights and decorations. If you think taking down holiday paraphernalia at your home is a challenge imagine how much hard work goes into getting Airlie back to its everyday grandeur. Emily Brown

Want to go?

Though the winter nights can be cold the atmosphere at Enchanted Airlie is toasty warm. Tickets to the event are $5 for adults $4 for kids (3 years and under are free) with a $3 parking pass per car. Or opt for this years new economical “green” choice: $20 per carload. For more information call (910) 798-7700 or visit

stand up!

Cold Stroke Classic will have paddle boarders racing around harbor island

Stand up paddle boarding is easier to learn than surfing a great full-body workout and a predominantly West-Coast sport … until now. In an effort to bring together a stand up paddle board community Coastal Urge is hosting the first annual Cold Stroke Classic. Paddlers will spend the day racing around Harbor Island and then be treated to a hot bowl of chili prepared by James Bain executive chef at Dockside Restaurant and Marina and a stand up paddle boarder himself. Its a sport for the whole family so bring the kids. Jeoffrey Nathan co-owner (with his wife Catherine) of Coastal Urge says “Anyone can do it. Paddle boarding takes a day to learn while it can take a lifetime to be skilled at surfing.”

The race takes place on Saturday December 13 at 10 a.m. Paddlers meet at 9:30 at Dockside. The entry fee is $20. Proceeds go toward the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Projects efforts to buy a digital X-ray machine for the Karen Beasley turtle center at Topsail. Its a great opportunity to have fun for a good cause. For more information call (910) 256-6468 or visit . Cory Mac Pherson

hope springs eternal

The Fourth Annual Hope From Helen Fundraiser

When Helen Butler mother of Tony Butler managing partner at Sweetwater Surf Shop and owner of the Web site was diagnosed with lung cancer their family didnt have health insurance to help pay for the medical bills. Fortunately their loved ones came together to hold a sucessful fundraiser Hope for Helen.

Before his mother died Tony suggested continuing the auction each year but using the money to benefit other families in need. She loved the idea. The event became Hope from Helen.

This year a long list of terrific items will be auctioned off and the money will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter PAWS Place Surfrider Foundation the Pink Ribbon Project and others. There is also a memorial fund that benefits local families with serious and terminal illnesses.

“This has become a tradition ” Tony says. “We turned something tragic into something positive something that really brings the community together. Its a great tribute to my mom and her life.”

The fourth annual Hope from Helen fundraiser is hosted by and the Board Retailers Association and will take place on Friday December 5 at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort from 6:30-9:30 p.m. For more information or to make a donation for the auction call Tony at (910) 256-3821. Cory Mac Pherson

no signs of stopping

16 years (and counting) of creating beautiful wreaths for hospice

Sandy May Jeneane Tadlock and Jane Rippy are the original wreath ladies. They first got together 16 years ago to make wreaths for the Festival of Trees a much-loved and long-running event that raises money for Lower Cape Fear Hospice. “In the beginning we had no money and no time ” says May. “We were picking up pine cones from our yard putting them on there and calling it a wreath.” It didnt take long for them to master the art however. The ladies draw inspiration from Neiman Marcus catalogues and try to keep up with trends and color schemes. They spend all year shopping and collecting items for the wreaths. “Weve got such a reputation to keep up ” Tadlock says.

Every year they make more than 30 wreaths each one decorated according to a theme: traditional holiday wedding angels gardening hunting and many many more. Each wreath is made in memory of a person who has died over the past year. The trio spends hours putting together each individual wreath by hand keeping their loved ones in mind. “Making these wreaths is our way to remember them ” says May. “Its the time for us to be together and to remember the people we love who are gone.” Rippy describes a wreath they made for Mays mother: She loved flowers so in memory of her they made a beautiful wreath decked out with hydrangeas her favorite bloom.

All three ladies had parents who were in hospice. “Hospice reaches so many people; theyre like angels ” Rippy says of the hospice staff. “You cant do enough to repay them.” True enough but the wreaths are making a fine contribution bringing in well over $2 500 each year all of it going directly to Lower Cape Fear Hospice. “I dont think wed be as enthusiastic about making these wreaths if it wasnt for an organization like hospice ” Tadlock says.

Though the wreath ladies dont plan on going into business they also dont plan on stopping. “We like doing it. It doesnt make a lot of sense sometimes but it makes us happy ” says Tadlock. “We cant stop now ” adds May.

This year the Festival of Trees will take place Tuesday December 9 through Sunday December 14 at the North Carolina Museum of Forestry in Whiteville (415 South Madison Street). The wreaths will again be for sale and the money will still benefit Lower Cape Fear Hospice. The festival will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $5 a day. For more information call (910) 796-8099. Cory Mac Pherson

this isnt going to be pretty

Second annual Fashion Victims Ball

Finally the event where wearing the tackiest dress in your closet is actually a good thing! No scratch that a great thing. “What event could that be?” you ask. Why the second annual Fashion Victims Ball of course. On Saturday December 6 at the Coastline Convention Center your most garish and gaudy will be de rigueur. Hosted by Keller Williams Realty and WWAY-TV3 the FVBs goal is to raise money through sponsorship for seven different charities including Breast Cancer Awareness Ronald McDonald House in Raleigh Project Linus ALS Foundation Carolina Canines Habitat for Humanity MS Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club. More than 500 sponsors and their guests dressed to unimpress will enjoy a night of live music dancing hors doeuvres a silent auction and raffles. Committee member Tammy Rondinaro says “Its a wonderful way to give back to local charities and look almost fabulous doing it.” Even though the event is primarily for sponsors and their guests a limited number of tickets will be available at the beginning of December for a $25 donation cost per ticket. For more information contact Tammy Rondinaro at (910) 465-1241. Cory Mac Pherson

help restore the cape fear river … go fishing!

Cape Fear Striper Bass Invitational Fishing Tournament

For those of you who love fishing the diminishing fish population in the Cape Fear River is a serious concern. Fortunately Cape Fear River Watch and Cape Fear Riverkeeper are hosting a tournament dedicated to turning the tide on this troubling truth. The inaugural Cape Fear Striper Bass Invitational Fishing Tournament is a catch-and-release event whose important purpose is to help raise money for the Cape Fear Fishery Restoration Foundation.

In less than a century the fish population in the Cape Fear River has declined by an astonishing 90 percent. Anadromous fish such as American shad striped bass blue black herring and Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon live in salt water but return to the fresh water rivers where they were born to reproduce. A series of three locks and dams was erected in the early 1900s when large commercial boats used the Cape Fear River for commerce. These dams ensured safe passage and industry thrived. Regrettably the fish population declined.

Although the dams no longer serve their original purpose they are still crucial in providing reservoirs of drinking water for New Hanover County citizens. Unfortunately this system of locks and dams prevents the anadromous fish from migrating upstream to their mating grounds.

Cape Fear River Watch has a solution install rock weirs. Rock weirs are structures added to the locks and dams that help the fish migrate by creating a series of steps. The intention is to recreate the natural structures these fish would normally swim across. The weir also has the added benefit of reinforcing the dam structure.

On Friday December 5 a Captains Banquet with live and silent auctions will be held at the Dock Street Saint Thomas Preservation Hall from 6-9 p.m. The tournament will take place the next day Saturday December 6. Participants meet at 8 a.m. at Dram Tree Park (at the foot of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge). The event is open to all levels of experience from advanced anglers to novices to families who want to have a good time for a good cause. Twelve to 14 local licensed captains will navigate the boats for the participants. Each boat is limited to two anglers and one junior angler (15 or younger). The entry fee is $1 000 per boat. The winners will be presented awards that evening at Water Street Restaurant in Historic Downtown Wilmington. All of the money raised from the tournament will go directly to Cape Fear River Watch Striper Restoration Foundation.

A healthy fishery will benefit both the environment and the local economy by preserving the endangered sturgeon species of fish protecting impounded drinking water and creating a projected $5 million-per-year total increase in fishery incomes via sportfishing food-fishing and tourism.

These important goals perfectly complement the clear and concise mission of Cape Fear River Watch Inc.: To protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River Basin through education advocacy and action. Cory Mac Pherson

see you on the river

The first annual Cape Fear River Striper Bass Invitational Fishing Tournament is a great opportunity to help restore the Cape Fear River by participating in the sport you love youd probably be fishing that day anyway right? This restoration project for the striped bass fishery could be the greatest fishery restoration success story on the East Coast. All it needs is you. To learn more about the tournament call (910) 520-0581. For more information about Cape Fear River Watch call (910) 762-5606 or visit

the spirit of the surf community

Wrightsville Beach surf documentary Any Given Morning

For the ancient Hawaiians surfing was a spiritual sport. They often called upon priests or kahunas to pray for good surf. Their temples had a pool where surfers could wash away the saltwater after surfing. The sport has evolved since then surfers no longer use 77-pound wooden surfboards for instance but for social worker Laurel Hughes the spiritual aspect is still very much alive. In her 30-minute Wrightsville Beach surf documentary Any Given Morning she describes being baptized in the ocean and then christening her surfboard afterward.

Hughes vision for Any Given Morning was to let the members of the Wrightsville Beach surf community specifically that hardy brother-and-sisterhood that surfs the north end tell their stories about the way surfing has brought them together and how the ocean serves as their spiritual sanctuary. It is first and foremost a film about surfing as a community the way it unites individuals the way it creates bonds.

Hughes and her crew dedicated a year making the 30-minute film which was not surprisingly a labor of love.

“Just as with anything youre passionate about theres going to be a hard time at some point ” Hughes says. For her it was in the fall of 2007. She had spent many long nights editing her film. Her goal was to make the deadline for Cucalorus Wilmingtons own renowned film festival. She told herself that she just wasnt going to make it. At her Bible study group she asked her friends to pray for her about it. She says “I didnt really feel like I could do it. Then we prayed about it.”

Everything came full circle for Hughes she made the deadline and Cucalorus 2007 showed Any Given Morning. She knew that her film was something special when after the showing many people came up to her and said how much they appreciated learning about the relationships between the surfers and the sense of community. She credits Wrightsville Beach as one of the reasons this film is successful. “Anyone can surf and appreciate the water ” she says. “I am so thankful I get to do it here.”

In April 2008 she was able to bring her special piece of Wrightsville Beach to Puerto Ricos Rincon International Film Festival where people from all over the world Germany Argentina China and more watched her film. Any Given Morning won the Audience Choice award.

With its unique focus on community and the spiritual connection surfers share Hughes documentary is different from the average surf flick as evidenced by its acceptance by SoCal Independent Film Festival. The festival takes place each year in Huntington Beach California nicknamed Surf City USA. In light of this SoCal generally refuses surf films they dont want to have the reputation of being a surf film festival. Any Given Morning was the first film of its kind to be shown in the festival (in September 2008) a testament to its unique and fresh perspective on surfing. Hughes film won the Best Documentary award.

The film is on sale online at as well as at various shops around Wrightsville Beach Surf City Sweetwater NoFo and The Green Room for $20. All of the money from the film goes to the Wrightsville Beach Longboard Association. Though Hughes hasnt made any money from her film she says “To me the reward is the people who come up and tell me how much they appreciate it. When you pursue something youre passionate about everything else falls into place.” Cory Mac Pherson

giving outside the box

Alternative Gift Market

Admit it. Your coolest holiday gift-giving dream becomes your biggest nightmare when the gifts you dream of giving are at the mall: the bumper-to-bumper parking lot traffic the long checkout lines the crowded stores the anxiety of finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones and friends. Want to turn the tables on stressful holiday shopping? Heres how: the Alternative Gift Market for gifts that benefit those who are less fortunate.

On December 6 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and December 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Grace United Methodist Church is once again hosting the Alternative Gift Market. For $3 you can buy clean water for one person in Sudan for an entire year. For $35 you can give a month of rehab visits for a disabled child in the Dominican Republic. These items and many more including unique crafts from the fair trade organization 10 000 Villages can be purchased as certificates to be given as gifts.

Jane Spicer started the Alternative Gift Market in 1994. “Ive been doing it for 14 years. Its appropriate and refreshing to give a gift that benefits someone who really needs it ” says Spicer. Last year the Alternative Gift Market raised more than $15 000. The money went to international as well as locally affiliated projects. For more information call Jane Spicer at (910) 392-1551 or the Grace United Methodist Church at (910) 763-5197. Cory Mac Pherson