December Salt 2014

Page 1

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December 2014

Features 41 Company Holiday Party Poetry by Jennifer Chapis

42 The Spirit of Fezziwig

In the Port City, these generous souls shine bright

48 Christmas Fruitcake By Nan Graham Beloved or reviled, it’s a classic

50 The Great Christmas Flounder Challenge By Jason Frye

The real challenge: Finding someone — anyone — to speak of this once common Yuletide dish

56 Story of a House By Ashley Wahl

The generous spirit of two Bobs infuses the historic Richard Price House

64 Hungry to Help By Barbara J. Sullivan

Half United is feeding the world — one neighbor at a time

67 December Almanac By Noah Salt

Santa’s hot chocolate and, yes, the Christmas cactus


Salt • December 2014

Departments 9 Simple Life By Jim Dodson

12 SaltWorks

The best of Wilmington

14 Front Street Spy By Ashley Wahl

17 Stagelife

By Gwenyfar Rohler

20 Omnivorous Reader By Stephen E. Smith

23 My Life in a Thousand Words By Mary Kaye Hester

25 Our Man on the Town By Jason Frye

26 Lunch With A Friend By Dana Sachs

29 Out of the Blue

31 Notes from the Porch By Bill Thompson

33 Chasing the Hornets By Wiley Cash

35 Birdwatch

By Susan Campbell

37 Excursions

By Virginia Holman

68 Calendar

December happenings

73 N.C. Writer’s Notebook By Sandra Redding

75 Port City People Out and about

79 Accidental Astrologer By Astrid Stellanova

80 Papadaddy’s Mindfield By Clyde Edgerton

By Mark Holmberg

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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• December 2014 Heart_Cherry_Salt6x10.75_0714.indd 1

6/5/14 12:02 PM

Circulation Darlene Stark, Circulation/Distribution Director 910.693.2488 ©Copyright 2014. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Salt Magazine is published by The Pilot LLC The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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Salt • December 2014

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

S i mple

L i fe

Goodbye, for Now By Jim Dodson

When I was young,

Illustration by Kira schoenfelder

the only thing harder than the coming of Christmas was saying goodbye to it.

After weeks of anticipation and suspense, savoring the agonizing build-up to the big morning and everything that went with it — food, carols, festive lights, crowded stores, nights that held the prospect of snow — everything seemed to wind up in the twinkling of an ancient elfin eye, literally overnight. Suddenly, Christmas magic was over: There were no presents left to unwrap, a fine dinner was reduced to tin-foiled leftovers in the fridge, favorite cousins were heading home, leaving behind a kind of post-partum lethargy that carried through the week to New Year’s, a finale that felt anticlimactic compared to the assorted glories of Christmas. As the ball was dropping on New Year’s Eve, it was the rare first night when I was even awake. My parents, of course, were probably to blame for this phenomenon, for I was merely the product of their own unbounded enthusiasm for everything about the Christmas season. Beginning with Thanksgiving my mom became a baking fool and commenced decorating the house at the crack of December dawn. My dad, meanwhile, spent hours untangling and repairing strings of outdoor Christmas lights and lived for our annual trip down to the abandoned family home place deep in the woods near Hillsborough to shoot mistletoe out of the towering oaks that grew there. Our December trek to Ashe County to cut a live Christmas tree was a given, as was his Christmas office party, a lively afternoon affair conducted in the spirit of Dickens’ Fezziwig, a man whose love of commerce was only topped by his personal generosity to the people around him. In its own way, our mom’s annual open house before church service on Christmas Eve — the finale of her cooking and baking season — was equally festive, and something friends and neighbors counted upon every year to seal their own holiday spirit in a nimbus of love. It was the goodbye part that always got to me. The most exciting time of year — something I waited eagerly for eleven months of the year, a small eternity to a 10-year-old — seemed to suddenly arrive and disappear like the Christmas goose on the Cratchit family table. To compound matters, in our neighborhood, several folks actually took down their Christmas trees the day after Christmas and hustled them out to the curb for collection like a disreputable uncle who’d overstayed his welcome. I remember once taking a spin on a new Christmas bike and being startled to discover several of these sadly discarded Christmas trees, stripped bare save for a few straggling pieces of tinsel, discarded symbols of the season awaiting the coming of the trash man. To this day, that sight always saddens me. Looking back, though I didn’t begin to comprehend it at the time, I learned a valuable life lesson from the slow coming and quick going of such happy Christmas seasons, this seductive blending of Christian tradition and Father The Art & Soul of Wilmington

Christmas — namely, that saying goodbye to people and things you love is, indeed, all about the wise use of time and simply one of life’s bittersweet inevitabilities, a fact of life that varies only by degrees of intensity and one’s own perception of what’s really important. In the spirit of Old Fezziwig, human generosity never goes out of season. Leavetaking of one kind or another happens every day in our lives, so commonplace and cordial it’s easy not to notice because such moments are so tightly woven into the fabric of the ordinary. The perfect evening ends. Guests say goodnight. You kiss your spouse goodbye in the morning without a passing concern about the day ahead. We operate on an unseen principle that goodbye is never really goodbye — just a temporary parting. And yet, in ancient times, given the brevity of ordinary life, goodbye really meant something. Roads were perilous and dangers rampant. The word “goodbye” was simply shorthand for “God be with you,” an acknowledgement of life’s fragile impermanence. By the same token, the word “farewell” comes from middle English and meant quite literally “fare thee well” on your onward journey, wherever it leads you and whatever rises up to meet you. Fare thee well on the road of this uncertain life. Daily rituals aside, sometimes the act of saying goodbye does penetrate to the heart muscle and strikes a deeper chord, causing us to pause and think, the throat to constrict, the eyes to burn. It happens unexpectedly when your child goes off to college or your favorite neighbors move. The job changes. Your daughter gets married. Illness comes. The dog must be put down. The effect of these goodbyes can alter your perception of everything. Following the death of his dog, the poet Pablo Neruda had nothing shy of a spiritual awakening. “I, the materialist,” he wrote, “who never believed in any promised heaven in the sky for any human being, I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter. Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom where my dog waits for my arrival waving his fan-like tail in friendship.” Death — believed to be the ultimate leavetaking by some, a mere hidden doorway to the onward adventure by others — makes everyone a believer in something, if only the value of a saying a heartfelt goodbye, for now. Twenty years ago, though it was quite painful at the time, the smartest thing I ever did was leave my own young family behind to come home to be my old man’s caretaker as he was slipping the bonds of this world. With the help of a kindly hospice worker, I sat with him in my boyhood bedroom and tended his daily needs, talking about things both inconsequential and profound, just being with Mr. Fezziwig through the last hours of his life. The night before he died, he politely asked me to help him into bed with my mother just down the hall. I remember how my eyes stung at the sound of them talking quietly beneath the quilt like the old lovers they were. They were saying goodbye. He passed serenely the next night, a goodbye that enriched my life immeasurably. December 2014 •



s i mple Five years later, I was sitting with my mother at her favorite restaurant on the water near our house in Maine where she suddenly admitted how powerfully she missed my father — and life in North Carolina. When I apologized for moving her to the nice assisted care residence near our house, she simply smiled, patted my hand and sipped her wine. “Don’t worry, sugar. That’s just life. I’ll see your father soon.” Less than a week later, she suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. When I took my children to see their grandmother, she was lying in bed smiling at them. They kissed her and she seemed — crazy, I know — almost radiantly happy. I came back to sit with her that night and we held hands and talked of the smallest sorts of things — her love of peonies, her growing grandchildren, and the pride she felt in all of us. Nothing was left unsaid. She passed away peacefully the next morning. Not too long afterward came another passing. We — well, I — said a painful goodbye to the rugged post-and-beam house I built with my own hands on a forested hilltop, the place where my own children were born and I grew an ambitious garden in the woods. Handing over the keys to a couple from Massachusetts who had matching Doberman Pinschers was a moment that bruised my heart more than I care to admit. The house was my so-called “dream house,” the place I’d fully planned to spend the rest of my days digging in the garden and watching the seasons pass until some thoughtful person spread my ashes among the giant hosta plants and daylilies of my Redneck Philosopher’s Garden. But dreams have a funny way of changing shape. Instead of forever, one bright sunny May afternoon I bid the place a reluctant “fare thee well” with a lump the size of a tulip bulb in my throat, choosing to take writer Beryl Markham’s good advice on such moments: “I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never

l i fe believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.” I closed the door and didn’t look back. I’ve never been back. Though that house still shows up in my dreams from time to time. “To live in this world,” echoes the poet Mary Oliver, “you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” Good advice for saying goodbye, I’ve learned, to anything you love from an old dog to a favorite holiday. A decade ago we moved home to North Carolina and brought a beloved holiday ritual that started in that house on a snowy hilltop more than twenty-five years ago. Our annual winter solstice party invites friends and neighbors to come share great homemade soup and my bride’s amazing desserts on the longest night of the year, illuminating the darkness with bawdy skits, Medieval songs, favorite poems, magic tricks — whatever moves the spirit — providing much laughter and Fezziwigian fellowship in a world that is forever passing away, an ancient celebration of our own fragile impermanence. For our ever-widening circle of friends and family, it must be said, the winter solstice has become a valuable part of the Christmas season, the perfect prelude to the day that always came so slowly and passed too quickly. When all the gifts are opened and the house has fallen quiet late on Christmas Day, I confess, I will stir the fire and pour myself a glass of good aged port and drink a little toast to all that’s passed through my life, still feeling a touch of the old sadness at saying goodbye — for now — to people and things I’ve loved, a bittersweet hollowness that is only filled by the hope that things don’t really end, that goodbye is really just another kind of beginning. b Contact editor Jim Dodson at


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Salt • December 2014

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December 2014 •




Believe in Magic

This holiday season, Thalian Association’s Children’s Theater is partnering with Make-A-Wish and the Macy’s “Believe” campaign to help grant wishes to children with lifethreatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. During the production of Macy’s Yes, Virginia, performed December 4–7, Thalian Association will collect letters to Santa Claus; for every letter collected, Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish. Macy’s Believe campaign and Yes, Virginia the musical were inspired by the true story of 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, who wrote a letter to the New York Sun in 1897 asking if there really was a Santa Claus. The paper’s response, penned by its editor, Francis P. Church, became the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any newspaper in the English language. Every child who submits a letter will have a chance to win two tickets to A Christmas Carol, performed on the Main Stage at Thalian Hall December 11–21, or two tickets to SchoolHouse Rock Live, onstage February 20 – March 1, 2015 at the Community Arts Center. A drawing will be held at each performance. Showtimes: 7 p.m. (Thursday through Saturday); 3 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday). Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center, 120 South Second Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 341-7860 or

All-Star Read

When Durham’s Carolina Academic Press asked Wilt Browning, who’s won the N.C. Sports Writer of the Year five times, to compile and edit a sports history of the state, a friend told him it would “be like herding cats.” But the nine chapters of Nothing Finer: North Carolina’s Sports History and the People Who Made It are the equivalent of nine innings of home runs. Each is penned by a longtime Tarheel sports journalist: Retired Durham Herald-Sun columnist Al Featherston writes about basketball; veteran golf writer Lee Pace covers golf; and Raleigh-based historian and author Jim Sumner writes about the roots of N.C. sports. Greensboro resident Lenox Rawlings, who worked thirty-six years for the Winston-Salem Journal, writes the chapter on racing. “I am not certain there is a more sports-devoted state in the union than North Carolina,” says Browning, a former News & Record columnist who pens the book’s chapter on baseball. And Browning must be pretty good at herding cats. The North Carolina Society of Historians gave it the Willie Parker Peace Historic Book Award in October. Info: 12

Salt • December 2014

Sugar and Spice (and Everything Nice)

Big things come in small packages. One need only bite into the crumbly essence of a Moravian spice cookie to know that. The dough — packed with spices and molasses — is rolled paper-thin, and the wafers pack quite a punch. They have for centuries. In 1766, when the Moravians settled in Old Salem, ingredients like cinnamon and ginger were exotic and expensive, so cookies were a rare treat made only for holidays or special occasions. On Saturday, December 6, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Covenant Moravian Church will host its annual Candle Tea, an extra special occasion where you can learn how to make traditional crafts such as beeswax candles, Advent wreaths and paper stars. Costumed hostesses will serve hot tea and, yep, those spicy little cookies that everybody loves so much. Come for the music, the market and the Moravian Putz. Free and open to the public. Covenant Moravian Church, 4126 South College Road, Wilmington. Info: (910) 799-9256.

Gift of Hope

Friday, December 5, marks the official launch of Journey4Josh, a nonprofit that provides atrisk children with ways to discover their true passions through the arts. Born of tragedy, Journey4Josh (J4J) was founded by Patty Proutey after the death of her son, Joshua Proutey, who was murdered in December 2012 on his way home from the Community Arts Theater, where he worked. “I wanted some good to come from his loss,” said Proutey. And so the foundation will deliver hope. The launch party will be held at the Union Station at Cape Fear Community College from 6–9 p.m. Good food, modern dance and great company, plus more information on the vision of J4J. Tickets: $50. Info: (910) 264-7793;;

So Next Year

What started as a simple vision of bringing fashion to the forefront of Wilmington quickly expanded. Wilmington Fashion Weekend (#WFW) could become a credible platform for local and emerging designers, models and retailers. And fashion — “the best of which is worthy of the name art,” the great Norman Norell once said — could be made accessible for everyone. Which is exactly what’s happening. Last year marked the first annual Wilmington Fashion Weekend, an event so well-received that Executive Director TJ Dunn says they’ve decided to expand the fourday event to an entire week. Thus, Salt magazine will be the exclusive print sponsor of the first-ever Wilmington Fashion Week, a week-long celebration of emerging designers, local talent, area boutiques and ateliers (including Dreams of Wilmington) scheduled for early April 2015. Look for event updates and exclusive features in future issues of Salt and on our Facebook page. #WFW2015. Info: www.

Boughs of Holly

In the pages of this month’s Salt, local preservation czar Bob Warren invites you to take an intimate look inside his historic home at 125 South Fifth Avenue, an 1840 Greek Revival that first belonged to Richard W. Price, shipbuilder and harbor master of the Port of Wilmington. In the early ’70s, not long after Warren bought the house with his late partner, Bob Lane, the two began to envision a grand Christmas tour that would showcase some of the most historically significant homes and buildings in downtown Wilmington, including their own. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of that first tour. On Saturday, December 6, 4–8 p.m., and Sunday, December 7, 2–6 p.m., the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society’s Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour will feature eleven homes (including the Richard Price House), two churches and one B&B, plus a live Nativity scene, organ music and violins. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at the Latimer House, area Harris Teeters, Barnes and Noble, Candles Etc., The Ivy Cottage and Two Sisters Bookery. Information: (910) 762-0492 or

Soap Poisoning

If your little Ralphie Parkers have been good, consider bringing them with you to experience A Christmas Story, The Musical, the classic holiday tale of a young boy who dreams of getting a BB gun for Christmas. All the ingredients are there: the leg lamp, the bully, that blessed bar of soap; and the music will stick like a tongue to a frozen flagpole. Shows run Friday, December 5, and Saturday, December 6, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, December 7, at 3 p.m. See if you aren’t inspired to start singing along. Admission: $20–25; $18 (educators, students and military). City Stage, 21 North Front Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 342-0272 or

Flock Together

“Sugar water feeder maintenance is actually quite straightforward,” writes Susan Campbell in this month’s “Birdwatch” column on how to attract wintering hummingbirds to your backyard. But if you want to see what kind of birds might be flitting about outside the frame of your back window, consider joining fellow bird lovers of Halyburton Park for NC Birding Trail Hikes. Each month the group explores a different site along the NC Birding Trail in the Coastal Plain. On Thursday, December 18, from 8 a.m. to noon, join them for a two-mile hike alongside Greenfield Lake. Cost: $10 (includes transportation from Halyburton Park, 4099 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington). Info:

Of Mice and Wooden Men

On Friday, December 5, and Saturday, December 6, on the Main Stage at Thalian Hall, New York’s Ballet for Young Audiences will perform a sixty-minute narrated version of The Nutcracker, the classic tale of young Clara and her magical Yuletide journey. Ballet for Young Audiences is dedicated to reaching children of all ages and backgrounds, stimulating their cultural growth by exposing them to different areas of theater and dance which transcend all economic and language barriers. This whimsical performance allows kids to experience the majesty of dance in a magical realm of mice and wooden men and the Land of Sweets. Plum fantastic. Friday performances at 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday performance at 10 a.m. Tickets: $15–20. Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 632-2285 or

Save the Date

Surveys suggest that Christmas Eve is the most popular proposal date of the year — even more popular than Valentine’s Day. And since June is the most popular month for weddings, then by all deductive reasoning, the wedding planning will start, like, immediately. On Saturday, January 17, from 4–8 p.m., Courtyards and Cobblestones (C&C) allows couples to tour seven styled ceremony and reception sites in Historic Downtown Wilmington and meet with the area’s top creative professionals as they begin to plan the wedding of their dreams. Featured venues include 128 South, The Atrium by Ligon Flynn, Bakery 105, The Brooklyn Arts Center, The Balcony on Dock, The City Club, and an exclusive C&C Health and Beauty Bar at The Loft on Front. Tickets: $18; $25/at the door. Info: The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •



f r o n t

s t r e e t

s p y

Our Lady of the Brine

By Ashley Wahl

The story goes something like this: Gaia

(Earth) and Uranus (the heavens) created the primordial Titans, and the world as we know it began to crystallize.

The Earth was lush, her branches dripping with golden apples and sacred pears and fleshy-sweet persimmons, and the mysterious heavens swirled gently above. Each deity played a role in creation as if smattering paint onto an everchanging canvas, and their offspring became the sun, the moon, the stars, the winds, and so forth. But let’s get straight to the heart of the matter: our sacred waters. When Oceanus took the plunge with his sea goddess sister, 3,000 ocean nymphs were born, including Doris, a favorite aunt of poor Atlas. On down the line, Doris married Nereus, son of the sea and the Earth, and their fifty sea nymph daughters represented the many facets of the ocean. Halimede was Lady of the Brine.


Salt • December 2014


When the Greeks made their gods in their own image, it is believed that man had such a profound and intimate connection with nature that he could feel her heartbeat. Few of us make such claims today, but if you’ve ever met Amanda Jacobs, the fair-skinned surfer babe combing the beach for smooth stones and imperfect shells, you might agree that she seems more connected than most. And if you haven’t met her, she’s the sylphlike blonde hauling five-gallon buckets of ocean water across Wrightsville Beach, a trek she makes something like twelve times a week to keep up with customer demand. In addition to selling regular sea salt, which looks like perfect snowflakes in a bottle, Jacobs makes and sells flavored salts by adding cracked peppercorn, truffle or rosemary, which she grows on her front porch. She concocts body scrubs, too, and she’s always dreaming up new products, like “to-go” salt packaged in tiny metal slider tins. But in this moment, Jacobs is sitting on the sandy shore, bits of broken shells adorning her legs like barnacles, and she is right at home. It is one of the last warm days of the year. The sun is a gleaming pendant against a cerulean backdrop and the gulls are making lazy circles above us. As Jacobs readjusts her wide-brimmed hat, her toes stuck like mole crabs in the sand, the ebb tide seems to beckon. “The beach is literally my favorite place on the planet,” she says. The Art & Soul of Wilmington

Photographs by mark steelman

Perfect snowflakes in a bottle and other glories harvested from the sea

And when she smiles, it’s obvious that Jacobs has a profound and intimate connection with the healing waters of the salty Atlantic.


Before landing here, Amanda Jacobs and husband, Dave, planned to open a farm-to-table restaurant in Corning, New York, where Dave’s children were living. They both love to cook, especially together, so running a restaurant seemed like a no-brainer. But it wasn’t in the cards. When a major grant fell through, they shrugged it off. The kids were grown. Dave could continue his law practice anywhere. Why not embark on a grand new adventure? “We sold the building that would have been our restaurant and moved,” says Jacobs. They hadn’t been here one year before a visiting friend planted the seed: You live at the ocean. Harvest sea salt from your own backyard. And so she did. Flash forward one year, to now, at which point her Sea Love Sea Salt products can be found all over the place, including the shelves of Whole Foods and sprinkled on top of entrées at restaurants like Pembroke’s and Rx. For Jacobs, the salt was — and continues to be — a precious gift from the gods of the sea.

“Christmas is doing a

little something extra for someone.”

– Charles M. Schulz

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Perhaps some locals might agree: Surfing at Wrightsville is a lot like not surfing. “I eat a lot of salt,” says Jacobs, referring to her frequent wipeouts. And when people ask her whether the salt that she sells is safe to eat, she directs them to the water quality sampling data made public by the Department of Marine Fisheries. Yes, the water that she pulls just down from Stone Street is the cleanest water in the area. Of course, the water is also filtered before it’s solar evaporated in Jacobs’ ten-foot greenhouse, and the pure salt goes straight into tiny glass bottles, each of which is adorned with a tiny beach treasure: sea stones, scallop or oyster shells. If you visit Jacob’s website, it’s worth checking out her blog, where you’ll find everything from homemade ricotta recipes (guess the secret ingredient) to photos of Norman, her 6-year-old black Lab and paddleboard companion. If you’re searching for the Lady of the Brine, look no further. b For more information about Sea Love products and where to find them, visit Amanda Jacobs' blog at Our spy, senior editor Ashley Wahl, is prone to wander. The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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Salt • December 2014

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S t a g e l i f e

The Man Who Made Dreams Come True

Thirty years ago, Lou Criscuolo launched the Opera House Theater Company’s first season — a pillar of the Port City’s thriving theater life By Gwenyfar Rohler

When “The Spirit of Fezziwig”

Photograph by Mark steelman

was selected as one of the themes for our holiday issue, my first thought was: The spirit of Fezziwig in the theater community? Oh, that’s Lou Criscuolo, without a doubt.

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Mr. Fezziwig is born to humble beginnings. Through hard work and determination he finds success, but in the end he chooses his ideals over fortune. Same goes for Mr. Criscuolo. In 1985, Lou Criscuolo launched Opera House Theatre Company’s first season at Thalian Hall. Thirty years later, Opera House is still one of the foundation pillars that supports our extended theatrical world here. It was an odd confluence of events that brought Criscuolo to Wilmington. “How did you leave Broadway to come here?” I asked. “Broadway is every actor’s dream!” Criscuolo shrugs and gives his famous lopsided grin. “At that point I was 50 . . . and I did everything I had to do in New York . . . I did everything I had to do in California. I did movies, I did plays, I just did everything. I thought, ‘It’s time to change directions.’ So let’s start a theater company.” Born in New York City in 1934 to Italian immigrants, Criscuolo’s father supported the family as a pushcart peddler selling produce. “I never knew we were poor or broke. Everybody was, so we thought it was the same all

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around, you know?” He recalls childhood fondly: playing ball with his friends, helping his dad after school — but best of all was going to 125th Street to the Italian Theatre with his mother on Sunday afternoons. “They had a wonderful tradition that if you were good, they would throw confetti up on the stage. But if you were bad, they would throw money so you could pick it up and get off.” Criscuolo says he always knew he wanted to be an actor, but that he didn’t know where to start. He shrugs again. “One thing just led to another . . . I just kept plugging away.” In the meantime he had started a family and was unloading beef from freight cars for $86 a week. He was still on stage every chance he could get. One night Robert Duvall caught Criscuolo in a performance. “He was doing Naked City at the time,” says Criscuolo, recalling the television crime drama. Duvall recommended him to the casting director, “and I auditioned and got the job.” That led to appearances on Naked City, the TV series Route 66, plus more plays. Criscuolo was suddenly a working actor. “I look at everything as ‘it’s a job .’ It was a job that came to me, so I’m going to do the best I can.” His resumé is a testimony to that: Man of La Mancha, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Finian’s Rainbow and Smith are just a few of the stage credits from that era; add Alice and Bob Hope Presents to the list of television credits. In 1983, Criscuolo was invited to appear in Remembered Nights, a show commissioned for the 125th Anniversary of Thalian Hall. He remembers looking around at the beautiful theater and observing that they must do a lot of summer stock here. December 2014 •




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S t a g e l i f e “We don’t do any summer shows,” he was told. “‘Well, why not?’ he asked. “You’ve got a theater and you’ve got the beach!” He was intrigued, and began to make plans to open Opera House Theatre Company. But he was still on Broadway in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. “I was commuting back and forth every week, just to get things straight, for about a year.” Finally the first show opened: Cactus Flower, with Joe Namath. “He wasn’t bad. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t bad. But people didn’t come to see his acting — they came to see Joe Namath.” Criscuolo points out that, thirty years ago, this area just wasn’t as theater-oriented as it is now. Thalian Association was really the only group using Thalian Hall on a regular basis. “It was a hard struggle at the very beginning.” There also wasn’t much theater infrastructure here then. “Yeah, the last time I stood where I am right now, I was in the middle of your scene shop,” I commented, looking around his kitchen. He knew he was going to need a set shop if he was going to produce a regular season, so the old building on Nun Street became the place. When he needed a lighting designer or a music director it was a struggle to find people, because in 1984 the area just wasn’t geared toward those avocations. But now Terry Collins’ Scenic Asylum is flourishing and the need for Opera House to have it’s own set and prop shop is gone. So the Criscuolos built a house where the set shop had been. Likewise, almost three generations of children have grown up in theater here. Not just performers starting onstage as wee tots in shows like The King and I, but would-be costumers have found mentors, designers have grown to go work professionally in New York and on tours, and musicians from the high school band classes have gotten their first professional gigs playing in the orchestra pit for Opera House musicals. This community flourished and sent people out in the world to pursue opportunities in the arts and share their passions. This past January at the StarNews Theater Awards, actors, technicians, designers, playwrights and many loyal patrons packed the Main Stage of Thalian Hall to celebrate the year’s achievements in theatrical arts. The highlight of the evening, beyond a doubt, was when a cake covered in candles decorated with an eye-catching “80” was wheeled out on stage. On cue, hundreds of people rose to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Lou Criscuolo for his 80th birthday, to thank him for 30 years of putting our dreams within reach. b Gwenyfar Rohler fell in love with theater at Thalian Hall on her sixth birthday. She spends her days managing her family’s bookstore on Front Street. The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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O m n i v o r o u s

r e a d e r

Timeless Words The enduring power of a well-loved author

By Stephen E. Smith

I remember the moment. I was leafing

through my grandmother’s copy of Mademoiselle on Christmas Eve 1959 when I turned a page and my attention was drawn to a simple line drawing of a woman swan-diving from a tower, her arms spread wide, her back bowed, toes pointed. Below her waited a flaming cauldron. The opening paragraph of the accompanying short story read: “For several weeks, maybe a month or so, there she stood, a plump woman in a sequined one-piece bathing suit, poised on a stylized tower which rose into the very clouds, like Jacob’s dreamy ladder, with here and there around a few birds in tense swift V’s, and below, far, far below, there was a tub, flaming and terrible, into which she was surely going to plunge.” I was 13 years old when I happened upon George Garrett’s “An Evening Performance.” I wasn’t in the habit of reading short stories, but a carnie show similar to the one described in the story had recently visited my hometown and I’d missed the performance, so I gave the story a careful read.


Salt • December 2014

Before I’d finished the last paragraph, I knew that the author was writing about something more than a high diver. I kept my copy of the story in my bureau drawer and occasionally reread my favorite sections. A year later, I discovered a copy of Best American Short Stories 1960, and there was Garrett’s name on the cover. I slapped down 75 cents for the paperback and compared the story with the Mademoiselle version. Lo and behold, they were different in little ways — a word here, a sentence there; e.g., “regardless” had been changed to “irregardless” to add a touch of folksiness. The story had clearly been tampered with. Why would an author rewrite a story he’d already published? Another year would pass before I’d come upon a book of stories, In the Briar Patch, by Garrett, and there was another version of “An Evening Performance.” I compared the three texts side by side and concluded that Garrett had rewritten the story for each publication. That was nuts! I’d grown up reading what baby boomers read — Dick, Jane and Sally, Boys’ Life, science fiction stories, comic classics, Landmark and American Heritage books. Garrett’s short story was my first taste of a genre that celebrates what my college lit professor called “the ineffable mystery of the human soul.” I was impressed with Garrett, but I continued reading authors that pleased me — P.G. Wodehouse was a particular favorite. And while in college I was required to read most of the American canon. But the more George Garrett I read, the more I was impressed — King of the Mountain, The Finished Man, Cold Ground Was My Bed Last Night, A Wreath for Garibaldi, Which Ones Are the Enemy? Death of the Fox, The Succession, Entered from the Sun and many more. In 1972, I purchased Garrett’s short story collection The Magic Striptease and mailed my copy to him at the University of Virginia — or was it Princeton? — where he was teaching. I wrote that I intended to rent a copy of a movie he The Art & Soul of Wilmington

O m n i v o r o u s r e a d e r had written as a gag, Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, and he returned my autographed copy of Striptease with a long letter about how bourbon had been a catalyst in the writing of the sci-fi classic that had Judith Crist “frothing in the pages of TV Guide.” Garrett claimed he’d written the script in one weekend and only saw the final product at a drive-in in Roanoke, Virginia. “It was the only time that drive-in movie patrons honked their horns and blinked their lights in rage and frustration,” he wrote. Not all of Garrett’s work was memorable. His early books of poetry — The Reverend Ghost, The Sleeping Gypsy, Abraham’s Knife — are decidedly 19th century in tone and content, and his novel Poison Pen is mean-spirited. But I admired his later novels, biographies, criticism and short stories — Whistling in the Dark, Double Vision, My Silk Purse and Yours, The Sorrows of Fat City, and Empty Bed Blues. Going to See the Elephant, a collection of prose pieces, contains the best essay ever written on James Dickey. “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: Some Notes on the Life and Art of the Late James Dickey” captures the Dickey I knew with a biting, humorous accuracy. In the conclusion of the essay, Garrett bemoans the razing of Dickey’s house in Columbia, South Carolina: “Now all the words and even the echoes of them are long gone. Lost except for fragments of fading and changing memory. Not a rusty nail, nor a sliver of broken glass. Nothing at all. Except, as it should be, the words of the dead poet in print, on audiotape, on the soundtrack of several films. And these words are as fresh and clear as when he wrote them and spoke them.” In 1985, Doubleday published An Evening Performance: New and Selected Stories, and, as expected, Garrett had rewritten the titled story, pulling together in final form a metaphor for the writing life: “But if the evening performance had been brief, it remained with them, haunting, a long time afterwards. Some of the preachers continued to denounce it as the work of the devil himself. The drunkards and tellers of tall tales embroidered on it and exaggerated it and preserved it until the legend of that high dive was like a beautiful tapestry before which they might act their lives, strangely dwarfed and shamed . . . .” George Garrett died in 2008. I miss him. I’m one of those who remain haunted by his vision. My ancient copies of his works fill an entire bookshelf, and for better or worse, they inspire every word I write. b

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Best Reader Memoirs 2014

Oh! Christmas Tree Or how a two-foot box brought peace on Earth

By Mary Kaye Hester

It all started with the

sunken living room. When I was 10 years old and my brother was nearly 7, we moved into a big older house in southeast Charlotte. Built in the 1920s, it featured cut glass doorknobs and wavy-paned windows. It had cast iron radiators and no air conditioning. The large formal dining room could accommodate my mother’s massive family antiques.

But the coup de grâce was the sunken living room. It had twelve-foot ceilings and ran the entire depth of the house, all the way to the French doors that led out onto the back porch. The sunken living room was its own entity. My parents attended a Christmas party at the house while it was on the market. It had seen better days and was priced to sell. My mother had to have it. Fast-forward a year later: Scraped and painted and lovingly redecorated, the sunken living room was ready to host the holidays. The Christmas tree, of course, would go in front of the French doors. Did I mention the twelve-foot ceilings? The search for the perfect specimen was on — no artificial evergreen would do in the sunken living room. Not only did it have to be nearly twelve feet tall, the tree had to be perfect in every way. Not too skinny, not too fat. No gaps in its branches or kinks in its trunk. We all piled into the station wagon and ventured forth on our quest. As I remember, it always went something like this: My dad would have scouted ahead and located “the perfect tree” at a lot near our house. We would go there so my mother could approve it and we could take it home. That was always our hope. That was never how it happened. My mother would inspect the tree while we held our breath. “But the branches on this side are all squished,” she’d say, frowning. “We’ll put that side against the doors, no one will ever see it.” Dad would lean in close so as not to be overheard by the other shoppers. “The guy said he’d make me a deal.” See, he would try to reason with her. Always a lost cause. I knew this. My little brother, who was only in first grade, knew this. My dad, married to her for more than ten years by that time, apparently did not. “I think we should look at that lot near the mall,” she would say, turning away from Dad’s pick. “It looked like they had some big ones when I drove by there yesterday.” “All right,” he’d say, and throw up his hands. We’d all sigh and bundle back into the car.

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

Lot No. 2: My mother would make a beeline for the biggest trees and find one she adored. “Oh,” she’d say, starry-eyed, “I like this one.” She’d look the tree up and down, fluffing its branches and smiling at it. They never put price tags on the really big ones, so Dad would have to ask the guy standing nearby, big ball of twine on his hip, “How much?” Of course, Mom’s perfect tree was grossly more expensive than Dad’s at Lot No. 1. “We are not paying that much for a Christmas tree!” she’d hiss, appalled at the price of perfection. “Let’s try that other place.” Back in the car, my dad would grip the steering wheel and try not to swear. Lot No. 3, Lot No. 4, and sometimes, God help us, Lot No. 5: Even if they had a tree that met the height requirement, it was never “the one” for my mother, either perfection-wise or price-wise. Inevitably, we would return to Lot No. 1 for Dad’s original tree. So he would win out, eventually, but she made him work for it. One year, Dad’s tree at Lot No. 1 was sold by the time my mother finally gave in. Back in the car, he blew a gasket. There was a shouting match. He used the GD word. She called him an a-hole. He told her she couldn’t make up her mind on a bet. She told him where he could go. He stopped the car at a red light next to a busy shopping center. In a furious fit, he threw the gearshift into park and got out of the car. Without missing a beat, my mother slid across the front seat, put the car in gear, and drove away when the light turned green, leaving my dad standing on the median with his hands on his hips. I was horrified, sobbing and screaming out the backseat window, “Daddy! Daddy!” “Oh, stop that,” my mother said. She looked back at my dad in the rearview mirror. “We’re only a few blocks from home, he could walk from here.” I sniffled. She lowered her gaze to catch my eye. “I’m just going to drive around the block and pick him up,” she assured me. “I want to teach him a lesson.” Certainly taught me a lesson: If you ever get in a fight with my mom, for God’s sake, don’t get out of the car. Dad’s years of wrestling a twelve-foot tree through six-foot French doors ended the day my mother came home and found him in the sunken living room dismembering the monster with a chainsaw. After that he built a two-foot wooden box to set a shorter tree on, solving a number of problems and reducing the holiday trauma dramatically. Every Christmas, decorating the tree would officially end when my mother placed the last single strand of silver tinsel on it and sighed, “I think this is the prettiest tree we’ve ever had.” That two-foot box brought peace on Earth, or at least to the sunken living room. b Mary Kaye Hester lives in Carolina Beach with her loving husband and two thankless cats. She has written for Snow’s Cut Monthly, The Undersea Journal and Cruise Magazine. She can be reached at December 2014 •



Arts & Culture 3201 South 17th Street Wilmington, NC 28412 | 910.395.5999

Events Throughout the Festival

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Salt • December 2014


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The Art & Soul of Wilmington


M a n

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T o w n

A Place Like Home And a fire that warms a soul in many ways

By Jason Frye

There’s some-

thing about that winter sky. The black of space is blacker, and the impossibly clear air seems to refract the light from the distant stars and pull them closer. So close their cold blue light adds to the chill around us, the chill that creeps down coat collars and up pants legs and into our backs as we sit in a ring with friends and family, facing a fire pit warming our physical selves with fire and our spirits with the spark of chosen companionship.

Photographs by James Stefiuk

Turn now from the fire. Lean back in your chair and let your breath plume above you. Give your eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness, then look skyward. There, through the bare branches of backyard maple and leaf-heavy live oak, those stars that, if we but knew how to read them, hold an account of our past and the ledger of our future. They press close, glimmer in and out of the wind-swayed branch, the breeze-stirred leaf, and if you relax your eyes and exhale your deepest breath, clouding the air in front of you, they could be lights strung in those branches.


In our corner of the state, this is our time for gathering. As December chases the year out the door, we come together on patios and decks, backyards and docks. And often, there’s a fire. It’s a small one, but a fire nonetheless; a thing to gather around, a place to pull our chairs and warm our hands, something to cast a twinkle in the eyes of everyone present. We switch to bourbon now, reveling in the hot chase that flows down our throats and blossoms in our chests. Our drinks are neat or with a splash, a single cube for the hearty, though some of us will go for something hot. Cocoa spiked with peppermint vodka. Steaming apple cider with a generous splash of Fireball. An Irish coffee. Sometimes we need more. More people, more noise, more lights in The Art & Soul of Wilmington

the trees. A bigger fire. The companionship of strangers. So we leave our backyards in search of a new gathering place, but someplace like home. Word spreads among your friends of a new place, one with lights in the trees, a bank of fire pits and heaters, the sprawling branches of live oak overhead, and bartenders to keep the thirst away and the conversation flowing. When you arrive at Liberty Tavern, you find it as promised: a big backyard with bartenders. Plenty of corners for quiet conversation, a bar where you’ll find camaraderie and drinks, heaters and fire pits, and people like you.


No, we don’t have snow here in the same way so many of us had in the places we’re from. We like it that way. The declaration of emergency and subsequent cancellation of every school, business and social function that comes with even the threat of an inch of snow makes you shake your head, but it beats the alternative. “Where I’m from, they don’t cancel school for six inches of snow, much less a 30 percent chance of the stuff,” says your friend from Pennsylvania. “Back home, it takes a lot more than a dusting of snow to shut things down,” says another friend, this one from upstate New York. True, but back home, your friends are snowed in, going on three straight days of no TV, with a pair of stir-crazy kids and a dog that doesn’t like to get its paws cold so it’s been doing its business shamefacedly in the garage. They’re running low on the “snowmergency” essentials — milk, bread, booze and TP — and they’d give anything, anything, to be where you are now. Sitting in your backyard, comfortably wearing a jacket and hat for the first time this winter, feet propped up by the fire, surrounded not by the cold of winter and the chill of snow, but by friends quick with their own “back home” stories. They’d give anything to be here now, drink close at hand, fire warming their face, not a snowflake to be seen. And if they were here, they’d call this place by it’s proper name, home. b Jason Frye is a travel writer and author of Moon North Carolina and Moon NC Coast. He’s a barbecue judge, he rarely naps, and he’s always on the road. Keep up with his travels at December 2014 •



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F r i e n d

Dickens on Rye

By Dana Sachs

When David T. Loudermilk and

I met for lunch at Wayfarer Deli and Bistro one bright, hot day late last summer, we ate panini and talked about someone who seemed very far away at that moment: Ebenezer Scrooge.

Loudermilk, the new artistic director of the Thalian Association Community Theater, is overseeing a production of A Christmas Carol this December, and he hadn’t picked an adaptation yet. “I’ve read three scripts already and I just ordered four more,” he told me. Because Charles Dickens’ original novel is now part of the public domain, stage scripts abound, some better than others, and Loudermilk was searching for one that got the combination of Scrooge, Marley, ghosts, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim exactly right. If Loudermilk sounded tired — reading through numerous mediocre versions of A Christmas Carol can do that — he also seemed ecstatic about the possibilities for his own new show. “When the audience walks out of the theater,” he told me, “I want them to be filled with holiday spirit, of course, but I also want them to get what Charles Dickens was trying to get across in the novel.” “What’s that?” I asked. Loudermilk, who is animated but also very thoughtful, took a moment to consider his answer. “Well, it’s different for everybody, but I see its moral as ‘live each day to the fullest,’” he eventually said. “My ultimate goal is to


Salt • December 2014

find an adaptation that has the true heart and soul of the story, and I haven’t found that yet.” Wayfarer, Loudermilk’s favorite lunch spot in Wilmington, serves hearty fare, although that doesn’t mean roast goose and Christmas pudding. The deli is famous around town for panini, hot pressed sandwiches with enticing flavors and combinations of ingredients. The one called “Cuban Revolution,” for example, fills a ciabatta roll with ham and roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mustard, mayonnaise and pickles. Happily, “hearty” doesn’t have to mean “super-sized” or “excessive.” “I usually don’t like how heavy a Cuban sandwich is,” said Loudermilk, “but this one’s not.” And even though he also doesn’t love Russian dressing, an integral component of a classic Reuben, he appreciated it on the Wayfarer’s version, which presses tender brisket, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese between slices of marbled rye. The Wayfarer does salads, too, and a daily “s’mac ‘n’ cheese” special — spinach and artichoke when we visited (“It’s as if you were mixing spinach and artichoke dip with mac and cheese,” Loudermilk told me.) His own favorite Wayfarer lunch is the evocatively named Dünne Jäger ( “The Thin Hunter” in German), a vegetarian panini with roasted green tomatoes and peppers, olive tapenade, gruyère and spinach on sunflower bread (Think: salty, savory, robust and nutty, all slammed together on the grill). Being a successful theater director requires both hard work (reading your way, for example, through a mountain of scripts) and optimism (creating your own vision for a show, then sticking with it). Being a successful director for Thalian Association, however, also means valuing tradition. Founded in 1788, which makes it the oldest community theater in North Carolina, Thalian has been putting on shows for local people for 226 years. “It’s by the community for the community,” Loudermilk explained, articulating a mission that dates back to the days when a wealthy rice farmer left a bequest establishThe Art & Soul of Wilmington

Photographs by James Stefiuk

At Wayfarer Deli and Bistro, a Christmas classic takes shape

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ing a free school and amateur theater in Wilmington. Connecting education with the performing arts has been part of Thalian’s mission ever since. These days, Wilmington theatergoers know Thalian for its productions of popular shows like Bye Bye Birdie and Oliver! But Loudermilk, who directed one such crowd pleaser, Peter Pan, this fall, also sees room for newer and more challenging productions. “My goal is to continue the balance of classic theater but also to introduce to Wilmington new stuff that has just left Broadway.” This season, for example, audiences will see the Wilmington premiere of Clybourne Park, a modern play that responds to Lorraine Hansberry’s beloved A Raisin in the Sun. Part of the reason that Thalian can expand in different directions is that now, in addition to producing adult and children’s shows at Thalian Hall’s Main Stage and at the Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center Second Street Stage, the association has also instituted a summer season of contemporary plays at the Red Barn Studio Theater. Last summer’s production of the Chekhov spoof Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, for example, “had a tremendous run,” Loudermilk said. The effect of all this activity is to enhance an already thriving local theater scene. “I remember one weekend this summer when there were five performances from five different theaters at the same time, which is amazing.” Loudermilk has spent most of his life in theater, including seven years traveling the world as a cruise ship performer. During that time, he visited fifty-one countries and all seven continents, singing and dancing in fully staged shows on board the ship at night. He loved it and, he says, he might still be singing and dancing his way around the world were it not for the cramped quarters aboard ship. “Honestly,” he says, “it’s hard to share a cabin.” We finished lunch with a slice of raspberry chipotle chocolate cheesecake, which comes topped with a sprinkle of bacon bits. If you’re wincing, well, The Art & Soul of Wilmington


F r i e n d

we did, too, but only for a minute. “It does that whole salty sweet thing,” Loudermilk said after his first bite. “It’s delicious.” A few weeks after our lunch, I wrote to him to find out which A Christmas Carol adaptation he’d picked. “We actually ended up adapting our own version,” he responded, “which is going to allow us the freedom and creativity to explore new options while staying true to Charles Dickens’ story.” They’re adapting it themselves? I thought. But then I remembered how Loudermilk had said he was inspired by Peter Brook’s daring 1970s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which had an all-white set. And I remembered him saying that you could make exciting drama with only a ladder on an empty stage. This is a guy, I realized, who has the imagination and skill to make innovative and surprising productions. “When you focus on telling a story, you can have some of the most beautiful experiences,” he had told me. Near the end of our lunch, I asked him if he saw any limits to what Thalian Association might be capable of doing. He considered my question for a moment before replying. Then he said, “When you see limits, that’s a problem. I don’t think there are limits.” This month, December 11–21, Thalian Association presents Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at Thalian Hall. For tickets and information, visit Wayfarer Deli and Bistro is located at 110 South Front Street, Wilmington. For information, call (910) 762-4788 or visit b Dana Sachs’ latest novel, The Secret of the Nightingale Palace, is available at bookstores throughout Wilmington. December 2014 •



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Salt • December 2014

7208 Wrightsville Ave. • 910.509.0273 The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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Lights That Bind At Buckhorn Court in Ogden, if you light it, they will come

By Mark Holmberg

The Buckhorn Court

Photograph by Mark Holmberg

lights have captivated the denizens of Cape Fear for nearly a decade now.

They come en masse each Christmas season, like human moths to the flame, to this otherwise rather featureless sprawl of the Courtney Pines subdivision in Ogden. The parade of visitors stretches from Thanksgiving night to New Year’s. How could this one cul-de-sac just absolutely glow like that? All nine houses, lit up like, well, you know. And visitors just don’t gaze in wonder at the brilliance that attracts them like a Star Trek tractor beam. “People stop, get out and stay,” said Buckhorn’s Missy Young. No, it’s not quite the Bermuda Triangle of holiday lights. Spellbound visitors do leave, although many are compelled to return. Arnold Carr, the semi-official mayor of Buckhorn Court, got one of those handheld counters one evening and clicked it 500 times for each visitor. They come in cars, buses, limos, on bikes and on foot. No doubt folks aboard the space station are looking, too, at this one block filled with Griswolds from the movie Christmas Vacation. “Who is it who always has a short?” Missy asked as some of the neighbors gathered to sit around an idling charcoal fire on a bright fall afternoon. “It’s Arnold,” her husband, Eric Young, replied. “He can’t turn his on when it rains.” And no, they all aren’t garish displays, like the Griswolds’. “We do more traditional — all white,” Missy explained. “We do it gaudy over the next two houses,” neighbor John Cordell said proudly. “Like the Griswolds.’” But everyone lights up. It’s a Buckhorn requirement. “The first Christmas we moved in, they told us,” said neighbor Marissa Smith. Eric joked that he told a newcomer that he’d decorate their house if they didn’t. “You can give me the code to your house or I can set your garage on fire.” One way or the other, that home was going to be lit up, he said teasingly. Two of the houses in the cul-de-sac are owned by older people. The other neighbors work together to decorate those homes. In fact, it’s all about teamwork on Buckhorn Court. They even rent one of those big rolling cherry-picking cranes so they can get those miles of lights up quickly in the trees and on the high-peaked rooflines of the sprawling two-story homes. “Five of us rent it for Thanksgiving weekend,” Eric said. From that Thursday through Monday, they are just rolling those lights out,

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

knowing visitors are coming. “People start coming Thursday night,” Eric said. And not just lights. Miss Peggy and Anna Jean across the street have inflatables. Another neighbor plays Christmas movies on an outdoor screen. Another dresses as Santa. Together they keep about 150 luminarias lit along the curbs. And during the season, there are typically two or three fire pits blazing. It’s all so homey and inviting. Which is why folks get out and stay a while. They even have church groups come and sing. Revelers come in party buses to stagger around. It all got started almost ten years ago to brighten the holidays for the children who live there — fourteen at last count. Then the men sort of caught lighting fever. “Starting out, it was for themselves,” Missy said. “Now it’s more about what people get out of it.” John Cordell agreed. “It’s just for the people who come by and enjoy it.” But there’s more to this mystery of the Buckhorn Court lights. A clue lies in that idling charcoal fire in a heavy-duty metal Lowe’s fire pit on the Young’s concrete driveway, where some of the neighbors have gathered. A fragrant pot roast simmers in an ash-covered cast iron pot in that fire pit. Who does that in civilized suburbia? And where are the fourteen Buckhorn children? Most of them are on the same trampoline in one yard. Or they’ll play basketball together in front of another house. And the men can tell you the best place to get firewood. They spend a lot of time gathered around their fire pits. On Christmas Day, Eric said, he can stand to be inside just long enough to open presents. Then it’s outside, under the sky, by the fire. In an era where many in suburbia hardly know their neighbors, Buckhorn Court has bucked that trend. They are, in fact, quite fond of their neighbors. Yes, it began with those bright holiday lights that symbolize the spirit of the holidays, but it certainly doesn’t end each New Year’s, when they’re switched off. And so ends the story of the Buckhorn Court lights. Don’t believe it? You may want to satisfy your curiosity by taking a look. b Mark Holmberg, longtime reporter and columnist for CBS-6 in Richmond, Virginia and the Richmond Times-Dispatch (where he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary in 2003), is settling in and exploring Wilmington. He says he has fallen in love with the Port City. December 2014 •



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Salt • December 2014

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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The Mule That Saved Christmas Real drama in a small town Nativity scene

By Bill Thompson

The story of the first live Nativity scene in

Hallsboro has become part of the apocrypha of this little community. I heard it when I was just a small boy listening to the customers who came into my family’s little store as they prepared for the Christmas season. The idea of a “Christmas production” taking place in Hallsboro in those dreary times of the Great Depression was almost unthinkable, but too exciting to ignore.

Back then, the Christmas season didn’t start until after Thanksgiving, and the serious but simple decorations, including the Christmas tree (freshly cut pine, of course), weren’t on display until the week of Christmas. So a Christmas activity as time-consuming as a live Nativity was most unusual, never mind whatever financial needs might have to be considered. Apparently someone had heard of a church in Wilmington that had set up a Nativity scene on their front lawn. They had included live animals, a simple open-sided stable that provided shelter for two people dressed as Mary and Joseph, and a doll in the role of the infant Jesus. According to the report that came to Hallsboro, various groups took turns singing carols around the scene, lighted by a floodlight on Christmas Eve. Like most activities in a small community, there were two camps: one positive group excited about the occasion and eager to get it done, and another equally sure that such an effort was futile given all the challenges of putting it together. Ed Ward was one of the pessimists. “Where you gonna get a camel?” was one of his major concerns. “Who wants to just sit out there for everybody to stare at ’em? What about a star? How ya gonna get a star to hang from the sky?” Despite Ed’s protestations, the folks at Bogue Chapel, the little church that was the predecessor of today’s Hallsboro Baptist Church, proceeded with their plans for a live Nativity scene to be placed in the churchyard in time for the community to gather there on Christmas Eve. Over the years, the degree of success for the Nativity venture has varied depending on who is telling the story. Most folks who can remember back that far still get excited in telling the story. They recall the stable being constructed of pine board slats with the bark still on them cut at the saw mill across the road from the chapel. They remember teenagers Rachel and Sue Cooper as Mary and Joseph. Rachel had to be Joseph since none of the boys The Art & Soul of Wilmington

would agree to sit in front of everybody wearing a bathrobe and a towel tied on his head. They remember the Baby Jesus placed in a trough borrowed and cleaned up from Lem Piner’s hog pen. Pine straw was used since nobody had enough wheat straw to spare. In lieu of sheep, Conner Pierce donated a small goat that was staked on the edge of the scene, and a cow from Powell’s Dairy was tied to one corner of the stable. No one remembers any wise men or shepherds. Dressing up and playacting, especially for church, was not something a real man would do. It verged on being “near ’bout sacrilegious,” ranking right up there with dancing. Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday that year, so a lot of folks who were coming into town anyway came by the chapel Nativity when the choir sang. It was about dusk as the scene began to come alive with the music and a reading of the Christmas story by the preacher. People stood around even as a misty rain began to fall. Mary and Joseph and the animals formed a quiet tableau lighted by a kerosene lantern hanging from the middle of the stable. Everybody who has ever told me the story remembers something that is unique to their memory: where they were standing; which members of the family were there; how long they stayed after the singing was over. But every person always remembers Ed Ward coming to the chapel scene that afternoon. He had been the most critical, vocal and negative member of the community when it came to producing this “spectacle,” as he called it. So he may have come that afternoon just to see what had been accomplished or, more likely, what had not been accomplished. Whatever his motive, he arrived in the misty rain just as the choir had finished singing and a few of the observers remained holding umbrellas and praying quietly. When later asked about his action, Ed responded, “Wasn’t no big deal.” But to those gathered there it was a big deal. You see, Ed noticed that Mary and Joseph didn’t have a donkey. So he tied his mule to the corner of the stable, left it there and walked home in the rain. That’s how legends begin in small towns. b Bill Thompson is a speaker and author who lives just down the road, in nearby Hallsboro. December 2014 •




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Salt • December 2014

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The Art & Soul of Wilmington

C h a s i n g

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The Misfits

Formed with players other teams didn’t want, the Charlotte Hornets were born. Now, they are back — and we still believe By Wiley Cash

It was the first day of Coach Dick Harter’s summer basketball camp, and we’d just witnessed one of the Charlotte Hornets’ big men having his uncontested dunk blocked by the rim. You’d think a gymnasium full of pre-teen boys would laugh at seeing something like that — a 6-foot 10-inch center failing in such grand style — but instead we all gasped, held our collective breath, and then grew funeral-quiet. It wasn’t that we were afraid to laugh, we just knew it was the wrong thing to do. The first season in Hornets’ history had just ended with a 20 – 62 record, and the last thing this player needed to hear were the jeers of 200 sweaty, pimply boys.

I’m going to admit something I haven’t admitted since that sixth-grade summer: I had dreams of playing in the NBA. Like most of the kids I grew up with in Gastonia, North Carolina, I was a good — but not great — basketball player. I was tall for my age, could jump high, could run fast, and I had reliable jumper and solid ball-handling skills. I wasn’t exceptional, but in 1989 that seemed good enough. The Charlotte Hornets weren’t exceptional either. I was 11 years old the first time the Charlotte Hornets came to town, but I remember them clearly; they seemed a ragtag bunch, these men in teal and purple. The 1988 Hornets roster was formed by a supplemental draft, which means that the other teams in the NBA could protect a certain amount of their rosters from being pillaged; whoever wasn’t protected was free game. All that to say this: The Hornets were largely formed by players other teams didn’t want anymore. These may seem like inauspicious beginnings, but we didn’t care. We loved the team for precisely that reason. No one else wanted them, which meant they were ours, and we were proud to claim these misfits. Several of them come to mind: Kelly Tripucka, a seven-year veteran and former All-Star whose good looks and well-coiffed hair made him seem more like a movie extra than a basketball player; Muggsy Bogues, who after his rookie year with the Washington Bullets was best known for being the shortest player in NBA history; and then there’s that 6-foot 10-inch center who will live forever in my memory as the only NBA player I’ve ever witnessed missing an uncontested dunk at a summer basketball camp. To understand what a big deal the Charlotte Hornets’ first season was one has to understand the situation the city of Charlotte found itself in back in 1988. At The Art & Soul of Wilmington

the time, the city was better known for being the home of fallen televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker than it was for being the home of some of the nation’s largest banks. Radio personalities like Fox’s John Boy and Billy were considered royalty years before anyone knew names like Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis or Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. Aside from the region’s love of basketball — college basketball in particular — it seemed an unlikely place for an NBA franchise to take hold, much less flourish. But it did. It not only flourished, it thrived. By far, the most exciting moment of the first season was a Christmastime buzzer-beater against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Now, twenty-six years later, Michael Jordan is still the most exciting thing about the Hornets in their “second” inaugural season in Charlotte. He became the controlling owner of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010, and once the New Orleans Hornets relinquished the name at the end of the 2013 season, Jordan listened to the people of Charlotte and brought the Hornets home. Now, as the owner, Jordan has amassed another team of misfits: There’s Lance Stephenson, an ex-Indiana Pacer who’s best known for blowing in LeBron James’s ear during last year’s playoffs; Gerald Henderson, who was briefly the most hated man in North Carolina after breaking Tyler Hansbrough’s nose during one of the Tarheels’ epic battles against the Blue Devils; and Kemba Walker, another under-sized point guard who led the UCONN Huskies to a miraculous NCAA Championship in 2011. But Charlotte’s a different place than it was in 1988. The city’s more experienced, perhaps more jaded. Sure, it witnessed the collapse of the Jim Bakker empire in the 1980s, but the near-collapse of its world-renowned banking industry in 2008 was the much tougher blow. And there’s competition now; the Panthers came to town in 1996 and were the most successful expansion team in NFL history, making the playoffs in their second season and a Super Bowl appearance in 2003. When I think about the Hornets’ return to Charlotte and how the fans and city seem overwhelmed with joy in welcoming them back, I can’t help but think of that 6-foot 10-inch center who missed the dunk on that long ago summer afternoon when I was 12 years old. That day in that hot, dusty gymnasium, we all cheered for him to give that same dunk another shot. He did. And he made it. We’re still cheering. We still want the Hornets to make it, and I believe they will. The first game of the Charlotte Hornets’ 2014—2015 season just ended, and there was a Hornets game in Charlotte for the first time in twenty-six years. Kemba Walker led the team as they overcame a 24-point deficit to beat the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime. What’s ironic is that it was the largest comeback in Charlotte’s franchise history. The largest comeback. They came back. The Hornets are back. b Wiley Cash is a New York Times best-selling author whose second novel, This Dark Road to Mercy, was released in January 2014. He lives in Wilmington. December 2014 •



Happy Holidays!

Don’t forget to support our local galleries this season!

The Talent Source Training Center for Actors and Models

Patty Whitt Strader Professional modeling, pageant and acting coach Private consultations 910.233.2855 |

ACES Gallery 221 N. Front St. – Suite 101

MC Erny Gallery at WHQR 254 N. Front St. , 3rd Floor

ACME Art Studios 711 N. 5th Ave.

Every Good Thing Artisan Gallery 603 Castle St.

Art Factory Gallery & Studios 721 Surry St.

The Golden Gallery 311 N. Front St. at the Cotton Exchange

the ArtWorks™ 200 Willard St.

The Muddy Muse Studio & Gallery 616 Castle St., Unit B

Dan Beck Studio 545 Castle St.

New Elements Gallery 201 Princess St.

Cape Fear Native 114 Princess St.

Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts 307 N. Front St. at the Cotton Exchange

Crescent Moon 24 N. Front St.

River to Sea Gallery 225 S. Water St.

The Wilma W. Daniels Gallery Cape Fear Community College 200 Hanover St.

Urban Revival 606 Castle St.

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502 South 16th Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • 910.763.7448


Salt • December 2014

$45 in-state $55 out-of-state *per magazine

Salt Magazine P.O. Box 58, Southern Pines, NC 28388 The Art & Soul of Wilmington

b i r d w a t c h

Wintering Hummingbirds

With the greatest diversity of the species in eastern America, North Carolina’s annual invasion of northern hummingbirds is gloriously underway By Susan Campbell

For me, this is the

Photograph by Debra Regula

most wonderful time of the year. The cooler weather has finally arrived and, with it, familiar visitors from the far north: white-throated sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, yellow-rumped warblers, double-crested cormorants and common loons, to name just a few. But it is the wintering hummingbirds that make this season so very special.

North Carolina has the greatest recorded hummingbird diversity in the eastern United States. Among the tiny visitors you might find flitting between sugar water feeders are ruby-throateds, rufous, black-chinned and calliope. Anna’s, broad-billeds, broad-taileds, buff-bellieds and Allen’s have spent all or part of the winter here, too. As have a couple of green violetears and one green-breasted mango. Along our coastline, where the climate is moderated by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, daytime temperatures seldom dip below freezing, and ice and snow are rare. Insectivorous birds, including hummingbirds, find plentiful prey in the abundance of thick, evergreen foliage. In fact, rubythroated hummingbirds are sometimes more numerous along southern beaches during the cooler months than they are during summer. And while nesting habitat in the form of tall trees is scarce along the state’s barrier islands and sandy coast, the abundant scrubby habitat is a great place for small birds that eat tiny insects like spiders, mites, midges, flies and aphids to spend the winter. Because some wintering birds overlap with southbound migrants (and northbound birds in spring), there are some locations where hummingbirds can be spotted year-round. Inland, rufous hummingbirds are most likely at this time of year — as far west as our southern mountains. But they turn up mixed in with coastal ruby-throateds here as well. Hummers that winter at higher latitudes and/or at elevation out west (such as rufous) are actually very cold tolerant. Believe The Art & Soul of Wilmington

it or not, their summers may not be too much more hospitable than our winters. Individuals observed now at feeders are not common but they are nowhere near as rare as we thought a decade or two ago. Calls and emails from excited (and sometimes confused) hummingbird hosts begin after the first cold weather in late November or early December. Adult male rufous are easy to identify given their stunning colors and patterns. However, females and immature individuals, who are statistically more likely to turn up, have rather subtle differences in plumage, resembling familiar ruby-throated hummingbirds. Sometimes a photograph is sufficient for identification purposes, but more often than not, in-hand scrutiny (i.e., trapping and subsequent banding) is necessary. Colorful perennials increase the likelihood of attracting overwintering hummingbirds regardless of whether or not you provide a feeder year-round. The absolute best plant for this purpose is pineapple sage. This member of the salvia family, with its fruity-scented foliage and long bright red spikes of nectar-rich tubular blooms, is a late-season hummingbird beacon. It is also very popular with a host of fall butterflies. It does well in pots, which can be moved into shelter on cold nights so the blooms will persist into the winter months. Japanese mahonia, winter honeysuckle and nectarbearing camellias can be cold weather hummingbird magnets too. By the way, winter sugar water feeder maintenance is actually quite straightforward. Simply rinse and refill every two weeks or so. In our area, a feeder hung close to the house will be protected most of the season. The regular solution (4 parts water: 1 part sugar) will not freeze unless the air temperature drops below 27 degrees. With a few flowers and a feeder, there’s a chance you, too, may attract your very own tiny, winged holiday gift. And if you do, please let me know! b For more about wintering hummingbirds in North Carolina, visit Susan would love to hear from you. Send wildlife sightings and photos to or call (910) 949-3207. December 2014 •



Arts & Culture



Wilmington Art Association

The Premier Visual Arts Organization of the Cape Fear Coast

Annual Juried Spring Show and Sale Workshops Led by Award-Winning Instructors Gallery and Exhibit Opportunities Monthly Member Meetings (2nd Thurs of month) and Socials Field Trips, Paint-Outs, Lectures and Demonstrations

Saturday, December 13th

4:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Special Workshop in January with Artist Liz Hosier Exploring Painting with Oil & Cold Wax Wednesday, January 7 - Friday, January 9, 2015 See WAA website for complete course description/cost

Bellamy Mansion

Museum of History & Design Arts

Janet Sessoms

Dorian Hill

Liz Hosier

Join Bellamy Mansion, St. James Episcopal Church and Burgwin-Wright House for a Christmas Stroll through the past

Membership is open to artists & art lovers alike

Join Today & Support Local Art


Salt • December 2014

A festive evening filled with holiday decorations, music, period costumes, petting zoo, refreshments and more! Candle lit stroll along a path and visit two historic homes and one historic church $20/Adults • Free for 15 & under 503 Market Street, Wilmington // 910.251.3700

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

E x c u r s i o n s

Heavens Above

A curious earthwoman looks at the glittering firmament

By Virginia Holman

Photograph by Virginia Holman

Say you’ve just tucked your little sugar-

plums into bed for their long winter’s naps. It’s a cold December night; you look out the nursery window. The moon is beginning to wax. Or is it waning? Two bright stars twinkle. Or are they planets? You press your face to the cold glass and wonder if that’s an airplane or a satellite winking its way across the coal black sky. The winter holidays are coming up, and you’ve always wanted to learn the constellations. Right then, you know — suddenly, utterly, immoderately — that the best family gift of all time would be a telescope. Not a toy store telescope, but the real deal, one with excellent optics, a telescope that might bring the stars to you. With a telescope like that, you imagine many happy nights learning the heavens with your children, perhaps even your grandchildren, all thanks to your moment of inspiration and your credit card. Like you, I’ve always wanted to know more about the night sky, but I’m on a budget. So, instead of rushing off to the telescope store, I signed up to join the Cape Fear Astronomical Society at Carolina Beach State Park for one of their monthly observation events. (My concealed agenda: to score some information about the best telescope to purchase. I secretly wanted a telescope that would

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

make the night sky look like an IMAX movie, preferably in 3D.) At first I was a little intimidated by the prospect of going to an astronomy club meeting, even though I’ve wanted to know more about the night sky for years. Other than the Big Dipper, the Pleiades, and a few other constellations, when I stare into space, I find the night sky frustrating to navigate. Over the years, I have purchased field guides and circular star maps; once, in my 20s, I spent days arranging hundreds of those little glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling and walls. Even so, when it came time to transfer my knowledge from the page (or walls) to the night sky, I was soon lost in the glittering firmament. A couple of days before I went to Carolina Beach State Park to meet the astronomers I became worried. Would everyone be speaking in astrophysics? I can’t tell you the difference between a nebula and a neutrino or between a black dwarf and a black hole. Could I fake it? Unlikely. If I peered through a telescope and announced that Mercury was retrograde, everyone would know I’d just read that in “Free Will Astrology.” My strategy for nervousness: Binge watch several episodes of Cosmos. At the very least, a few hours spent with the supremely charming Neil deGrasse Tyson would make me feel astronomically smarter. I had little to fear. The CFAS is a welcoming, mellow and enthusiastic bunch with a nice mix of male and female members. And though many of them are fluent in astrophysics (one, I later found out, is also fluent in Esperanto), they were quite happy to give night-sky newbies a plain English tour of the heavens. When I asked CFAS member Tom Jacobs what telescope was best for newbies, his answer surprised me. “Don’t be in a hurry to purchase a telescope,” he said. Instead, Jacobs says the best way to begin to learn the night sky requires minimal gear: a pair of binoculars, a good star atlas, and a few knowledgeable companions, like those found in the CFSA. Binoculars? I thought. Really? I was doubtful. I asked CFAS secretary Jon Stewart-Taylor, a tall, pleasant gentleman with the resonant voice of a radio host, and his gregarious librarian wife, Kate, whether binoculars were truly a good idea for observing the night sky. Jon patiently December 2014 •



E x c u r s i o n s explained that binoculars are the perfect way to start learning the heavens: They’re portable, tough, affordable, and offer a wide field of view. In addition, he recommended getting a good star chart, and Kate advised using a headlamp with a red light for reading the chart at night. She pointed out that viewing the sky from a chair or lying on a blanket helps reduce eye fatigue that can result from handheld optics. The best advice I received was evident all around me that evening: Get to know some knowledgeable stargazers. Experienced companions help newbies see more, and the more successes a newbie has, the likelier she is to continue her journey into amateur astronomy. Night began to fall; the astronomers moved to the viewing area. While the members set up their optics, I saw another reason binoculars are a good place to start: The variety of telescopes is dazzling. Jon explained that each one is designed for a particular type of sky watching. Some people are interested in deep sky objects, like star clusters and galaxies; others prefer to explore planets, comets and meteor showers. To use any telescope effectively requires a basic working knowledge of both the equipment and the sky. Jon set up his candy-apple-red 10-inch Dobsonian telescope. I gawked — the telescope was the size of a small circus cannon. Kate set up her Newtonian refractor. Still others assembled Celestron skywatchers, and telescopes that have built-in computers and large portable batteries attached to maintain the telescope’s alignment with the celestial object of your choice. Even though a couple of the telescopes weren’t spectacularly expensive (read: hundreds, not thousands, of dollars), they each required significantly more knowledge than the average newbie stargazer brings to the table. “That’s why we hold an event each year called ‘How to Buy a Telescope,’” said Tom Jacobs. “People can learn about the advantages and limitations of different types of telescopes, ask questions, and test out different models in order to make a more informed decision.” Even though I looked through several different models, I found I didn’t have a strong preference for a particular telescope. First, I need an education. I asked Jon about the best print resources for beginning stargazers. He offered up several online resources, and then he surprised me. “There’s a wonderful book by a man named H. A. Rey called The Stars: A New Way to See Them that’s particularly good.” The author’s name rang a bell; that’s because H. A. Rey also wrote the Curious George series. I was slightly surprised Jon suggested a book written by a children’s author, but, hey, I’m a beginner. I made a note to check it out from the library. Once the telescopes were set up, the group began attracting attention from passersby. What’s going on here? Are those cameras? Hoo-boy, that is some big telescope! The group invited anyone interested to take 38

Salt • December 2014

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

E x c u r s i o n s a look. The astronomers were especially lovely with the children who visited. Several had small ladders and wooden boxes stationed beside their telescopes to help boost the kids up to the viewfinders. Jon set the viewfinder of his Dobsonian telescope to Mizar and Alcor. He explained that the stars were once used as an eye test. If you can see both stars with the naked eye, your vision is excellent. (I wear contact lenses, yet I couldn’t see either one without the telescope. Hmm, it must be time for a trip to the ophthalmologist.) “Ooh, look there’s Alcor,” one little girl squealed. Then she hopped down from the box. “That’s in Ursa Major, Dad.” The whole event was a delight, and I stayed until I was shivering in the autumn chill. (Note to self: Bring a jacket to future stargazing events.) A few nights later, I headed out with the H. A. Rey book, a red light headlamp and my birdwatching binoculars. I spread out a blanket on the beach near Fort Fisher. It all seemed conspicuously low-tech. I was surprised that the binoculars truly helped me see the stars. For the first time I was able to quickly identify Cygnus, Cassiopeia and Orion, thanks to Rey’s brilliant and clear representations. I decided that I would order a copy from Pomegranate Books as a holiday gift to myself. With Rey’s help, a bit of mentoring from the kind folks at the Cape Fear Astronomical Society, and a pair of binoculars I already owned, I had one of the most pleasant stargazing experiences of my life. This must be how it starts: a beginning stargazer gains a little knowledge, a little success, and her curiosity increases. As Jon Stewart-Taylor said, when asked why he’s been an amateur astronomer for over thirty years, “There’s always more to see.” b

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Want to learn more about the night sky?

Join the Cape Fear Astronomical Society. The club holds monthly observation sessions that are free and open to the public. Info: Visit the Ingram Planetarium 7625 High Market Street, Sunset Beach, NC ingram-planetarium Check out these online resources: And don’t forget to bundle up and view the Geminids meteor shower this month. It’s the strongest display of the year. Info: meteor-showers/meteor-shower-calendar/ Author Virginia Holman teaches in the creative writing department at UNC Wilmington and occasionally guides with Kayak Carolina.

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •



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Salt • December 2014

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The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 Company Holiday Party I see him with my eyes closed. Seven feet tall,

not including the wings, standing in front of the Christmas tree. The blinking star perched behind his head looks like a silly hat he’s wearing. Every holiday, I evoke my childhood friend Jason who disliked birds because they didn’t have hands. He said I too can fly — there’s no such thing as time. I wonder what he’s doing made of the same mist as the waterfalls inside me where I reach sometimes, to cry. I can’t go in there right now. I picture a feather caught in up-breeze, looking to touch down — Santa’s sleigh skating the still waterway between worlds. — Jennifer Chapis Jennifer Chapis is an energy healer in downtown Wilmington. Her poems have appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Best New Poets, Colorado Review, The Iowa Review, The New Yorker, North American Review, and other magazines and anthologies.

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •



Fezziwig The Spirit of

In the timeless Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, the character Mr. Fezziwig, an impressionably young Ebenezer Scrooge’s first employer, is a living symbol of the goodwill and generosity — and compassion for others — that an aging Scrooge eventually rejects in favor of cold, hard profit. In his night travels with the Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge is fortunately reminded of his beloved employer and how the spirit of Old Fezziwig can save a life — including his own. If you take the time to notice in the busy hubbub and commerce of this Christmas season, you can spot the Fezziwigs among us. Allow us — the salty Spirit of Christmas Present — to introduce you to a few of them . . .


Salt • December 2014

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

A Good Head for Business, A Big Heart for Children Story and photographs by Mark Holmberg


e brushed upon our neighbor Magnolia McLean

Magnolia McLean

quite by accident. She was, of course, a key figure in “The Mystery of the Painted Flowers” story that appeared in the September 2014 issue of Salt. She had previously owned the house in question — a 600-square-foot shotgun shack on Queen Street with beautifully painted clutches of herbs and flowers on the heart-pine floor. And she gladly shared her clues in the unsolved mystery. But once her story began unfolding, the real mystery became: How did this 86-year-old former resident of the fabled Jervay Place housing project at Eighth and Dawson streets come to own that cute little house, and the big church next door at Fourth and Queen? Not to mention another house up the street . . . and four day care centers for over forty years and, really, how this farm girl from Durham came to be “Mom” to thousands of little souls in this Port City? “I’ve had a full life,” she said. “If I go to sleep tonight and don’t wake up, I won’t have missed a thing.” We were in her Queen Street home a few blocks from mine, looking at her high school graduation picture hanging on the paneled wall. She was 45 in that photo, looking 20-something (a graceful time warp thing that continues today). That moment in time is when her world started turning in a most unexpected way. “All my (eight) children were grown,” McLean recalled. “I had four grandchildren.” For about a year-and-a-half she had been volunteering at the day care center run in the Jervay Place projects. She loved children and found she was good at it. “That’s why I tell people you have to give some of yourself to get started.” When the woman who owned the business, Mabel Walker, wanted to get out, Magnolia McLean bought it. “Paid fifty dollars for it — I still have that check.” That became the first McLean Learning Center. She would open three more. “I was the first one in New Hanover County to have white and black children.” She found she had a gift for business as well as children. When the big church down Queen Street partially burned down, she went to the bank for a loan, bought it, renovated it and put a day care in the back part of it. Her business decisions paid off. “Wachovia Bank,” she said with one of her frequent smiles, “I could walk in there and borrow a million dollars.” But just as she was starting to fly — not long after that high school graduation picture was taken — her husband, John, died, just dropped dead of a heart attack one evening. He had been in the Army, worked construction and as a longshoreman. He was her day care handyman, the cook, her rock. “I had been married my whole life. When my husband died, I was ready to give up.” The Art & Soul of Wilmington

But the children needed her. Especially since two of her day care centers were in the projects, full of at-risk children. Many of those children had mothers who were still children themselves. “I’ve seen it all,” she said. She always treated them with respect and love, telling them they could make it if they wanted to, just as she did. “A lot of what we do is parent the parents.” She’d occasionally get calls from Social Services when they had a really tough situation. In one case, a 12-year-old girl had a baby. Mrs. McLean kept the baby at her house, and the young girl stayed in that shotgun house with one of McLean’s daughters. (That young mom turned out fine.) There have been “thousands and thousands. I’d say a third of them called me Mom.” She sees some of them again at day care. “I kept the ones now bringing their grandchildren.” Yes, she has seen some become murder victims, or perpetrators. She checks the mugshots on the evening news against the roll books in her sharp mind. But many who have been in her care for their childhood have turned out just fine, and she takes great pride in seeing them out in the world, shaping Wilmington and beyond. Principals, lawyers, politicians. Every walk of life. The man who installed the security light behind her home was one of her children. So was his supervisor. When she had her knees replaced not long ago, she had a pleasant surprise when she rolled into rehab at Liberty Commons and met the physical therapists and assistants. “I’d had all of them,” she recalled, laughing. “I was the queen there — I didn’t want for anything!” Along the way she earned her college degree in early children’s education and has continued to take classes since, up until two years ago. She was going back to UNCW to work on her master’s last winter, “but it was just so cold.” Yes, Magnolia McLean is at a crossroads at the age of 86. She sold her last day care — the one in the church (which she also sold) — but continues to work there. She’s a “Pink Lady” volunteer at New Hanover Hospital and is active at her church, Mt. Olive AME at South Seventh and Wright streets, where the old Jervay projects were. But is it time to slow down? Four of her own children are retired. She’s got ninteen grandchildren, fifteen great-grands and one great-great-grand. She could stay here and get her master’s degree . . . or move to her mother’s old home place in Dillon, South Carolina, and finally relax. “But there’s a day care right across the street (in Dillon) and another one right around the corner . . . my children say, ‘What do you think is going to happen?’” My neighbor laughed and looked down at her feet, knowing full well where they’d take her. But that’s OK. This lifelong teacher has learned that being a mom to thousands keeps her young, one small life at a time. “That’s why I’m still here.” b December 2014 •



Good Wood, Great Kids

By Linda Carol Grattafiori Photographs by Mark Steelman

Jimmy Pierce


uring his tenure as a successful attorney, James “Jimmy” Pierce began observing the ways in which kids were not responding to the legal system and felt a growing need to give at-risk youngsters both purpose and a place to heal. He wondered: What if there was a place they could go to acquire the life skills necessary to mature into successful adults? A sanctuary where they could experience compassion and learn to give back? This is the idea behind Kids Making It (KMI), a woodworking program for youth and young adults, which Pierce founded in 2000. To launch KMI, Pierce surrounded himself with like-minded volunteers and staff, including assistant director and master grant writer Barbara Sullivan. Thanks to her understanding of the woodworking program and the children it serves, she recently helped secure a grant from Duke Energy Foundation, which awarded $25,000 to KMI for the promotion of “vocational skills training, entrepreneurship opportunities, and unique science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching methods to reduce juvenile delinquency and empower youth to grow into responsible citizens.” This innovative program has won dozens of awards, including UNCW’s Albert Schweitzer Award in 2010, and a 2011 nomination from the Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Last year, KMI served 370 youth. Ask Pierce about the magic behind KMI and he will begin rattling off names. But the staff and volunteers who help breathe his vision to life will simply smile and point right back at Pierce, who attends every student’s high school graduation and prepares them for job interviews. His compassion does not end when the kids outgrow the program. Pierce leads KMI by example to serve three different age groups: Woodworking camps for ages 8–12 teach youth to use hand tools to produce color-customized racing go-karts; an after-school program for ages 13–17 allows students to begin implementing power tools; and an apprenticeship program for transitioning youth who plan to enter college or the work force (age 18 through young adulthood) utilizes computer-driven production machines. IKA’s president, Rene Stiegelmann, was so impressed with the KMI apprentice concept that he donated a hydraulic copy lathe to the program. This state-of-the-art machine turns out signature flower vases, table legs, porch spindles and baseball bats, which are used by UNCW’s Seahawks. These machines and the products they make give students opportunities to change their lives. Retired associate director Jeff Citrin tells this story about an older apprentice, Tyrell “Pop” Brockington, who is devoted to Pierce: “One evening Jimmy left us to close up shop. I opened the door, turned out the lights, and looked back to see Pop just standing there in the dark. After a long moment


Salt • December 2014

he said, ‘I feel like my life stops when I walk out this door on Friday afternoon, and I can’t breathe until I walk back in on Monday morning.’” The following week, Citrin sat down with Pierce, and the two decided to open KMI half days on the weekends to give the apprentices a safe place to be productive. Pop, now 28 years old, stayed with KMI and helped the younger kids for fourteen years until Pierce made a connection with Bob Hollingsworth, a cabinet maker who needed a delivery man and installer. Hollingsworth recently told Pierce that Pop is always on time and pleases the customers with his attention to detail. Another job was secured through Pierce’s collaboration with district attorney Ben David’s program Hometown Hires, an initiative to break the cycle of crime and poverty. Long-time apprentice Jarvis Smith transitioned to full-time work at Mojo Musical Supply in Burgaw and said, “When a man gets help, he can help others help themselves.” Due to its growth, KMI recently moved from Water Street to a larger, more accessible location at 617 Castle Street. The new space, a 4,800-square-foot cinderblock building with an enlarged work area and retail shop, was totally financed by Cape Fear Memorial Foundation, First Bank, Bruce Barclay Cameron Foundation, PPD and Live Oak Bank. James Halls, lead after school supervisor and apprentice shop team supervisor, helped direct KMI’s recent move, and has worked with Pierce the past four years. “I could see from the beginning that his primary goal was to see our kids through the challenges they face. He would truly give the shirt off his back to meet a need.” Two-year AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer coordinator Adam Ferry agrees with Halls: “He wants each of us to ask how the decisions we make at KMI can provide greater opportunities for our students.” b If you’d like to volunteer or give a holiday donation to support Pierce’s lifechanging work, call KMI at (910) 763-6001 or visit The Art & Soul of Wilmington

The Singing Sisters of

Flying Pi

By Ashley Wahl Photographs by Mark Steelman


arolyn Atkinson bakes exquisite pies, both sweet and savory, but her ginger pie is a customer favorite. For this pie, so popular that Revolution star Tim Guinee once paid to have it shipped from Wilmington to a film set in New Mexico, Carolyn soaks the ginger in Scotch for twenty-four hours to “take out the fire but leave the fragrance.” But it’s only one reason the customers keep coming back. Flying Pi Kitchen is a small operation on the corner of Fourth and Chestnut that’s obviously best known for its freshly baked pies, but if you happen to go on a day when owner Carolyn is accompanied by one or both of her sisters, the gals just might serve up something sweeter than any item on the menu: the gift of song. When we first heard Carolyn and sister Lisa Morgan McLeod sing Las Mañanitas, which is sort of a Mexican version of the Happy Birthday song, we got goose bumps. Their voices — deep and rich as you-know-what — were perfectly matched, with an operatic resonance that rarely exists offstage. “You should hear us when Kathy is here,” said Carolyn of their older sister, Kathleen McLeod. “We’re a three-part harmony.” Lisa sings tenor. Carolyn, middle sister, is alto. Kathleen has the highest range. “Kathy used to have an absolutely silvery soprano voice,” says Carolyn. “But then we got old,” says Kathleen, half jokingly. Spend just a few moments with the McLeod gals and understand that these sisters share a bond as unusual as their talent. And when you ask

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

them why they first began singing a traditional Mexican birthday song to customers, sometimes whether it was their birthday or not, no doubt they will flash back to their childhood days in Southern California. “We used to go to a particular restaurant in San Diego where the kitchen staff would sing Las Mañanitas to us on our birthdays,” says Carolyn. The girls, of course, would sing along. It was second nature to them. “There weren’t five thousand channels on television,” says Carolyn. “We sat around the living room and sang.” So when an early Pi customer announced it was her birthday, the sisters did was was natural to them. They sang Las Mañanitas. Their voices were like the perfect recipe for the most decadent pie you’ve ever had. And thus they became the Singing Sisters of Flying Pi. Those who have been patrons of Flying Pi since its 2010 opening might know that Lisa and Kathleen never planned to work here, but when Carolyn’s business partner bailed after just one month, they pledged to help to keep “the Pi” open. “My sisters were gracious enough to come in and work for nothing,” says Carolyn. “ — for a song,” quips Kathleen. “That and she fed us,” says Lisa. Now, with business on the up-and-up, Lisa and Kathleen only work at the Pi when Carolyn is in a pinch. “But if someone gave us enough notice, Kathy and I could probably change our schedules to come sing [Las Mañanitas] for them,” says Lisa. “Or we could phone it in,” says Kathleen. Of course, they still come for the ginger pie. b December 2014 •



Making New Neighbors

Katrina Knight

Story and photograph by Mark Holmberg


t’s been ten years since Hurricane Katrina blew into Wilmington, but still she refuses to calm down. “I do a lot of apologizing,” Katrina Knight admits. It’s easy to damage egos and tread on toes when you’re a hurricane force like Katrina, even if she spins in reverse — finding homes instead of destroying them, lifting up those knocked down by the storms of life. “She’s unapologetic about being an advocate for the homeless,” says Matt Thompson, chairman of the board for the Good Shepherd Center. “She brings a ton of energy and vision to this organization.” Directing Wilmington’s leading homeless services network doesn’t encourage gentle breeziness. “There’s some pretty heavy stuff we’re working with here,” says Katrina, 43. “It’s a little like having an ER. Ten things are on fire at once.” There are days when there’s “an ambulance at the back door and a sheriff at the front door.” Consider: 116 beds, hundreds of individuals and families who need help or follow-up, thirty employees, 500 volunteers, a $1.7 million annual budget, two big facilities and no shortage of opinions on how to help the homeless. Thompson marvels at Katrina’s ability to multitask at that level. “One minute she’s dealing with a health emergency and fifteen minutes later she’s talking to the mayor.” Those minute-to-minute demands aren’t what gets Katrina fired up to serve the less fortunate among us. No, she starts twisting over the longtime societal ignorance and neglect that fueled the problem and keeps it burning. The old-style homeless feeding and shelter system “grew up in the early ’80s. We became a handy receiving ground for other broken systems; prisons, hospitals, mental health systems. “Keeping people alive for the night, that’s not an outcome,” she adds. “Anyone can do that.” And that “survival mode” of sheltering wasn’t really fixing anything. “That was a hard thing for us to be honest about.” Katrina, a product of a Northern Virginia family that knew poverty, blew into town ten years ago last month (via St. Louis, among other cities) to build the night shelter onto Good Shepherd’s feeding and day shelter on Martin Street between South Eighth and Ninth Streets. She has stayed because Good Shepherd’s board is also all about truly re-housing people. It is a local, home-grown shelter with deep, thirty-year-old roots in the community, which is why Katrina can call on any of thirty different churches and numerous businesses. 46

Salt • December 2014

“We benefit today from conversations and experiences we had thirty years ago,” she says gratefully. Good Shepherd has a very simple foundation: “Develop a re-housing plan for everyone who comes through here,” Katrina says, “from the Vietnam veteran who has been lost since the war” to the diabetic amputee who was “discharged from the hospital to the shelter with nothing more than a bag of ice.” “Our vision is the same for every individual, every family . . . get them back to being our neighbors again.” The shelter has successfully found homes for more than 1,000 people during this past decade — a truly staggering accomplishment for a beleaguered national system that typically counts successes by ones and twos. It’s a team effort that includes finding jobs, better medications, applying for disability and rent assistance, transportation, training, food, clothing and the all-important follow-up once a client is re-housed. “Not waiting for the phone call that the wheels have fallen off.” You want to feel some strong Katrina gusts? Place the bulk of the blame on their clients’ bad choices. “Everyone makes bad choices,” she fumes. Ignore the crushing need for affordable housing at your peril. You should already know that you have to make a minimum of $16 an hour to afford housing in this area. When she gives talks to groups about the mission, she’ll ask, “Who wants to see an end to homelessness?” “Hands go up. But when you ask if you’re willing to put affordable housing in your neighborhood, hands go down.” That’s why Katrina spins. “My mother says, ‘Katrina has a particular talent for being offended on other people’s behalf,’” she says. Katrina smiles a little wistfully as she admits her mother doesn’t mean it as a compliment. “I think we should all be indignant about social injustice. I have a real privilege to be able to do something about it — going to battle every day for folks who don’t have the weapons, the resources.” She praises Good Shepherd’s board and the amazing network of volunteers, contributors and believers. “We are blessed with so much here.” One of her key roles, she believes, is constantly pushing to improve — “raising the bar to a place that’s uncomfortable.” “We’ve developed a culture of constant tinkering,” she adds. “I’m really proud of our staff for not saying, ‘We’ve always done it this way!’” She knows she’s in a position that invites burnout — “even if you’re wired for it.” “I can’t believe I’ve lasted ten years,” she says. But the forecast calls for plenty more gusts from Hurricane Katrina. “It helps,” she says with a smile, “to be a little feisty.” b The Art & Soul of Wilmington

The Power of Dreams

Tracy Wilkes

By Virginia Holman Photographs by Mark Steelman


t is said that the last words of the Buddha were, “Make of yourself a light.” In this season of light and wonder, it’s hard to think of any public figure who has shone as bright and unwaveringly for our city as Tracy Wilkes, the cofounder and force of nature behind Dreams of Wilmington. In 1994, Tracy and her husband, Paul Wilkes, moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. Tracy was then a family therapist with a background in theater. “I often incorporated art into my therapy sessions because I knew that it could help people communicate difficult truths. I also knew that art saves lives, because it saved mine.” Tracy describes her younger self as a troubled youth who was liberated when she had the opportunity as a young adult to channel her energy into the theater. “To put on a show requires skills that a lot of troubled kids don’t have: you have to practice, you have to learn to work with a team, you have to be reliable. And it’s fun to make something.” When Tracy realized Wilmington didn’t have any afterschool arts programming for impoverished kids in the community, she spoke with her therapist colleague Judy Wall, and together, they worked to cofound Dreams of Wilmington. Now in its eighteenth year, Dreams of Wilmington provides afterschool arts-enrichment classes in genres such as dance, theater, photography, writing and music. Approximately 800 children each The Art & Soul of Wilmington

year, most of whom qualify for free or reduced lunches in New Hanover County Public Schools, attend these classes each week. “The immediate benefit is that kids have a safe, interesting place to go, where they can have successful experiences,” says Wilkes. For the kids who attend Dreams year after year, the successes multiply and accrue. The high school graduation rate skyrockets, and many of the kids go on for further education. Tracy just passed the Dreams torch to a new executive director, Matt Carvin. “I helped make and raise this baby for eighteen years. It’s now a mature organization, and I am moving on to dedicate my time to my husband, Paul, and to help him run Home of Hope, our orphanage in India.” It’s clear that it’s an exciting yet bittersweet time of transition in her life. For Tracy, everything she’s done at Dreams has been for the kids. “To see young people who face great odds come to Dreams and not just survive, but flourish, is just the greatest thing.” Tracy pauses for a minute to collect herself, then says quietly, “I’m going to miss that regular contact.” But she’s quick to point out that Dreams has never been about her, and that’s why the organization will continue to thrive and grow under new leadership. Though she’s waiting until the new year to see what else she might be called to do, she’s confident that once she knows, there will be no stopping her. “I’m dogged. I’m not even that smart. I just put on my sneakers every day and show up.” It’s the sort of statement that makes me think that anybody can do great things like Tracy, and that’s exactly what her actions say to her staff, students and friends: that you too have great things to offer. Thank you, Tracy. Wilmington will forever be better because of you. b

December 2014 •



Christmas Fruitcake

A short but tasty history (or, rather, everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask) By Nan Graham


was an adult before I realized that fruitcakes do not grow on the Southern Claxton Tree that produces the wondrous Christmas delight: a rectangular box-shaped produce with seasonal red and white stripes, harvested in Georgia during the month of December. I envisioned the Claxton trees, limbs sagging with the weight of their striped boxes. Row upon row in the hundred-acre orchard of the Yuletide cakes, with scores of seasonal workers plucking frantically round the clock so no grocery or convenience store would go without. Ours was not a fruitcake family — at least not in the culinary sense. Our holiday treats were homemade divinity, penuche and pralines. So I was somewhat reluctant to take on the ubiquitous cake as a topic. I am determined to start at the beginning. The Egyptians were the first to make the eternal cake. Those clever guys! What better to accompany you into the afterlife and through eternity than the everlasting fruitcake? The Greeks, always a bit more artsy, further refined the fruitcake with figs, pomegranates, dates and more nuts and called the revised cake the “Food of the Gods.” (Forget ambrosia, Zeus, it’s the fruitcake!) Fast forward to Founding Mother Martha Washington, who made what was called “The Great Cake.” It is unclear if it were so named because of its size and weight (twelve pounds), or its deliciousness, or its “gracious plenty” quality. It is said to have easily fed 150 people. Her granddaughter Martha Parke Custis copied this recipe from Nana Martha: Forty eggs, worked into four pounds of butter, four pounds of sugar, five pounds of flour, and an equal quantity of fruit. Add mace, nutmeg . . . wine and brandy. Martha writes, “The true fruitcake should contain but little batter in proportion to its fruit.” Baking time: five-and-a-half hours. Not included in the instructions but critical to all fruitcakes is the alcohol soak. Wine, brandy, bourbon, rum, sherry or combinations of these may be used, but the cake should be placed in an airtight tin, soaked with the chosen spirits,


Salt • December 2014

covered with a cloth, soaked again with the high-octane liquid and sealed in the tin. It is essential that the fruitcake be “fed” every single week a with teaspoon of the alcoholic liquid. This is important for its longevity and historic everlasting moisture. Just put “feed the fruitcake” down on your calendar, along with your plants penciled in to be watered weekly, or your children who may be bathed on a similar schedule. It is evident that First Lady Martha did not labor over the mammoth cake herself and spent little time in Mount Vernon’s kitchen. She certainly would pop in during the marathon baking time to check on it. It was actually the kitchen help who whipped up the monster cake to be served on the Twelfth Night (January 5) of Christmas. The English have long been fans of the fruitcake and are puzzled by the American fruitcake phobia. On Twelfth Night in London, the Drury Lane Theatre has celebrated for the last 220 plus years with punch and “the Baddeley cake,” thanks to the generous bequest of Robert Baddeley. This comic actor and philanthropist designated one hundred pounds (10,000 pounds or $15,000 in today’s money) in his 1794 will to be invested and the dividends spent to purchase cake and punch for an annual Twelfth Night celebration for the theater company. The Baddeley cake began as a plum pudding sort of dish with a bean for the king and a pea for the queen inserted. The finders of the legumes were the designated royalty for the evening festivities. Today the symbolic bean and pea have disappeared but the 21st century theater company still enjoys the evolved frosted fruitcake today. (White frosting: the English idea of gilding the lily. No one can persist in traditions like the Brits!) Another English custom: almost all traditional wedding cakes are fruitcakes covered with that white frosting. This is beyond any vision of our American fruitcake. Kate and William’s royal eight-tiered creation was built from seventeen individual fruitcakes stacked atop a twelve fruitcake base as a pedestal for the royal ubercake. The garlands on the cake were copied from the architectural The Art & Soul of Wilmington

details in the room, the nine hundred flowers each symbolized some Victorian meaning, and the tour de force were English roses for Great Britain, Scottish thistles, Welsh daffodils and Irish shamrocks, all on the seventh tier. Heather frosting was the crown on the cake. Needless to say, we across the pond have never seen any fruitcake remotely like this one. We do know that the regal wedding cake was regularly “fed” imported French brandy. No comments available on how the dessert tasted, but the brandy-laced wedding cake may have rendered many guests speechless. Back in Alabama, Marie Rudisill, eccentric aunt of author Truman Capote, wrote a book with the memorable title: Fruitcakes. It is a tribute to her famous nephew and fruitcakes through the years, which gave Marie her own slice of fame. Johnny Carson famously claimed there was really only one fruitcake in the entire world, which is re-gifted and circulated around the globe every Yuletide season. Marie, plainspoken and irreverent, was a favorite of both Johnny Carson and later Jay Leno. As a result of Carson’s oft-quoted fruitcake remark, Marie became a regular on The Tonight Show, dispensing advice on the Q&A segment “Ask The Fruitcake Lady.” The hysterical blue words of wisdom the nonagenarian gave to called-in questions quickly became the favorite talk around the water cooler. But the really hilarious clips show Jay and the tarttongued Fruitcake Lady cooking with Mel Gibson, Cuba Gooding and Tom Cruise and giving them each “what for” can still be viewed on YouTube. Marie’s sister, known as Sook, was the key character in a favorite book of mine by Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory, which opens with Sook (whose real name was Nannie Faulk) raising the kitchen window, sniffing the morning’s crisp November air and pronouncing, “Oh my, it’s fruitcake weather!” The autobiographical story, a mini-masterpiece set in Monroeville, Alabama (yes, the hometown of Harper Lee), tells of the annual fruitcake making adventure of the young boy Truman and his favorite childlike Aunt Sook. Others, even her own family, considered her peculiar behavior more than a bit odd. Little Truman, while his mother was between husbands, lived with the Faulk relatives, and an extraordinary bond grew between the little boy and his aunt. Every fall, when the air was just right, she and Truman, whom she called Buddy, prepared for the fruitcake frenzy. She and her nephew made thirty some odd cakes every November in these dark Depression times. They saved money all year for the ingredients they could not pilfer, barter or steal. With the little feisty dog Queenie, they shook nuts from a neighbor’s pecan grove, filled an ancient baby carriage with the purloined ingredient and high-tailed it through the fence with Queenie trotting behind them. Last of the ingredients to be shopped for was the most essential for any selfrespecting fruitcake: liquor. The mysterious Mr. Haha Jones, self-proclaimed Apache Indian, was the local bootlegger and proprietor of a juke joint where scandalous things happened. The usually disagreeable man always refused to let Sook pay for the whiskey, insisting on bartering with an exchange of two of her fruitcakes. Sook’s ingredients include the usual suspects (butter, sugar, eggs and flour) as well as Brazil nuts, blanched almonds, pecan halves, black walnuts, white and dark raisins, candied cherries, citron, candied pineapple, dried figs, grape jelly, grape juice, grated bitter chocolate, generous portions of bourbon, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. To whom did the thirty magnificent fruitcakes go? People that Sook and Buddy liked and admired. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor always got the pick of the lot, the very finest and first of the cakes to be mailed. “People who struck our fancy: The Baptist missionaries from Borneo, the bus driver of the six The Art & Soul of Wilmington

o’clock bus from Mobile,” writes Capote, and two fruitcakes for the notorious Mr. Haha Jones. Dozens of others went to families enduring even harder times than the Faulks. Sook and Buddy drank the last of Mr. Haha’s leftover liquor and drew the wrath of the family for their unseemly tipsy behavior. Even Queenie got a snout full of Christmas cheer. Christmas Day finds the aunt and nephew exchanging homemade kites as Christmas gifts. The two go outside and fly their creations in the winter breeze. Years later, an adult Buddy remembers those magical years with his nowdeceased eccentric aunt and looks skyward to see if there are two kites drifting across the sky, strings tangled together. “I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven,” the Capote story ends. A most poignant and touching Christmas memory indeed. Fruitcakes in my family were of the human species. My great aunt refused to vote in any election, claiming she was not a citizen of the United States because she was born right after Alabama seceded from the Union. My aunts rocking on the front porch in their slips on steamy Alabama summer nights telling stories, each trying to top the other’s hilarious tale. My brainy non-cooking grandmother who proudly shared her recipe torn from a magazine (canned pineapple ring sitting on a leaf of iceberg lettuce, some grated cheese with a dollop of Hellman’s mayonnaise on top), then launched into a full discussion of Camus and existentialism. My mother-in-law who washed Jerusalem artichokes in the local laundromat to spare her own washer the angst of the gritty tuber, to name a few. Those half-baked fruitcake relatives I can say with all honesty, I loved. The baked kind . . . not so much. b Ask Salt contributor Nan Graham to tell you about the mythic, meatloaf-shaped family “French Loaf” she received on her first married Christmas. We’ll give you a hint: It was a fruitcake.

Other good uses for a Christmas Fruitcake:

Festive (semi-edible) bookends Use as a doorstop To knock out an intruder To stop a bullet Perfect Mother-in-law Christmas gift Perfect Mother-in-law Christmas re-gift Drop on Isis terrorists Small child ottoman Give to someone special in a coma Wall insulation Anchor for small boats or canoes Save for emergency food supply in the event of a nuclear attack

December 2014 •



The Great Christmas Flounder Challenge Holiday fishes are made of this By Jason Frye Photographs by James Stefiuk


ood fads come and go, but traditions, once established, tend to die long, lingering deaths. Unfortunately, in southeastern North Carolina, we’re close to hearing the death rattle of a traditional Yuletide dish that’s all but disappeared from the culinary conversation: the Christmas Flounder. The Christmas Flounder is believed to have come about during the Depression, when gigging one of these flat fish was more affordable than a store-bought turkey or chicken. It was a working man’s dish, a peasant dish, and it used only the ingredients on hand — fresh fish, crab, oysters, grits and collards — prepared simply for the enjoyment of friends and family. The intervening years have not been kind to the Christmas Flounder and few make this dish now. Ask any of your native-Wilmingtonian friends if they’ve eaten the dish. A few will have heard of it. Even fewer will have eaten it. When I heard about the Christmas Flounder, I fell in love with the idea of it. The humble roots and actual practice of farm-to-table before farm-to-table became a trite, hipster-evoking compound adjective were as fascinating as pre-Prohibition cocktails and the revival of Southern cuisine as a whole. But for one problem: No one knows about it. I mean that in an almost literal sense. I’d heard of it, but only in passing, and knew very little until I began researching the dish. There wasn’t much to find. Mostly hearsay, mostly hand-me-down stories from someone’s granny or aunt, and very little actually on paper. When I reached out to area chefs, ones who take pride in the sort of rootsy, Southern foods among which this dish belongs, they replied with blank stares, dead air on the phone, emails that said “I’ve never heard of this.” Before I was able to challenge chefs with reinventing this dish and un-


Salt • December 2014

earthing ways to introduce it to contemporary diners, I had a challenge of my own: Find someone who knew about the dish or who was willing to learn about it. After combing my contacts, making countless calls, and scratching my head thinking of another chef to call, I arrived at three: James Doss, Tripp Engel and Jess Cabo. I spoke to them about the dish, we swapped ideas and talked about the history of it, how to put their fingerprint on it, and why it’s an important plate of food to introduce to the food conversation. I challenged them to do this and create a recipe representing their individual culinary points of view. One chef is still contemplating the elusive flounder. Perhaps the recipe, like all tradition, must constantly evolve. After speaking with the chefs, I thought about what I’d do, how I’d approach the dish. For me, the beauty of the Christmas Flounder is its simplicity: in the end, it’s flounder, oysters, crab and a simple bed of greens or grits. My own version of the dish would see the flounder battered and pan fried, finished with a little brown butter, then topped with roasted oysters and a salad of crab, shrimp and corn. I’d serve it with greens, a mix of collards and turnip greens cooked with some ham hock or thick Benton’s bacon to add some salt, and a little vinegar to wake up the flavors. I wouldn’t top it with a fried soft shelled crab (though that sounds delicious) or add the Asian chili-paste du jour to the greens (that sounds delicious too). I’d try to keep it simple, close to the heart of the dish, recognizable to a hungry time traveler visiting my dinner table. This Christmas, we at Salt invite you to take a look into our past and see a dish that sums up a time, a place and a food philosophy that’s come full circle, then cook it yourself, keeping the tradition a part of the coastal Carolina culinary vernacular. The Art & Soul of Wilmington

James Doss


Pembroke’s and Rx

ames Doss, chef-owner of Pembroke’s and Rx, two Wilmington restaurants with a heavy emphasis on rootsy, reinterpreted Southern cuisine (and two of the best restaurants in town), shakes his head when initially asked about the Christmas Flounder. “Wow, I’m going to have to ask my Aunt Cornelia about that,” says Doss. “This is a dish I’ve only heard my aunt and dad talk about; I’ve never had it. “I’d like to see this dish get treated with the reverence it deserves,” he adds. Before opening Rx in 2012, Doss spent a good bit of time cooking in Charleston, South Carolina, learning from chef Sean Brock at Husk. Brock built a name for himself for his take on Southern dishes and local ingredients as well as how he utilizes traditional techniques, antique recipes and Charleston’s food folkways in his menu. Doss is very much cut from the same cloth, not being afraid to serve a legitimate cast iron skillet-fried chicken on the same menu as Buffalo pig ears and pickled boiled peanuts. As we talk about the Christmas Flounder, I can see enthusiasm for the dish growing in him. “In those days, they just cooked with what was on hand, so it’s no surprise to find flounders, oysters, crabs, collards or grits in this. It’s crazy to think that this was the poor person’s food; I mean, now these ingredients are high-end.” The more he thinks about it, the wider his smile grows. He rattles off ingredients, naming oysters both local and far-flung to use; debates stuffing the flounder versus topping it; starts daydreaming about grits. “This is really something to think about. Exploring a dish like this is right up my alley. I’m going to play with a few ideas and put this on the menu at Pembroke’s this year. It might be up for a day or two or maybe the week before Christmas, but it would be fun to revive this dish and introduce it to modern diners.”

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •




Salt • December 2014

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

Engel’s Christmas Flounder with Seafood Gumbo Flounder

12 filets of fresh flounder (scaled) 8 ounces Wondra flour 8 ounces peanut, safflower, grape seed or canola oil Salt (preferably Redmond Real Salt) Finely ground white pepper (You will need a cast iron pan large enough for a filet or two of flounder). Season the scaled filets with salt and pepper. Dredge both sides in Wondra flour. Heat the cast iron skillet until smoking. Reduce heat slightly and add enough oil to coat the pan plus a little more. Gently and carefully place a filet or two skin side down, cooking on medium heat until the edges brown. Gently flip the filet and cook on the other side for 30 seconds. Remove the filet and place it on a towel-lined pan in a 150 degree oven (you’ll cook these filets one or two at a time and this will keep them warm as you work). After sautéing the flounder filets, arrange them on a large platter (do not stack the filets as they will break apart and become soft). Serve with a platter or bowl of gumbo and lime wedges for seasoning.

Tripp Engel


Brasserie du Soleil

e did the traditional Christmas dinner food,” says Tripp Engel, chef of Brasserie du Soleil. “I grew up here and we always had turkey, ham, sweet potatoes — the food you think of, no Christmas Flounder on the table.” That’s how they’d do it in the infancy of this dish, catch it all themselves. Get in your flat-bottomed boat, bring your trident-like flounder gig and a couple of bright flashlights or bullseye lanterns, then pole the flats until you see the flounder below. One quick thrust and you lift it into the boat, one part of the Christmas feast complete. “We’ve lost some essential connection to the land and resources around us,” Engel says. “This dish came about out of necessity. Turkey and chickens too expensive? Then use what’s nearby. It’s farm-to-fork at its truest.” Even though this dish started as a peasant food — like coq au vin, polenta, minestrone, American Soul food — it’s seen as high-end, pushing the ingredients to a price that would astound those first Depression-era diners (even if you accounted for inflation). “It’s time for someone to revive this tradition and make it a dish of renown,” Engel says. “Someone needs to elevate this dish, why not you?” I ask. Continuing, I suggest that perhaps he, Doss, Cabo and other local chefs of their ilk could be the flashpoint of the revival of the Christmas Flounder. He nods in agreement. Each of them could play with the dish, experiment with recipes and flavor combinations, local ingredients and antiquarian techniques to develop their own version of it. Each places their own coastal, international, hyper-local, technique-driven spin on the Christmas Flounder. Like Doss, Engel grins. “I may just do that. There’s a chance that Christmas Flounder shows up as a special sometime before the holidays.” The Art & Soul of Wilmington


30 ripe Roma tomatoes 3 large yellow or white onions (peeled and sliced) 18 cloves garlic (peeled and germ removed) 6–8 chipotle chiles (canned, in adobo) Salt 2 ounces oil 6 limes 4 cups diced eggplant 6 cups sliced okra 1 bunch epazote (herb; optional) 6 cups shrimp stock (made from shells and heads) 24 clams (scrubbed) 48 shrimp (peeled and deveined) 24 oysters (shucked, liquor reserved) 4 cups sliced scallions Puree tomatoes, onions, garlic and chipotles in a blender until liquefied and smooth. Pass through a large mesh strainer, pushing all liquid through. In large pot, warm 2 ounces of oil. Add diced eggplant and okra. Cook on high heat, add salt to taste. When the vegetables begin to soften, add the puree and epazote (if desired). Add shrimp stock and simmer until slightly thickened. Add clams, simmer. As the clams begin to open, add shrimp. When the shrimp is almost cooked through, remove the pot from the heat and add oysters and oyster liquor. Taste and season with salt and lime juice. Remove epazote and add sliced scallions. Reserve.

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Jess Cabo


CAM Café

ess Cabo, executive chef at the Cameron Art Museum’s CAM Café, knows about building new holiday traditions. Since she moved to North Carolina from California a few years ago, she’s shifted from the expected Christmas turkey to a Christmas crab boil. “It’s always fun to do something new. That’s why my menu is set up the way it is and that’s why we started our holiday crab boil,” she says. That’s also why when I told her about the Christmas Flounder, I saw an eyebrow raise in curiosity. Cabo’s CAM Café menu does offer up something a little different. She’s not afraid to play with Southern flavors and throw in some of her own California flair (she did attend UNCW, but began her professional cooking career on the West Coast), and she’s not afraid to explore dishes, ingredients and flavor combinations that may be new to Wilmington diners. CAM Café was a lunch-only spot, but they’ve expanded beyond that, and Cabo’s Thursday night dinners have become so popular, she decided to add Wednesday night tapas. Spanish flavors and North Carolina ingredients inspired the first tapas menu, but she’s already talking about the next menu, which will bring Japanese-inspired small plates to the CAM. She cuts herself off from going down a ramen rabbit hole and turns back to the Christmas Flounder. “The ingredients — grits, collards, that local seafood — were common, and for the most part simple dinner staples for the area. The simplicity is what calls to me. A stuffed flounder, a bed of grits, and some collards? It seems like this should be another unremarkable dinner, but it’s not.” Indeed. The fact that in so many homes, a fish was presented at the Christmas table rather than a turkey or brace of roast chickens is interesting in and of itself. Add to that each family twist on the dish and the nuances of the particular oysters, crabs or clams harvested for this dinner and you have something far greater than just a stuffed fish. “Those flavors, they’re all so powerful, but so delicate, I can imagine them stepping on each other. You could make them distinct: smoke or roast the oysters, then use them in a cornbread stuffing as a counterpoint to the rich crab; a chiffonade of baby collards with picked crab as a sort of salad; maybe serve it with a lemon beurre blanc. Yeah, I see a lot of potential to step this dish up and make it special to present-day diners while staying true to its roots.”

Cabo’s Crab Collard Dip

1 cup cooked collard greens Olive Oil Butter 16 ounces picked blue crab, ideally fresh (pasteurized canned can substitute) 1 cup mayo 1 cup greek yogurt 1 cup softened cream cheese 1.5 cup shredded mozzarella 1.5 cup shaved parmesan 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper Zest and juice of 1 lemon Finely shred or julienne young collard greens. Sautée in olive oil and 1 tab butter until softened but still bright green. Chop. You will need 2 cups cooked. Mix all ingredients, place in Pyrex or casserole dish. Top with more cheese, Panko breadcrumbs and herbs as you like. Bake at 350 degrees until golden and bubbly. Enjoy with crackers, tortilla chips, baguette, etc. 54

Salt • December 2014

Flounder en papillote with Oyster Chestnut Cornbread Stuffing Flounder en papillote

Lay out piece of parchment paper. Lay out flounder filet, top with stuffing that has not been baked. Drizzle with olive oil, butter, squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper, fresh herbs. Close parchment paper with folds. Bake at 350 degrees for 12–15 minutes. Open and serve.


Corn bread cubed and toasted (we used a corn bread recipe 2x) Sautée in 1 pound butter: 2 yellow onions, diced 1 whole celery, diced 30 chestnuts roasted, peeled, diced 1 pint of oysters and juice Five sage leaves 1/2 cayenne pepper 2 cups veggie or chicken stock Salt and pepper to taste Toss this mixture with cornbread and 2 cups of stock (veggie or chicken). Bake on 350 in a buttered roasting pan for 20 minutes or until toasted on top and still moist. Serve as a side dish. b

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •



s t o r y

o f


h o u s e

Old Wilmington is Looking Up The generous spirit of two Bobs — one living, one remembered — infuses the historic Richard Price House and animates the Port City’s 40th Candlelight Tour


By Ashley Wahl • Photographs by Rick Ricozzi

ob Warren, 71, is sitting on his front porch reading aloud a typewritten letter dated January 5, 1839. It is a note from Richard W. Price, shipbuilder and harbor master of the Port of Wilmington, to his sister-in-law, Mrs. Elizabeth Blanks Carrollton. With the near-completion of the Wilmington to Weldon railroad and the number of “very fine steam boats” now running between here and Charleston, Price paints the image of an up-and-coming city on the cusp of better times:


Salt • December 2014

Every house has been repaired and painted up handsomely and many others erected; the streets have been graded and covered with sawdust, which makes it very pleasant riding or walking over them. Indeed, old Wilmington is looking up. He reads the last line twice for emphasis. “That’s what inspired the name,” says Warren, referring to the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour. Just two years after they bought the house at 125 South Fifth Avenue, Bob Warren and Bob Lane began planning a grand Christmas tour that would showThe Art & Soul of Wilmington

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •




Salt • December 2014

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

case some of the most historically significant homes and buildings in downtown Wilmington and raise funds for the restoration of the Latimer House servants’ quarters. There would be carolers, docents dressed in period costumes, and over twenty beautifully decorated churches and homes, including the 1840 Greek Revival that once belonged to Richard Price. Forty years later, the Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour is as popular as ever, but it is only one of several ways that “the Bobs” have left their mark on the Port City. After having met in their early 20s, the Bobs became actively involved in Wilmington’s early preservation movement. Bob Warren, who was one of College Park Elementary School’s first male teachers, was founder and first president of the Residents of Old Wilmington. Bob Lane had created a cabin museum in his hometown of Mount Olive by age 14 and was the visual merchandiser at Belk Beery department store in downtown Wilmington for 38 years. “He was really good at putting things together,” says Warren. For the Bobs, preservation and presentation were ways of life. As was Christmas. Year after year, they put candles in the windows; fragranced the house with fresh greenery; made apple trees and pineapple wreaths; baked gingerbread men and pecan pies; had mulled cider simmering on the stovetop. In 2010, Bob Lane died of a heart attack at age 64. The Richard Price House was treeless for three years. “Last year I helped some friends decorate and it just put me in the mood,” says Warren, whose green eyes light up like a child’s when he mentions Christmas. “But it’s still more fun when you’re sharing it with someone.” And so he’ll share it with the public. This year, the house with the tavern-green shutters and gable-roofed portico will be one of over a dozen stops on the fortieth annual Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour to benefit the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. Each house will be festively decorated by the owners in their custom, and the tour will draw hundreds of people downtown to experience the charm of a port city whose robust past remains a part of its very essence. It’s exactly what the Bobs envisioned as young ambassadors of historic preservation.

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •




eyond the faux mahogany front door, upon which hangs a fragrant wreath adorned with sprigs of winter berries, Lady apples and cotton from Bob’s family farm in Sampson County, is the product of two souls so utterly fascinated by history that virtually every inch of every surface exhibits locally or regionally significant memorabilia. It’s exquisitely curated. Even before they opened J. Robert Warren Antiques on Orange Street, the Bobs collected North Carolina and Wilmington-made furniture, pottery and silverware, specifically items that match or predate the age of the house. There are no blank slates. Tables settings styled to showroom standard include eye-catching centerpieces brimming with antebellum whimsy; sideboards and dumbwaiters display pomander balls (oranges studded with cloves), candelabras and Canton porcelain; walls are covered with framed artwork, etchings and early maps, including, for example, an 1854 nautical chart of the Cape Fear River used by famed blockade runner John Newland Maffitt. In many ways, the interior serves as a comprehensive archive of Wilmington and the Colonial South. But “this is not a museum house,” Warren assures his visitor. The relics are merely record of a lifetime of shared interests. Without the collections and décor, he would still have memories enough to fill this space one hundred times over. In the foyer, walls are festooned with engravings and silhouettes of historical figures and Southern icons, each one with a backstory. Warren points to an early portrait engraving of Queen Elizabeth I and recites a brief history of the trials and triumphs leading up to the first English settlement. There are renderings of Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington; Founding Fathers George Washington and Benjamin Franklin; Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America; General Robert E. Lee — an entire army of leaders stretching up the wall along the staircase. An engraving of Lady Jane Lane, “who helped save King Charles II at some point in history,” triggers talk of another passion the Bobs shared — genealogy. “Bob (Lane) was descended from Jane Lane,” Warren explains. And as it turns out, both Bobs are collaterally related to Catherine Kenan Holmes Price, whose photograph, displayed in the parlor,


Salt • December 2014

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •




Salt • December 2014

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

was taken after the death of her husband (Richard Price). “These belonged to Catherine,” says Warren, carefully lifting two brittle testaments from a Chippendale-style mahogany chest with satin wood inlay. “They were given to her on the anniversary of her fiftieth year as a member of First Presbyterian Church.” Betsey “Bettie” Kenan Price (third eldest child) was the last Price to live here. Her viewing was held in the parlor, where a Sheraton-style sofa faces a coal fireplace with polished steel insert. When Bettie died in 1924, the deed to the house was executed to W. P. Toomer (Uncle Whit). The Bobs bought it in 1971. “Many times we’d driven by this house and admired it,” says Warren, who called to schedule a tour of the house the day after hearing it was for sale. When Bob Warren told Bob Lane about the appointment, Bob Lane grinned. As it turned out, he’d called for an appointment, too. “We came to see the house together and were living here in a week,” says Warren. Part of the fun of living in a house that predates the invention of the incandescent light bulb is, of course, discovering its history. When the house was built, explains Warren, Fifth Avenue was called Boundary Street. “We think this tree was a boundary tree marker for the boundary of the city of Wilmington,” he says, pointing to an oak out front that canopied the house until Hurricane Bertha felled a massive section of it. “When it cracked open, cannonballs and bricks were inside.” Warren speculates that the weight of the materials, likely used to repair a hole in the tree long ago, are what caused the ancient tree to snap. “But it’s still alive,” he notes. “It’s my bonsai tree.” Through the parlor and “back room” (den) where heart pine floors are decked with needlepoint and oriental rugs, a sunny hallway lined with Wilmingtonmade art leads to a cozy kitchen with pine cabinets and brick-patterned floors. “Originally, the kitchen was not in the house,” explains Warren. “It The Art & Soul of Wilmington

was next door.” He enclosed the hallway, which was part of the original L-shaped doublegallery porch. By the back door to the garden is a photograph of “a salty old fellow” named Mr. Pancoast, who owned the former Old Curiosity Shop in Southport. “He used to go to the airport dressed in his suit, fly to England and Wales, and walk in and buy a whole antique shop at once.” When Mr. Pancoast returned to his shop, where he’d shipped the containers of goods, he’d call Bob Warren to help him unpack. “For me it was like Christmas,” Warren admits. Which is sort of how he feels about his own collection of curiosities: spill vases; antique potty chairs; Jugtown pottery; eighteenth century pipes; finger bowls and wine rinsers; a pair of “fancy” maple side chairs made in Wilmington circa 1820; an iron bird roaster; early work by Wilmington artist Claude Howell and his mystical teacher, Elisabeth Chant; nineteenth century wax German figures of Saint Nicholas; the “pirate bathroom” off the den where a claw-foot tub hosts a nautical display of sea fans, shells and a wood paper mache mold of an anchor. When guests walk through the old Richard Price House — parlor, den, dining room, butler’s pantry, kitchen and backyard garden (upstairs, which includes four bedrooms two baths, will be closed to the public) — Bob Warren’s love of Christmas will be palpable. And when he thinks back to that first candlelight tour, he’ll smile knowing it’s something he and Bob Lane started together. Their legacy makes old Wilmington a brighter place. b The Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour takes place Saturday, December 6, from 4–8 p.m., and Sunday, December 7, from 2–6 p.m. Tickets, $30, can be purchased at the Latimer House, area Harris Teeters, Barnes & Noble, Candles Etc., The Ivy Cottage and Two Sisters Bookery. Information: (910) 762-0492 or December 2014 •



Hungry to Help

Led by siblings Carmin and Christian Black, Half United is feeding the world — and folks in the neighborhood By Barbara J. Sullivan • Photographs by Mark Steelman

Sydney Painter and Sophie weed around the baby kale Rebecca Mitchell adds salt to the soil to lower the pH levels.


here’s something to be said for being young, passionately inspired and com-

pletely in over your head. “We didn’t know what we were doing. Had we known what we were doing, we wouldn’t still be in business.” These are the words of 30-year-old Carmin Black, looking back to a time five years ago when she and her brother, Christian, then aged 19, launched their own company with two goals in mind: to make a profit and to feed hungry children. They had $200 to invest. Five years later their business, Half United, is expanding almost as rapidly as they can keep up with it, offering over one hundred styles of necklaces, bracelets, earrings and T-shirts online and in retail stores. As Carmin says, “It’s taken over my life.” They’ve made good on their anti-hunger commitment as well. As of this fall, Half United has bought close to 114,000 meals for hungry children in the U.S. and overseas. In Fiji, their donations pay for lunches for primary school children at a Christian training center. In Liberia they partner with Empowerment Advocates International to feed orphans. They’ve supported organizations feeding needy children in Liberia and Madagascar as well. Back home in Wilmington, the five-person staff does its part to fight hunger locally. They’ve worked with Nourish NC, stuffing backpacks for schoolchildren who might otherwise go hungry over weekends, holidays and summer vacations. They’ve donated time and money to the Food Bank scooping bulk rice into hundreds of individual bags to be distributed through the agency’s “No one goes hungry” programs. And they recently partnered with FoodCorps and Feast Down East to create a vegetable and herb garden for the elementary school students at Snipes Academy. Launching a start-up with zero experience and, at the same time, figuring out how to make a dent in the problem of world food insecurity could be described as a double-barreled challenge. In this case, the description would be more than fitting because gun barrels, and more particularly recycled bullet casings, figure prominently in the Half United story. The company’s signature jewelry item and one of its best-selling products is a pendant necklace featuring an empty brass shell casing highlighted with a fashionable splash of blue, pink, green or other bright enamel color. Although such edgy war-on-hunger symbolism might be a stretch for the older generation of shoppers, “People under 30 totally get it.” Half United’s other products, like their “Giving Back Is The New Black” T-shirt, are equally symbolic of a generational impulse among millennials to leave the world a better place than they found it. 64

Salt • December 2014

A plot of young carrots

Kristin Palmer, Savanna Mitchell, Danielle Day, and CJ Greco pick mustard greens Savanna Mitchell and Danielle Day spread cornmeal

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

Standing: Carmin Black, Sydney Painter, Kristin Palmer, Ian Sellers Sitting: Lou (the dog), Savanna Mitchell, Christian Black, Danielle Day, CJ Greco

A plot of red and green romaine lettuce

CJ Greco turns over new soil and picks weeds

It’s no surprise that the Black siblings manifest this unusual mix of business ambition and saving-the-world-one-person-at-a-time ethic. Their father, a minister, used to roust them out of bed on weekends to come along on pastoral visits to the sick and needy. Grandfathers on both sides were ministers, and the church has always been central in their lives. On the other hand, many of their close family members have owned and operated businesses — everything from general contracting to operating restaurants, a music store, a sporting goods store, a barber shop, a design company, a grocery store and even a peach orchard. Long hours of hard work come with the territory — they get that. The idea of combining an outreach mission within a for-profit business model came to Carmin when she was in her early 20s. At that time she worked as a traveling spokesperson for the then-fledgling TOMS shoe company, one of the first and best-known American businesses to embrace do-good commerce. The idea was simple. For each pair of shoes they sold, TOMS promised to donate a pair to a child in a developing country. This buy-one-give-one model has since been adThe Art & Soul of Wilmington

opted by Warby Parker Eyewear, SoapBox Soaps and Two Degrees Food, among hundreds of others. What Carmin saw in her travels around the country for TOMS was a growing trend toward “conscious consumerism,” especially among young shoppers. As she and her brother brainstormed around this concept, they hit on an even more open-ended model of charitable entrepreneurship: They would give away half of their profits to fight hunger. Why hunger in particular? Both grew up feeding the hungry in a very literal sense. They worked in their grandfather’s church-sponsored food pantry. They bought groceries for parishioners and cooked meals. Their family dinner table was open to friends and strangers alike. As they listened to stories of hardship, their compassion — especially for those suffering from food insecurity — grew stronger. Although Half United’s small five-person staff has invested a lot of sweat equity, assembling, packing and shipping much of the jewelry themselves, they’ve also enlisted the support of for-profit and not-for-profit businesses who want to help them succeed. Shooter’s Choice, for example, donates the spent shell casings for the jewelry. Mattress Firm donated money, plants and volunteer labor to get the company garden under way last spring. A few months later, GE employees helped pull weeds and rake leaves. Wait. The company garden? How could this young, already overtaxed group of idealists possibly have time to make a company garden? Well, let’s just say Carmin and Christian care so much about hunger that they want Half United to be involved in the whole process from dirt to dinner plate if at all humanly possible. If feeding, nurturing, providing sustenance is the Holy Grail of their charitable mission, why not feed the neighbors while you’re at it? The company garden occupies narrow strips of land on two sides of their North Fourth Street headquarters. Vegetables and herbs are planted in the ground and in ten raised beds — wooden structures built by friendly neighborhood architect Rob Minton. Neighbors helped themselves all summer to tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, kale and peppers. Half a dozen herb varieties including sage, mint, cilantro, parsley, rosemary and thyme grow alongside the veggies. It’s been a learning experience for the staff. Some vegetables turn out to be more popular than others. Swiss chard, for example — not such a hit. Help has also come in the form of energetic UNCW college students who formed a Half United Club on campus and showed up for the digging of the first garden. Since then, they’ve been consulting with Master Gardeners at the New Hanover County Arboretum to make the garden even more productive when they renovate it this fall. Nine new raised beds are in the offing and lots of cool-weather veggies. And thinking ahead to next summer, club members are planning a “hash brown garden” (potatoes, onions and green peppers) and a “salsa garden” (jalapeños, tomatoes and onions) complete with recipe cards for the curious. With their record of charging ahead against all odds and leveraging a broad base of community support, it’s no surprise that Carmin, Christian and their co-workers aspire to do even more in the future. This fall they hope to work with D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy and the Blue Ribbon Commission to arrange field trips to the company garden. The idea is that middle schoolers, just like elementary school kids, need to learn where their food comes from, to get in touch with what’s healthy, nutritious and natural; to get off junk food and truly feed themselves from the bounty of the Earth. Carmin will tell you with a forthright passion just how important all of this is. She has never stopped believing in what she’s doing. In fact, she took time out this past September to travel to Washington, D.C., to give a speech about it to the U.S. House of Representatives. Hunger is real, she told them, and small businesses like Half United can make a difference. “This company and our team have great potential to make an impact,” she says. Never mind how much of an uphill battle it might be. Never mind the long hours and sometimes overwhelming pace of growth which threatens to consume them all. Knowing that small children halfway around the world are sitting down to eat lunch that day or watching a neighbor leave the Half United garden with an armful of cabbages in the afternoon — that’s what keeps them going. That and a faith that their mission of charitable commerce will have the support it needs to succeed, in whatever form and however long that might take. b December 2014 •



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“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” — Dr. Seuss

By Noah Salt

Santa’s Favorite Hot Chocolate

The Almanac Gardener freely admits to being a serious chocolate freak, especially at the holidays when it comes to making and consuming hot chocolate. Here’s some invaluable time-tested guidelines for making the best hot chocolate Santa’s ever tasted, which we learned about a few years ago during a winter visit to England. Time to upgrade your chocolate. No Swiss Miss permitted. Santa will be pleased. Only use solid chocolate instead of cocoa power. Gourmet dark chocolate is best, high quality semi-sweet or bittersweet preferred, about two ounces for every cup. Whole milk is best but we sometimes even sneak in half a cup of evaporated milk for extra creaminess. Sweeten with natural sugar or honey — but don’t overdo it. Let the strong flavor of natural chocolate rule. Heat the milk and add the crumbled chocolate slowly, whisking until well blended. This prevents burning the chocolate and ruining the taste. Add modest pinches of cinnamon, nutmeg and sea salt, to taste. A more adventurous friend sometimes dusts with chili power. A teaspoon of vanilla extract helps balance out the flavors. This is our secret ingredient. For non-teetotaling Santas, a thimble of Baileys Irish Cream or Amaretto adds the final touch. Add a scoop of marshmallow or — even better — dollop of homemade whipped cream. (Don’t forget the biscuit for the reindeer.)

Month of Lists

The final month of the year seems to bring a blizzard of important lists: Christmas lists, Garden lists, Grocery lists, lists of party guests, to-do lists of household chores, bulbs to order for spring, crucial spirits to have on hand, cards that still must be addressed and mailed by whenever, and so forth. And, don’t forget, there’s Santa’s all-important wish list to keep in mind. Truthfully, the older we get, the more we like lists — or at least need them in order to make sure every vital task gets done. We genuinely don’t mind growing old gracefully, just not forgetfully. And December is a month tailor-made for long thoughts of one’s mortality by a warming fire, before the New Year’s Eve’s bubbly is purchased. With the final hours of yet another year suddenly passing, and the longest night of the year on the threshold, we’re tempted to make our own list of long and wooly thoughts on the subject of a dying year and our own mortality. We’ll simply let a heartfelt “Happy Christmas and New Year” suffice with a thought attributed to Leo Tolstoy as his days dwindled: “We shall all meet again — when we have arrived.”

Plants for Holiday Giving

Cold winds whistle and the garden lies fallow. But that doesn’t mean everything must stop growing season’s over — at least indoors. For decades the pointsetta has been the holiday gift plant of choice but nowadays there are plenty of other appealing options. Here are a few Alamanac favorites: Paperwhites. Carefree bulb that produces bunches of cheerful, fragrant white blooms in the heart of winter. Amaryllis. Easy to grow from bulb and available at any garden shop in an array of splashy colors. Christmas cactus. One of our favorites, a succulent that produces beautiful blooms at the holidays. Prefers cool sunny places. Christmas fern. A great indoor plant that can easily translate to the outdoors come spring. Orchids. Low maintenance and elegant. Juniper bonsai plant. Requires some attention but provides a striking presence to any indoor setting. Potted herbs. Perfect for a kitchen window. Peace lily. Glorious green foliage with flag-like flowers that bloom constantly. Easy to care for and no-fuss.

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •



c a l e n d a r

Arts Calendar

December 2014

John Pizzarelli Quartet

Energy Clearing Meditation





Festival of Trees

10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Wander through a winter wonderland of trees sponsored and decorated by local businesses and organizations. Admission: $6–13. Proceeds benefit Lower Cape Fear Hospice & Life Care Center. Cameron Art Museum, 3201 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 3955999 or


Santa at Mayfaire

Santa’s helpers will be reading stories and hosting arts and crafts activities while Santa visits and poses for pictures with children. Frozen’s Elsa will make a special appearance 12/1–12/4. Proceeds benefit local non-profits. Mayfaire Town Center, 1055 International Drive, Wilmington. Info:


Holiday Marketplace

4–8 p.m. High-end vendors sell seasonal gifts for women, men and children, including home décor, gift baskets, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations and more. Includes complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cash bar. Admission: $20. Proceeds


Salt • December 2014

Downton Abbey Tea


benefit the Landfall Foundation. Country Club of Landfall, 800 Sunrunner Place, Wilmington. Info: (910) 256-8411 or marketplace.html.

No experience necessary. Admission: $10–15 (you choose). McKay Healing Arts, 4916 Wrightsville Avenue, Wilmington. Info: www.



John Pizzarelli Quartet Live


One-Man Christmas Carol

4 & 7 p.m. Jeremy Webb reminds us of the true Christmas spirit through his one-man portrayal of all the characters in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Admission: $18–32. Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 632-2285 or www.


Energy Clearing Meditation

6:15–7:15 p.m. Energy clearing meditation for vibrancy led by energy healer Jennifer Chapis.




8 p.m. World-renowned jazz maestro and singer John Pizzarelli performs swing and jazz originals plus classic holiday standards. Admission: $25– 45. UNCW Kenan Auditorium, 515 Wagoner Drive, Wilmington. Info: (910) 962-3500 or

It’s a Wonderful Life

Tea & Cookie Exchange

3 p.m. Traditional English tea and cookie exchange open exclusively to New Hanover County Master Gardeners and Friends of the Arboretum. Includes live entertainment by Beach Music and special guest Chef John DiSalvo. Guests will each take home two-dozen homemade cookies (with recipes). Admission: $25 (donation) plus two-dozen homemade cookies with recipes. New Hanover County Arboretum, Auditorium, 6206 Oleander Drive, Wilmington. Info: (910) 239-9184 or arboretum.

12/4 Greenfield Park Tree Lighting

6 p.m. Tree lighting at the World’s Largest Rotary Wheel followed by snacks, beverages and a visit with Santa. Admission: Free. Greenfield Lake Park, 1941 Amphitheater Drive, Wilmington. Info: (910) 341-4602 or



Children’s Ballet


Holiday Folk Concert

7 p.m. A sixty-minute narrated version of the The Little Mermaid with a cast of thirteen dancers, beautiful costumes and imaginative sets. Admission: $15–20. Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 632-2285 or 7:30 p.m. The Annie Moses Band brings their technical skill and exhilarating showmanship to the stage for a Christmas concert. Admission: $10– 29. Odell Williamson Auditorium, Brunswick Community College, 50 College Road NW, Bolivia. Info: (910) 755-7416 or

12/4 & 6 Junior Naturalist Program

1:30–3:30 p.m. Nature program at Halyburton Park for ages 6–11. Theme: Nature Painting 101, an introduction to the methods and materials used to paint wildlife, scenery and individual critters. Admission: $10. Halyburton Park, 4099 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 3410075 or

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

D e c e m b e r


Children’s Theatre

7 p.m. (Thursday – Saturday); 3 p.m. (Sunday). Thalian Association Children’s Theatre presents the holiday musical Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. Thalian Association will also collect letters to Santa and donate $1 for every letter received to Make-A-Wish. Admission: $12. Hannah Block Second Street Stage, 120 South Second Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 251-1788 or

12/4–21 Holiday Musical Mash-up

8 p.m. (Thursday – Saturday); 3 p.m. (Sunday). Every Christmas Story Ever Told is a madcap romp through the holiday season including Christmas traditions from around the world, seasonal icons from ancient times to today, and every carol ever sung. Admission: $15–20. Cape Fear Playhouse, 613 Castle Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 3675237 or


Island of Lights Parade

7:30–10 p.m. Exquisite Christmas procession featuring nighttime displays, floats, live music and a visit from Santa. Admission: Free. Atlanta Avenue & South Lake Park Boulevard, Carolina Beach. Info: (910) 458-5507 or

12/5 & 6

The Nutcracker Ballet

4 & 7 p.m. (Friday); 10 a.m. (Saturday). New York’s Ballet for Young Audiences performs their sixtyminute narrated version of the classic tale about a girl named Clara and her magical Yuletide journey. Admission: $15–20. Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 632-2285 or www.


Holiday Flea at BAC

3–9 p.m. (Friday); 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Saturday); 12–5 p.m. (Sunday). Shop with dozens of the region’s finest vendors for vintage, retro and up-cycled treasures. Local food trucks and cash bar on site; admission includes a raffle ticket. Admission: $5. Brooklyn Arts Center, 516 North Fourth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 538-2939 or


Holiday Musical

8 p.m. City Stage presents A Christmas Story: The Musical, the popular holiday tale of a boy who dreams of getting a BB gun for Christmas. Admission: $18–25. City Stage, 21 North Front Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 342-0272 or www.


Holiday Dinner Theatre

7 p.m. A Trailer Park Christmas features live music, audience interaction and a whole mess of hillbilly hilarity. See website for schedule. Admission: $24–42. TheatreNOW, 19 South Tenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 399-3669 or


Enchanted Airlie

5–7 p.m. & 7–9 p.m. Stroll through the gardens on a self-guided tour featuring festive lights, music and spectacular holiday displays. See website for dates. Admission: $12–27. Airlie Gardens, 300 Airlie Road, Wilmington. Info: (910) 798-7700 or


Trails for Tails

9 a.m. 5K trail run through the Abbey Nature Preserve to help neglected and abandoned farm animals. Post-race, enjoy arts, crafts and food vendors, cow pie bingo, a 50/50 raffle, photos with barnyard animals, and educational presentations by law en-

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

forcement officers. Admission: $10–30. Proceeds support the Poplar Grove Animal Sanctuary. Poplar Grove Plantation, 10200 US Highway 17 North, Wilmington. Info: (910) 352-6131 or www.


Birding Program

9–11 a.m. Backyard birding program with a park naturalist. Includes birding basics, how to build your own backyard bird oasis and what treats and feeders will attract them. Admission: $10. Halyburton Park, 4099 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 341-0075 or www.


Moravian Candle Tea

9 a.m. – 3 p. m. Local holiday tradition where you’ll find Moravian cookies and sugar cake, music, and crafts such as beeswax candles, folded paper stars and Advent wreaths. Admission: Free. Covenant Moravian Church, 4126 South College Road, Wilmington. Info:

12/6 Fort Fisher Artillery Program

10 a.m. – 4 p.m. The defenders of Fort Fisher withstood the heaviest naval bombardments in U.S. history up to WWII; We Kept Our Courage Up demonstrates how the artillerymen performed their jobs. Witness the firing of the seacoast 32-pounder in Shepherd’s Battery, infantry drills and demonstrations by costumed interpreters and re-enactors. Admission: Free. Fort Fisher State Historic Site, 1610 Fort Fisher Boulevard South, Kure Beach. Info: (910) 458-5538 or


Jingle on the Beach

10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Family-friendly fun includes musical entertainment, breakfast, hot chocolate, arts and crafts, holiday photos and a visit with Santa. Admission: $10–25; parents admitted free. Proceeds benefit the Cape Fear Volunteer Center. Wrightsville Beach Park, 321 Causeway Drive, Wrightsville Beach. Info: (910) 392-8180 or


Shell Island Bridal Show

1–5 p.m. A showcase of wedding resources including a tour of Shell Island Resort’s ballrooms, a fashion show by the Wedding Dress Shoppe, live music, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, door prizes, giveaways and more. Shell Island Resort, 2700 North Lumina Avenue, Wrightsville Beach. Info: (800) 689-6765 or www.shellisland. com/2014-bridal-show.

12/6 Celebration of Mystery Writing

2–3:30 p.m. Mingle with local mystery writers and buy copies of their books for your thrillerloving-friends. Husband and wife writers Jim and Joyce Lavene from Charlotte will be special guests. Festive refreshments will be served and complimentary gift-wrapping will be offered by the Friends of the Library. Main Library, 201 Chestnut Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 798-6323.


Energy Clearing Meditation

5:15–6:15 p.m. Energy clearing meditation for balance led by energy healer Jennifer Chapis. No experience necessary. Admission: $15. Groove Jet Salon & Spa, 112 Princess Street, Wilmington. Info:


Wilmington Fur Ball

6:30–10:30 p.m. Black tie celebration featuring hors d’oeuvres, wine, beer and champagne, live music by the Horizon band, and live and silent auctions. Admission: $95/person; $760/table of 8;

c a l e n d a r

$950/table of 10. Proceeds benefit Pender Humane Society and Adopt an Angel. Country Club of Wilmington, 800 Sun Runner Place, Wilmington. Info: (910) 274-8953 or


Celtic Christmas Concert

7 p.m. Live music by Jennifer Licko Band and threetime All-Ireland fiddle champion Dylan Foley. Admission: Free. Wrightsville United Methodist Church, 4 Live Oak Drive, Wrightsville Beach. Info: (910) 256-4471 or


Ginger Blast

7–9 p.m. Enjoy live music, a cash bar and sweet and savory delights from CAM Café as the Cape Fear Festival of Trees celebrates this year’s gingerbread creations and prize-winners. Admission: $25–30. Cameron Art Museum, 3201 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 395-5999 or


Music on Market

7:30 p.m. Nationally acclaimed hand-bell ensemble, the Raleigh Ringers perform as part of the Music on Market Fine Arts Series. Admission: Free. St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1416 Market Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 7629693 or

12/6 Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla 6 p.m. Vessels covered in lights and holiday decorations cruise between Snow’s Cut and the Carolina Beach Boat Basin, competing for prizes and entertaining crowds. Admission: Free. Carolina Beach Yacht Basin & Marina, 216 Canal Drive, Carolina Beach. Info: (910) 4580221 or

12/6 & 7

Craft & Plant Market

10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Holiday market featuring handmade items ($50 or less) crafted by local artisans, plus poinsettias, Christmas cactuses and gift planters created by the New Hanover County School’s Transitions Program. Children’s crafts and photos with the Rabbit Club bunnies on Saturday. Proceeds benefit the Ability Garden. New Hanover County Arboretum, 6206 Oleander Drive, Wilmington. Info: (910) 798-7682 or arboretum.

12/6 & 7 Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour 4–8 p.m. (Saturday); 2–6 p.m. (Sunday). A festive tour of beautifully decorated private homes, churches and historical sites in downtown Wilmington. Admission: $30. Proceeds benefit the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. Latimer House, 126 South Third Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 762-0492 or

12/6–21 Polar Express Holiday Show

4:30 & 5:30 p.m. Enjoy the telling of this holiday classic followed by cookies and cocoa, on-air personalities from WWAY-TV3, and a visit from Santa. Show dates include 12/6, 13–14, 20–21. Admission: $5. Wilmington Railroad Museum, 505 Nutt Street, Wilmington. Info:


Battleship Alive

8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Costumed interpreters provide insight into the daily life of the crew aboard the USS North Carolina through demonstrations and activities. The Home Front division will demonstrate a 1940s’ Christmas in the auditorium with a chance to play vintage records, type on a period

typewriter, share recipes and make ornaments, popcorn garland, Christmas cards and care packages. The Battleship Barbershop Quartet will perform beach music in the barbershop, and the post office will perform mail call and receive letters and packages in conjunction with the Big Read. Admission: $6–12. Battleship NC, 1 Battleship Road, Wilmington. Info: (910) 251-5797 or www.


Aniwave Festival


Energy Clearing Meditation

10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Aniwave festival includes Japanese animation, cosplay, video games and comics through workshops, demos, games and more. Admission: $10. Wilmington Convention Center, 10 Convention Center Drive, Wilmington. Info: 10–11 a.m. Energy clearing meditation for inner light led by energy healer Jennifer Chapis. No experience necessary. Admission: $10–15 (you choose). Exhale Yoga and Wellness Studio, Sixteenth South Front Street, Wilmington (enter in alley). Info: or

12/7 Christmas Open House & Gift Show

11 a.m. – 4 p.m. One-of-a-kind gifts, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, wagon rides through the Abbey Nature Preserve, and opportunity to marvel at the beautifully decorated 1850 Manor House. Admission: $3 (suggested). Poplar Grove Plantation, 10200 US Highway 17 North, Wilmington. Info: (910) 686-9518 or


Pearl Harbor Remembrance


City Holiday Parade

NC QSO Azalea Coast Amateur Ham Radio Club hosts a worldwide ham radio operator event onboard the Battleship commemorating the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Battleship NC, 1 Battleship Road, Wilmington. Info: (910) 251-5797 or www. 5:40 p.m. Join local community groups, schools, bands and businesses for a festive procession through historic downtown Wilmington. Parade starts at the corner of North Front Walnut Streets traveling south to Orange Street and back north on Water Street. Admission: Free. Downtown Wilmington. Info: (910) 341-4602 or

12/7 Emerging Choreographers’ Showcase

7 p.m. A performance that pairs aspiring choreographers (ages 13 and up) with mentors to create original works, offering real life experience in everything from creating movement to constructing costumes and advertising. Thalian Hall, Studio Theatre, 310 Chestnut Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 632-2285 or

12/9 House

Fort Fisher Holiday Open

10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Enjoy gift shop discounts, seasonal refreshments, decorations, live entertainment and holiday cheer. Period music and dance by the Murray Middle School Jazz Band, John Golden, Dr. John Bennett and Masonboro Parlor. Admission: Free. Fort Fisher State Historic Site, 1610 Fort Fisher Boulevard South, Kure Beach. Info: (910) 4585538 or

December 2014 •



D e c e m b e r 12/9

Good Friends Luncheon

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Social luncheon to benefit Good Friends Wilmington. Wilmington Convention Center, 10 Convention Center Drive, Wilmington. Info:


A Viennese Christmas

7:30 p.m. Festive musical performance by the Hollywood Concert Orchestra. Admission: $10– 29. Odell Williamson Auditorium, Brunswick Community College, 50 College Road NW, Bolivia. Info: (910) 755-7416 or

12/10 Energy Clearing Meditation

6:15–7:15 p.m. Energy clearing meditation for inspiration led by energy healer Jennifer Chapis. No experience necessary. Admission: $10–15 (you choose). McKay Healing Arts, 4916 Wrightsville Avenue, Wilmington. Info: www.

12/10 NC Symphony Holiday Pops

7:30 p.m. Holiday concert conducted by David Glover featuring carols, seasonal and classical favorites and a sing-along. UNCW Kenan Auditorium, 515 Wagoner Drive, Wilmington. Info: (910) 9623500 or


Wine Tasting & Sale

6 p.m. Join Quarter Moon Books for a tasting of festive sparkling wines while you shop with great discounts on holiday wines, champs and ales. Admission: $5. Quarter Moon Books, 708 South Anderson Boulevard, Topsail Beach. Info: (910) 328-4969 or


A Christmas Carol

7:30 p.m. (Thursday – Saturday); 3 p.m. (Sunday). Thalian Association performs A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale of redemption, magic and hope. Admission: $30. Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 6322285 or


Fantasy Christmas Show

6:30 p.m. Holiday musical revue featuring Frosty and his penguin friend, Harriet the Hippo, the Grinch, Cookie Monster, dancing bears, Santa Claus and crazy elves. Admission: Free. 101 K Avenue, Kure Beach. Info: (910) 458-8216 or www.


The 12 Tastes of Christmas

7 p.m. Annual holiday party featuring special holiday treats and cocktails donated by local restaurants, bakeries, delis and businesses. Event honors students who have learned to read and write through the Literacy Council’s programs. Proceeds benefit the Cape Fear Literacy Council. Brooklyn Arts Center, 516 North Fourth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 251-0911 or

12/12 & 13 Sneads Ferry Winterfest

7 p.m. (Friday); 9 a.m. (Saturday). Annual winter festival featuring a tree lighting, musical celebration, breakfast with Santa and craft and gift show. Sneads Ferry Community Center, 126 Park Lane, Sneads Ferry. Info: www.sneadsferrywinterfest. org.

12/12 & 13 Christmas

Coastal Carolina

7 p.m. A Ceremony of Carols concert on Friday (12/12) will feature an audience sing-along and holiday favorites performed by the Wilmington Boy’s Choir, St. Paul’s Choir and soloists. Chocolate and


Salt • December 2014

c a l e n d a r

champagne reception post concert. On Saturday, A Christmas Jazz Cabaret features Grenoldo Frazier and Bob Scalia with his Wilmington Jazz Messenger Group plus wine and dinner by the bite. Admission: $5–25. Proceeds benefit Wilmington Boys Choir, Samaritan Ministry and Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 16 North Sixteenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 762-4578 or

in Wilmington. Info: (910) 251-3700 or


12/13 & 20

Holiday Musical Revue

7 p.m. (Friday & Saturday); 3 p.m. (Sunday). The Robeson County Christmas Show is a familyfriendly holiday musical revue featuring former Miss North Carolina Johna Edmonds and X-Factor Top 40 selection Tyler Cole, plus appearances by Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus. Admission: $10–20. Carolina Civic Center, 315 North Chestnut Street, Lumberton. Info: (910) 738-4339 or

12/12–23 Tour

Holiday Lights Trolley

6 & 7:30 p.m. Take a festive tour complete with music and narration through some of Wilmington’s most dazzling neighborhoods. Admission: $12; $5 (children). 101 Water Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 763-4483 or


Race for Life

8 a.m. Annual 5K that celebrates children, family and healthy living, established to honor the legacy of Dr. William H. Craig and his many contributions to the community. Admission: $20–30. Proceeds benefit Girls on the Run, STRIDE, Victory Junction Gang and other local charities. Legion Stadium, 2221 Carolina Beach Road, Wilmington. Info: (910) 251-9622 or


Jingle Bell Run

9 a.m. Annual holiday 5K through Wrightsville Beach. Children, strollers and pets welcome; awards for top finishers and costumes; postrace refreshments and the cutting of the holiday wreath. Admission: $15–65. Proceeds benefit the Wrightsville Beach Museum. Wrightsville Beach Museum, 303 West Salisbury Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 256-2569 or


Santa Claus Cruise

9:30 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. Spread some holiday cheer as you cruise aboard the Henrietta III to the North Pole and pick up Santa Claus. Bring six non-perishable food items to donate to the Wilmington Salvation Army. 101 South Water Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 343-1611 or www.


Junior Naturalist Program

1:30–3 p.m. Nature program at Halyburton Park for ages 5–11. Theme: Turtle Trek. Meet two box turtles and learn about their habits, habitats and survival tactics. Admission: $10. Halyburton Park, 4099 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 341-0075 or

12/13 Christmas Stroll Through the Past

4–8 p.m. Join the Burgwin-Wright House and Bellamy Mansion for an evening filled with music, dancing and refreshments. Includes miniature petting zoo, luminary walk, costumed interpreters and period decorations. The St. James Church nave will also be open for visitors during the stroll, with architectural historian Edward F. Turberg available for questions. Admission: $5–25. Various venues

12/13 Island of Lights Tour of Homes

4–9 p.m. Self-guided tour through some of Pleasure Island’s most beautiful homes, all decked out for the holidays. Atlanta Avenue & South Lake Park Boulevard, Carolina Beach. Info: (910) 458-5006 or

Santa by the Sea

5–8 p.m. Watch Santa and friends dive alongside the sharks at the aquarium and enjoy holiday crafts, games, story time and more. Children receive a complimentary photo with Santa. Admission: $15–18. NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, 900 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach. Info: (910) 4588257 or

12/14 Energy Clearing Meditation

10–11 a.m. Energy clearing meditation for youthfulness led by energy healer Jennifer Chapis. No experience necessary. Admission: $10–15 (you choose). Exhale Yoga and Wellness Studio, Sixteenth South Front Street, Wilmington (enter in alley). Info:


Jazz Brunch

12–2 p.m. Enjoy a three-course meal along with the soothing sounds of the Nina Repeta Jazz Trio. Admission: $15–20. TheatreNOW, 19 South Tenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 399-3669 or


Downton Abbey Tea

2 p.m. To Marry an English Lord: A Downton Abbey Tea features finger sandwiches, scones, desserts and confections. Admission: $35. Proceeds benefit the Bellamy Mansion. Bellamy Mansion, 503 Market Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 251-3700 or

12/17 Energy Clearing Meditation

6:15–7:15 p.m. Energy clearing meditation for world peace led by energy healer Jennifer Chapis. No experience necessary. Admission: $10–15 (you choose). McKay Healing Arts, 4916 Wrightsville Avenue, Wilmington. Info: www.alllovehealing. com or


NC Birding Trail Hike

8 a.m. – 12 p.m. A two-mile hike along the North Carolina Birding Trail at Greenfield Lake. Admission: $10 (includes transportation). Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, 1941 Amphitheater Drive, Wilmington. Info: (910) 3433614 or


Junior Naturalist Program

1:30–3 p.m. Nature program at Halyburton Park for ages 6–11. Theme: Holidays in the Woods: A Wintery Wonderland. Hike through the park with a naturalist to get a unique look at critters preparing for the winter. Admission: $7. Halyburton Park, 4099 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 341-0075 or

12/18 Victorian Christmas Concert

6:30–7:30 p.m. Acoustic singer and instrumentalist Susan Savia performs a Victorian Christmas concert. Admission: $5 (suggested). Bellamy Mansion, 503 Market Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 251-3700 or


Simple Gift Fundraiser

7–9 p.m. Third annual Simple Gift Fundraiser includes complimentary hors d’oeuvres and wine. Admission: $10. Proceeds benefit the Domestic

Violence Shelter. Costello’s Piano Bar, 211 Princess Street, Wilmington. Info:

12/19 Concert

Toys for Tots Christmas

L Shape Lot’s third annual Toys for Tots show is a farewell show for their drummer, Mr. John Kovalski. Proceeds benefit Toys for Tots. Brooklyn Arts Center, 516 North Fourth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 538-2939 or


Caroling by Reindeer

6–10 p.m. Sing Christmas carols with Santa and see the beautiful holiday lights of old Wilmington while snuggled up in a carriage or trolley pulled by special “reindeer”. Admission: $5–12. Market & Water Streets, Wilmington. Info: (910) 251-8889 or


Holiday Nature Crafts

9 a.m. – 12 p.m. A family event where visitors join park naturalists in nature crafts such as bird feeders made from pinecones. Each station features a different craft; all work can be taken home. Admission: $5. Halyburton Park, 4099 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 341-0075 or www.

12/20–22 Seaglass Salvage Market

9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Friday & Saturday); 12–5 p.m. (Sunday). Market open on the third weekend of each month; features up-cycled, recycled and repurposed furniture and home decor. Located at 1987 Andrew Jackson Highway, Leland. Info:


Solstice Meditation


Informal Showing Series


Holiday Film Screening


Tallis Chamber Orchestra


Gallery Walk


Group Meditation

10–11 a.m. Solstice meditation for renewal led by inspiration coach Alan Walshe. No experience necessary. Admission: $10–15 (you choose). Exhale Yoga and Wellness Studio, Sixteenth South Front Street, Wilmington (enter in alley). Info: 2 p.m. Budding choreographers learn the process of creating a dance. Professional choreographers and teachers guide them along the way. Cameron Art Museum, Reception Hall, 3201 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 763-4995. 7 p.m. Special screening of Frank Capra’s iconic holiday film It’s a Wonderful Life. Admission: $10. Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 632-2285 or 7:30 p.m. Acclaimed Tallis Chamber Orchestra performs A Baroque Christmas. Admission: Free. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 16 North Sixteenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 762-4578 or www. 6–9 p.m. Self-guided tour of galleries, art spaces and studios in downtown Wilmington. Admission: Free. Info: (910) 343-0998 or 10–11 a.m. Group meditation led by Inspiration Coach Alan Walshe. No experience necessary. Admission: $10–15 (you choose). Exhale Yoga and Wellness Studio, Sixteenth South Front Street, Wilmington (enter in alley). Info: www.allloveheal-

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

D e c e m b e r or

12/31 Theatre

New Year’s Eve Dinner

c a l e n d a r

musicians. Bring your instrument and join the fun. No cover charge. The Rusty Nail, 1310 South Fifth Avenue. Info: (910) 251-1888 or

6 & 9:30 p.m. Enjoy an exciting cabaret show complete with can-can dancers, acrobats, live music and comedy served alongside a delicious multi-course French dinner. Champagne toast and party favors at midnight. TheatreNOW, 19 South Tenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 399-3669 or


12/31 New Year’s Noon Countdown


T’ai Chi at CAM

9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Family-friendly New Year’s celebration features crafts, party crowns, pretzel sparklers, streamer sticks, noisemakers and lots of confetti. Admission: $9. Children’s Museum of Wilmington, 116 Orange Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 254-3534 or

12–1 p.m. Qigong (Practicing the Breath of Life) with Martha Gregory. Open to beginner and experienced participants. Members: $5. Nonmembers: $8. Cameron Art Museum, 3201 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 3955999 or


New Year’s Eve Gala


Yoga at the CAM

5 p.m. New Year’s Eve celebration features a prime rib dinner, drinks, dessert and a live Broadway production of Hair by City Stage. Admission: $125. Proceeds benefit Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 632-2285 or www.

12–1 p.m. Join in a soothing retreat sure to charge you up while you relax in a beautiful, comfortable setting. Sessions are ongoing and are open to beginner and experienced participants. Members: $5. Non-members: $8. Cameron Art Museum, 3201 South Seventeenth Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 395-5999 or


Midnight in Paris

Friday & Saturday Spectacular

6 p.m. Ring in the New Year with a three-course French menu, cotillions and a glass of bubbly. Le Catalan Café & Wine Bar, 224 South Water Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 815-0200 or www.


New Year’s Eve Cruise

8 p.m. – 1:30 a.m. Spend your New Year’s Eve on North Carolina’s largest riverboat and enjoy a sumptuous buffet of heavy hors d’oeuvres, entertainment, party favors and champagne toast at midnight. Admission: $87. Cape Fear Riverboats, Market Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 343-1611 or

12/31 Masquerade at the Mansion

8:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. New Year’s Eve masquerade party featuring light hors d’oeuvres, DJ, dancing and champagne toast at midnight. Admission: $20. Bellamy Mansion, 503 Market Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 251-3700 or

12/31 Island of Lights New Year’s Celebration

9 p.m. Part of the Island of Lights Festival, this New Year’s Eve celebration features a DJ, dancing, raffle, food, fireworks and a giant lighted beach ball drop at midnight. Admission: Free. Kure Beach Pier, K Avenue, Kure Beach. Info: (910) 458-5507 or www.

WEEKLY HAPPENINGS Monday – Wednesday Cinematique Films

7 p.m. Independent, classic and foreign films screened in historic Thalian Hall. Check online for updated listings and special screenings. Admission: $7. Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut Street, Wilmington. Info/Tickets: (910) 632-2285 or


Cape Fear Blues Jam

Wine Tasting

6–8 p.m. Free wine tasting hosted by a wine professional plus wine and small plate specials all night. Admission: Free. The Fortunate Glass, 29 South Front Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 399-4292 or

Light & Train

6:30–8 p.m. The Wilmington Railroad Museum turns into a seasonal wonderland with more than 20,000 lights, decorations, musical animations and twilight model train displays. Santa will be on hand to visit with children; cider and seasonal goodies available. Admission: $5. Wilmington Railroad Museum, 505 Nutt Street, Wilmington. Info: (910) 763-2634 or

Friday – Sunday Holiday Train Expo

6–9 p.m. (Friday); 1–6 p.m. (Saturday & Sunday). Visitors will be enchanted by this spectacular display of model trains as they travel across eight miles of scale track through a wonderland of villages, parks and landscapes including O Gauge, G Scale and Polar Express exhibits. Admission: $3–4. 705 South Kerr Avenue, Wilmington. Info: (910) 2319627 or


Christmas by the Sea


Holiday Elf Camp

6:30–8:30 p.m. Carolina Beach Lake Park, lit up and decorated for family-friendly activities such as storytelling by the fire, holiday-themed movies at the gazebo, puppet shows, arts and crafts, a live nativity scene, caroling, hot chocolate and visits with Santa. Admission: Free. Carolina Beach Lake Park, Atlanta Avenue, Carolina Beach. Info: (910) 4702024 or 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Parents are allowed guilt-free holiday shopping while children (ages 5–12) enjoy a fun and educational program at the aquarium. Program includes pizza lunch, snacks, crafts, gift making, gift-wrapping and instruction. Admission: $45–50. NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, 900 Loggerhead Road, Kure Beach. Info: (910) 4588257 or


To add a calendar event, please contact Ashley at Events must be submitted the first of the month, one month prior to the event.

8 p.m. A unique gathering of the area’s finest blues

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •



By Sandra Redding

Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time each of us observes . . . by going to the mall of his choice. — Dave Barry

December Literary Events

December 11 (Thursday, 7 p.m.). An Evening with Livingston Press. Scuppernong Books, Greensboro. Readings by three N.C. writers: Durham’s Gregg Cusick, My Father Moves Through Time Like a Dirigible; Raleigh’s L. C. (Charles) Fiore, Green Gospel; and Greensboro’s Miriam Herin, Stones for Bread (see Q&A below). This in-the-know trio, all published by the same University of West Alabama-based press, will be delighted to answer writing and publishing questions. Info: December 31 (Wednesday). Sam Ragan, one of North Carolina’s literary giants, was born in Berea on New Year’s Eve in 1915, but he spent most of his life in Southern Pines. Folks there recall the colorful bow ties he wore, the perpetual twinkle in his eye and his unending devotion to North Carolina’s writing community. During his lifetime, he published six collections of poetry and four of nonfiction. He was also editor and publisher of The Pilot newspaper and helped found Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities. In 1982, Gov. Jim Hunt named Ragan Poet Laureate, a position he held until he died in 1996.

Contests & Winners Poetry is the dark side of the moon. — Charles Wright, Poet Laureate of the United States Who will be North Carolina’s ninth Poet Laureate? In July, shortly after Valerie Macon received the honor, she resigned. Gov. Pat McCrory will announce her replacement this month. Will our new verse ambassador sing “Hallelujah” or “oy vey”? When the Library of Congress recently selected Charles Wright to be 2015’s National Poet Laureate, stunned by the unexpected honor, he said, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Soon as I find out, I’ll do it.” Now 78, Wright, who once studied writing at Davidson College, lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. A gentle genius, his meditative poems praise Southern landscapes and traditions. The Art & Soul of Wilmington

2015 Press 53 Award for Poetry: Kendal Privette of North Wilkesboro is one of ten finalists. Two more N. C. poets — Steve Cushman of Greensboro and Janet Joyner of Winston-Salem — are among the twenty-five semi-finalists. Winner will be announced later this month. The 2015 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction is open for submissions until December 31, 2014. Info:

Do give books — religious or otherwise — for Christmas. They’re never flattering, seldom sinful and permanently personal. — Lenore Hershey Lee Smith’s superb Guests on Earth tops the list of recommended books at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines. Recently released Familiars by Greensboro’s Fred Chappell is immensely popular, particularly among devotees of cats, not to mention poetry. Catwalk, by Sheila Webster Boneham, of Wilmington, entertains mystery fans with chills, thrills and a dollop of humor. Perhaps Jason Mott’s latest spellbinding novel, The Wonder of All Things, will be adapted for cinema like his previous, The Returned?

Writing Lessons

Miriam Herin of Greensboro began writing at age 6. For decades, teaching at colleges and universities interfered with her literary goals. In 2007, her first novel, Absolution, won the Novello Literary Award. Clyde Edgerton of Wilmington praised Herin for writing “a big story, compelling and suspenseful, bringing home consequences of war and misguided love.” Her second novel, Stones for Bread, runner-up in The William Faulkner — William Wisdom Creative Writing Contest, will be released in 2015. This book is about poems believed to have been taken from a Nazi camp and the man, disgraced N.C. poet Henry Beam, who published them. Herin recently answered a few questions about her life as a novelist: What do you enjoy most about writing? I love creating a world and peopling it with characters who did not exist until I typed them on the page. What do you like least? Most writers dislike the reality that writing is a business which requires us to be salespeople, marketers, publicists and sometimes even publishers to get our work out. What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Surround yourself with people who will love and respect you whether you publish or not. Happy holidays! Do keep me updated on writer happenings. b

Greensboro writer Sandra Redding’s novel, Naomi Wise: A Cautionary Tale, is a riveting story about heartbreak and hope in a Quaker Community. December 2014 •




Salt • December 2014

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

Todd McFadden and Fran Scarlett

Port City People Dreams of Wilmington Annual Gala 2014 Riverside Hilton Saturday, September 27, 2014 Photographs by Bill Ritenour

Tara Santini, Matt Carvin (Incoming Executive Director of Dreams), Rachael Kuester Walker & Allison Abney

Paul Wilkes

Tony Rivenbark (Thalian Hall Executive Director) and DREAMS Performing Arts Students

Jason & Lindsey Walter DREAMS Performing Arts Students Dan & Rosemary Burke, Nick & Catherine Baldwin

Cathy Halligan, Tracy Wilkes (Outgoing Executive Director of Dreams)

A wide variety of boxed holiday cards. Personaized holiday cards from Caspari and Carlson Craft. New, faster, inhouse printing by InScribe for holiday cards, invitations, announcements, and everything else. The Art & Soul of Wilmington

313 N. Front St. Downtown Wilmington Inside The Cotton Exchange 910-343-9033

December 2014 •



Port City People 3rd Annual Taste of Wrightsville Beach

Presented by Live Oak Bank Hosted by Wrightsville Beach Foundation & MarineMax Saturday, October 11, 2014 Photographs by Bill Ritenour

Jackie Whitaker, Laura Paul, Angie Ball, Sandy Spiers, Myra Webb, Donna Hickman, Lisa Weeks Celeste & David Poston

Rep. Rick Catlin, WB Mayor Bill Blair, Diane Withrow, Eric Gephart, Liz Biro

Janice & Rep. Rick Catlin

Michelle Clark and Susan Snider

Evan Morigerato and Danielle Osborne

Ali Toews, Amy McGilvary, Leslie Mathis


Salt • December 2014

Lisa Weeks and Jon Evans (WECT)

Liz Biro, Andrew Pierce, Lisa Weeks, Eric Gephart, Brent Poteat, Jon Evans, Josh Petty

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

Port City People

Michelle Caldwell, Erick Meliher


17th Annual Pink Ribbon Events Celebration Cocktail Party Country Club of Landfall Saturday, November 1, 2014 Photographs by Bill Ritenour

Drea Adgent, Marisa Henry, Christian Miller, Jam Pahl

Lindsay Harkey, Brittany Barr

Lauren & Jeremy Wilson Charni Hanlon, Stephania Bloodworth, Julie Barker

Susie & Joe Wehner Mary & Jack Barto (CEO NHRMC)

Courtney Cutting, Corben Wall Adam Cook (Exec. Director Pink Ribbon Foundation), Amy Cook Renee Mangum (NHRMC Special Events Coordinator), William Resseguie

Mary & Butch Lane

Dan Bloodworth, Da’Rell Pierson, Gary Moore

Lentz & Angie Brewer, Chris Hoenig, Rachel Anderson

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2014 •



Port City People

Jeff & Caroline Chase

Paul & Lori Richards

Cape Fear Literacy Council’s Oyster Roast Clarendon Plantation Saturday, November 8, 2014 Photographs by Bill Ritenour

Jonathan & Mary Vance Calhoun, Amanda & Trip Coyne

Kim Murrill and Sara Allen Ken Batchelor, Monica Rolquin, Jill Batchelor Mitch & Amber Lanier

Pam Macior, Rachel Pace, Tori Pace Crowther

Becky & Joe Owen

Port City People

Brandi Dehart, Derrick McClain, Will & Holly Bridges

Coasta Roasta Oyster Roast

Chuck & Sarah Jenkins, Suzanne & Mark Hartman

Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Friday, November 7, 2014 Photographs by Bill Ritenour

Danelle & Brenden Bastable, Mandy Mattox

Melissa Crete, Tim Fields, Scott Czechlewski

Jeremy Dickinson, John Walker, William Goodman, Robbie Bryan, Ben Woodruff, Jim Bryan, Will Lilly Kate Mullis, Doug & Monica Johnston

Michael Marshall and Michelle Hoban

Andy Scheid, Jordan Barber, Rod Flinchun, Michael Jones, Amy Girard


Salt • December 2014

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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