Beach Bites

BY Stephanie Karampelas

Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher welcomes Luna the Albino Alligator

But why is she white?” is the question buzzing around the gator tank at the fabulous North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (900 Loggerhead Road Kure Beach 866-301-3476). Wide-eyed kids cling to the phantom mesh fence to get a better look and ask again (and again) “But why is she white?”

The subject of the question basking comfortably under an infrared lamp in her own private exhibit is Luna a four-year-old albino alligator and rare gem who has found safety an official name and a permanent home on the Azalea Coast.

Born in Louisiana in a nest site presumed to have been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina Luna was discovered and moved to St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida where she was cared for until she was purchased (with private funds) by the aquarium.

Which brings us back to the question at hand: Why is she white?

The simple (okay not that simple) answer has to do with melanin pigment or actually the lack of it. Neither of Lunas parents were albino but they both carried the recessive gene for the condition. Luna received two recessive alleles (one member of a pair or series of different forms of a gene) from her non-albino parents that resulted in the absence of melanin pigment in her skin and eyes.

Exposure to the sun will burn Lunas skin which could lead to infections and even death. Additionally her inability to camouflage herself makes her extremely vulnerable to predators in the wild.

As different as Luna is shes all alligator which means that like all gators she experiences flushing when under stress similar to humans when were unexpectedly embarrassed. This phenomenon is only visible in gators with albinism which turns out to be a very small number indeed. Alligator albinism is incredibly rare: There are less than 50 albino alligators in existence on the entire planet.

“Were proud that our staff can provide the special care required for her to survive and thrive ” says aquarium curator Hap Fatzinger.

Part of that special care is Lunas diet which consists of chicken beef fish and pellets that contain important vitamins and minerals. When she first arrived at the aquarium in February she was fed five to seven days each week in an effort to “fatten her up ” says aquarist Julie Johnson. Feeding times have gradually been reduced to four days and eventually she will be fed two times or less each week like most alligators.

Special care also means that Luna must live solo; she does not share her lush exhibit with any other animals at the aquarium.

“Shes isolated because this way we can gear everything in the exhibit to suit her needs. There will be a lot of behavioral training and maintenance so its safer for the caregivers and the animal if she is isolated from other alligators ” says Johnson.

Yes Luna is a star and like all stars she gets special treatment. In this case its well worth the effort.

“We want to keep things fresh and new and increase attendance [at the aquarium] but more importantly we want to educate the public about this rare animal and albinism ” says aquarium public relations coordinator Amy Kilgore.

Lunas exhibit officially opened on May 29 and everyone is encouraged to visit often to watch her grow as she becomes acclimated to her new North Carolina home.

July 4th celebration in Historic Downtown Wilmington

Want to feel patriotic with 50 000 of your fellow Americans? So do we! On July 4 Historic Downtown Wilmington is again the place to be for all kinds of fabulous-fourth festivities.

The fun starts at 5 p.m. on Water Street. Vendors offering cool casual culinary delights will be on hand and the North Carolina National Guard Army Band will perform live in all their red white and blue glory until 9 p.m.

At 9:05 and if youve been there before you know they mean 9:05 the 13th Annual Battleship Blast one of the largest most awesome choreographed displays of fireworks in the Southeast will amaze and delight viewers of all ages.

The display produced by Pyro Shows Inc. of LaFollette Tennessee is funded by the Battleship Commission U.S. Cellular and Food Lion. Media partners include WECT and Cumulus Broadcasting.

“Its going to be on par with last years demonstration ” says Captain Terry Bragg the executive director of the Battleship North Carolina. Since July 4 falls on a Saturday this year expect a turnout that will rival last years count of 50 000 people.

Best locations to view the show? Well the riverfront of course. But theres also the Henrietta III North Carolinas largest riverboat for a spectacular up-close view. The Henrietta III begins boarding at 6 p.m. and cruises along the river until the fireworks conclude. Reservations must be made in advance by calling (910) 343-1611.

Or slip on your dancing shoes for the World War II Big Band Dance from 6-9 p.m. at the Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center (120 S. 2nd Street). Enjoy refreshments and sway to big band swing music until the fireworks show begins over the Cape Fear River. Admission is free but $5 donations are encouraged at the door. The event is sponsored by the World War II Wilmington Home Front Heritage Coalition.

Dont forget the North Carolina Fourth of July Festival happening July 1-4 in Southport the nearby historic maritime community that has honored our nations birthday for more than 200 years. Highlights of the festival include shag dancing a watermelon-eating contest fireworks the Freedom Run & Walk a televised parade a Flag Retirement Ceremony a touching Veterans Recognition Ceremony honoring those who have fought for our freedom and a Naturalization Ceremony that will bring a patriotic tear to your eye. Call (910) 457-6964 for more information.

14th Annual Cape Fear Blues Festival

Summer in the Port City is the perfect time to get the blues and were not talking about a moody melancholy state of mind. Were talking about the 14th Annual Cape Fear Blues Festival happening from Friday July 24 through Sunday July 26.

A regional cultural fixture this three-day event celebrates an ever-evolving genre that has shaped countless forms of music over the past 100 years. At the end of the 19th century blues music developed as a form of self-expression among African Americans in the form of spirituals work songs chants and field hollers. As the music gained popularity musicians performed in bars and night clubs gradually establishing a presence in theater entertainment jazz rock and even orchestral music.

The Cape Fear Blues Society established in 1987 to perpetuate blues music on a local regional and national scale keeps the tradition alive with three jam-packed days of indoor and outdoor concerts workshops a Blues cruise and a guitar giveaway. Even if you didnt snag tickets to the festivals concerts dont pass up the free events and live music. For more information visit the Cape Fear Blues Society Web site:

Schedule of Events

Friday July 24

6 p.m. Downtown Sundown Series at Riverfront Park features The Contagious Blues Band

7:30 p.m. Cape Fear Blues Cruise on the Henrietta III Riverboat features Elliott & The Untouchables El Jaye Johnson Tommy B. & The Stingers and Spider Monkey Bochey

9 p.m Post-Cruise Party at The Rusty Nail features The Chickenhead Blues Band

Saturday July 25

Noon Cape Fear Blues Workshop at Finkelstein Music features Elliott New

1 p.m. Festival Concert at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater features The Dynamic Therm-O-Tones Ten Dollar Thrill E-Train & The East Coast Acoustic Armada and the Cape Fear Blues All-Stars

9 p.m. Live Blues at 16 Taps features Gypsy Fire and Spider Mike Bochey

9 p.m Live Blues at The Rusty Nail features The Cape Fear Blues Band

Sunday July 26

Noon All-Day Blues Jam at The Rusty Nail

6 p.m. Guitar Giveaway at The Rusty Nail

Dont miss these Concerts

Mayfaire Music on the Town Concert Series

LOCATION Event lawn behind World Market and Ulta
TIME 6 p.m. until dark
PARKING On-site parking is available
CONTACT (910) 256-5131

July 3 Cosmic Groove Lizards
July 10 Treble Hook
July 17 The Monkey Junction Band
July 24 Michelle & the Midnight Blues
July 31 Category 4

Airlie Concert Series

LOCATION Airlie Gardens
TIME 6-8 p.m.
COST Concert tickets are $8 for adults $2 for children and free for Airlie members.
PARKING All general admission parking is off-site. Free parking and shuttles are provided from the old Cinema 6 property at 5335 Oleander Drive located next to Great Harvest Bread and Tidal Creek Co-op. On-site parking passes are available for purchase by Airlie Dogwood Rose Magnolia and Azalea members at the Airlie Gift Shop Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
CONTACT (910) 798-7700

July 3
Jazz concert with El Jaye Johnson
July 17 Dance concert with The Fine Night Souls

4th Annual Downtown Sundown Concert Series

LOCATION Riverfront Park
TIME 6-10 p.m.
PARKING Public parking available downtown
CONTACT (910) 763-7349

July 3 Tuesdays Gone Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute
July 10 Whos Bad Michael Jackson tribute
July 17 Same As It Ever Was Talking Heads tribute
July 24 Contagious Blues Band
July 31 Bargain The Who tribute

27th annual Tri-Span Race

On Saturday July 11 more than 500 runners will lace up their best pair of sneakers and head to Historic Downtown Wilmington for the 27th Annual Tri-Span 10K/5K Race.

The 10K and 5K events begin at 8 a.m. in front of Water Street Park. Participants in both races will run through downtown but 10K runners will also complete a three-bridge loop and go through Battleship Park. The race concludes where it starts Water Street Park with an awards ceremony music and refreshments.

The first 500 runners are guaranteed a t-shirt and 18 pairs of running shoes will be donated by New Balance this years awards sponsor. The event is an annual fundraiser for the Wilmington Family YMCA; proceeds benefit children who cannot afford the price of a Y membership. The premier sponsor for this years race is commercial real estate brokerage firm Maus Warwick Matthews & Co.

YMCA special events coordinator Gray Lambeth expects a good turnout. “Ive been doing this for years and its a great venue ” she says. “The 5K is family friendly but the 10K is very competitive.”

If you sign up before July 3 the entry fee for both races is $25. If you sign up after that its a $30 fee. For more information visit

Creating Works of Art from Works of Nature

For Wrightsville Beach mother and artist Carrie Shaughnessy “a trip to the office” means walking onto the beach to collect shells.

“I mean its fun. Im going for a walk on the beach; Im going to work!” Shaughnessy says with a chuckle.

Shaughnessy took art classes while at Trinity University in San Antonio Texas and moved to the Wilmington area in the mid 1980s to pursue a career in the film industry. The inspiration for her artwork comes from her 6-year-old son Henrys ability to appreciate the beauty of a shell and from her attraction to art “made by someone who lives at the beach with materials from the beach.”

Last summer she and Henry began collecting shells to create magnets. Over time Shaughnessy accumulated an assortment of pretty shells stones and sea glass and wanted to do something special with these little jewels from the sea. She decided to create a collection of items that were suitable for beach souvenirs as well as wedding gifts.

Intrigued by the natural curve of an oyster shell Shaughnessy undertook her first project: a decorative bowl made of oyster shells held together by a mixture of grout and sand. More projects followed including additional bowls a stone vase jewelry and a particularly stunning beachwear and towel hook. Her work is constantly evolving as she experiments with copper wrapping and sanding techniques.

You might imagine that crafting beautiful works of art from beautiful works of nature would be therapeutic. You would be right. But Shaughnessys business is not only a therapeutic outlet; its a tribute to WB that celebrates the natural beauty of our coast.

Shaughnessys company is called “C St. Shell Design.” Items from her collection are available for purchase from her home or online and she pledges to donate a portion of her proceeds to the local chapter of Surfrider Foundation. For more information contact Carrie directly at [email protected] or shop online at

Surfs up! Reef/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest

The 5th annual Reef/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest kicks off Friday July 10 at 7 a.m. on Wrightsville Beach at Oceanic Street and continues through the weekend.

Expect three fun-filled days of professional and amateur surfing soaking up rays and enjoying the beach. Dont miss the Guppy division for children too young to compete in amateur divisions or the Red Bull Tow-At a spectacular event in which surfers are pulled by jet skis. Very cool.

Sweetwater Surf Shop managing partner Tony Butler expects to have 200-300 amateur surfers and 100 professionals competing including “big” names such as Phillip Watters and Sweetwaters own surfing superstar Ben Bourgeois.

“This is going to be a unique year because of the economy ” Butler says. “I anticipate an impressive turnout of local contestants because people will be spending more time closer to home.”

The event features a $20 000 professional purse and new surfboards for amateur winners. In addition sponsors Reef Sweetwater Surf Shop and Da Kine among others will be giving away various products as prizes.

For more information call (910) 256-3821 or visit .