Eagerly awaited with much anticipation, Saturday June 15, 2013 saw the little Eastern Shore Virginia historic town of Cape Charles abuzz with events from the town center to the outer reaches of the Harbor. First off in the morning was The Great Bay Run, kick-off at 8:30. Organized by Blue Heron Realty Co. agent Eva Noonan and her friend Gary Hack, the Run was off to an early start by 7:30 am when participants could begin to sign in and receive their official PIB badges for either the 1.25 mile fun walk/run or for the more serious folks, the 5k event. Over 180 people registered, including kids of all ages, the young and young of heart, moms & dads pushing 3 wheel jogging strollers. Up and down Mason Avenue, in the heart of the Cape Charles historic area, guys and gals of all shapes and sizes gathered in little groups, stretching ham strings, doing warm-up deep knee bends, trying to get ready for the Run, psyching up in anticipation of a hard final push needed to cross over “the Hump”, the steep overpass above the railroad tracks near the finish line at the Marina.
By 8:15 am, runners were lined up clear across the road at the corner of Harbor and Mason Avenues, awaiting the starter’s gun to begin a course that would wind them down streets of Victorian and other historic homes, past views of sparkling sand dunes and shimmering blue Chesapeake Bay waters, on out to the finish line at the new marina. Then wooosh, they were off and I slipped over to the Cape Charles Harbor to await the first arrivals. I’m proud to say that of the 7 Blue Heron agents and/or their family members who ran this event, 3 won first or second place in their age group– go Herons, go ! In line with being a carefully budgeted event, the donated trophies were inscribed antique bottles and large shells– but winners were all proud smiles as they accepted their unique prizes. Everyone who finished the course got a colorful Great Bay Run T-Shirt as well as free after-the-race pizza and Coke to rebuild energy for the rest of the day’s fun. Race proceeds will be donated to the Leukemia Society and to Broadwater’s Track & Field Team.
Next up, a stroll through the marina to see the Tall Ships in the soft morning light– we had brought the grandkids down at sunset Friday evening to enjoy the music events scheduled for the Harbor stage and view the ships, always interesting for young and old alike. Although our old friend, the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel, had earlier dropped in for an overnight anchorage, for the Festival weekend this year Cape Charles was host to the 97 ft. Sultana, a replica of a 1768 British schooner whose job was to enforce the tea taxes prior to the American Revolution, the 105 ft 3 masted schooner Alliance and the 126 ft Virginia, a replica of a harbor pilot boat used on the Bay in the early 1900′s. No matter how many of these replica ships I see I never cease to feel amazed that back in the day, 100 foot vessels like these routinely sailed across stormy oceans with nothing between them and disaster but a skilled captain ( hopefully) and sheer luck– no auxiliary engine, no GPS mapping, no radar, no depth finder, no marine weather service, no ship-to-shore radio and no rescue helicopters, just strong canvas sails, grit and determination. And a daily rum ration…… Each Festival ship offered deck tours as well as 2 hour day-sails out on the Chesapeake Bay, a great opportunity for landlubbers and sailors alike to enjoy a taste of maritime history. And the weather was so co-operative– cool temps, clear skies, steady breezes all weekend.
Good food and plenty of it, paired with lots of music, is part of the secret to a good festival and there was plenty of both in Cape Charles. From BBQ ribs to Greek gyros, deep dish pizza to “Aden’s Dawgs”, washed down by everything from Kona ice to Bud Lite, plenty of variety was available to satisfy the ole taste buds. The Shanty, a great new-as-of- last-year seafood restaurant right at the edge of the water at the marina, was doing a landslide business. Huge platters of steamed hardshell crabs accompanied by luscious grilled corn on the cob were zooming out of the kitchen at the speed of light, I think the servers must have been wearing jet pacs they moved so fast ! Downtown, just a few minutes walk from the Harbor, Kelly’s Gingernut Pub was going full blast, the Cape Charles Coffee House had extra tables outside for al fresco dining and the Hardware store was putting on a “bring your own hot dogs” BBQ bash for friends and customers. But the really, really big smiles were coming from the folks leaving Brown Dog Ice Cream shop holding crunchy waffle cones stuffed full of the best ice cream I’ve had in a long time, made right on the premises. The only other thing I’ll say about Brown Dog is that when you’re in town next, try a scoop of their pina colada topped with a scoop of rum raisin. Double yum !
But my favorite events were back at the Festival grounds where a very talented group from Raleigh, NC, Historic Interpretations, Inc. teamed up with a group also from Raleigh, called the East Coast Pirate Crew, to set up a Colonial Village. Dressed to “kill”, the East Coast Pirates manned a ” pirate gear for sale” tent plus a tent featuring typical pirate weaponry as well as a display of the typical foodstuff found aboard a pirate ship, with members on hand interpreting same and offering samples of the 17th century on-board daily food staple called “hard tack”. ( No grog offerings though, a true pirate wouldn ‘t stand for that. ) Historic Interpretations program offerings were quite interesting, completely interactive, with all their members dressed in authentic period costume, looking great. The Village included a “typical Colonial kitchen” tent, complete with homemade strawberry and lemon cordials brewing, ( for which I got the recipe ), a games tent, herbs and medicines tent and 17th century “home ec” tent staffed by two very knowledgeable ladies who demonstrated weaving, embroidery , sewing and fashion tips of that era.
Probably doesn’t sound that interesting but it was really fascinating. The ladies had a large hunk of what I thought was spun wool but which was actually flax ready to be spun, then woven into linen cloth, which they demonstrated on a tiny portable loom. Wow, no wonder most folks back in the day had only 2 sets of clothes– at the most. Every woman had a ” housewife”, abbreviated to “hussif”, a cloth strip with multiple pockets on one side for important small implements such as scissors, pencil, glasses, etc., all expensive to replace. The hussif could then be rolled up tightly and stored in her sewing box which contained the rest of her sewing equipment. A typical box would hold lots of handmade sewing aids including a wooden “egg” for darning, a lump of beeswax to stiffen thread, a thimble made of horn, soapstone to mark lines on cloth, a cloth tape measure wound up in a casing made of a large nut shell, hoops of various sizes, and the list goes on and on. And the fashion accessories were pretty interesting too. Corsets were laced up with a long metal instrument called a bodkin. And if you’ve ever wondered how Colonial ladies managed to have a slender waist but appear as if they were four feet wide from hip to hip, well it was thanks to a “pannier”, a very narrow belt with two short cloth barrelly things hanging from each side to make the dress stand way out from the hips. Go figure !
The Festival was all this and so much more. Strolling musicians in town and at the Harbor, the Cape Charles Orchestra playing sea chanteys on Strawberry Street , sidewalk art, a Golf Cart Scavenger Hunt, helicopter rides all day long,Coast Guard water safety program, artists and artisans galore with lovely items for sale, a great display by the Waterman’s Association, an old time oyster “buy boat” at the marina. All capped off with the Pirates & Wenches Ball, everyone dressed in costume, dancing the night away, proceeds benefiting Cape Charles Central Park. But memories now– but we do have Tall Ships Festival 2014 to look forward to.
(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA. )