Reprinted from the Island Free Press
First of two parts
Day at the Docks, the annual festival held each fall on the working waterfront of Hatteras village, originally began in the wake of Hurricane Isabel recovery efforts as a way to celebrate the spirit of Hatteras village and to honor the enduring strength and heritage of its community — a community anchored by its commercial and charter fishermen.
In the seven years since the first official event, the festival has grown from a small, community gathering, attended by a couple hundred people — most of them islanders — to an authentic and vibrant showcase of the island’s fishing traditions and culture, attracting thousands of visitors from at least 15 different states, generating recognition and appreciation of professional watermen and educating the public about the work they do and the organizations that support them.
As Lynne Foster, the founder and organizer of Day at the Docks, put it, almost everyone who lives on this island has some direct connection to the water and to its fishing heritage.
It was with that knowledge, and very much in the original spirit of Day at the Docks, that Foster decided to expand the celebration this year—from the one-day festival it has traditionally been, to a four-day event, beginning on Thursday evening, Sept. 13, and ending on Sunday afternoon, Sept.16.
Foster said that the idea came about while she was discussing the event with Susan West of Buxton and Niaz Dorry, a resident of Gloucester, Mass., and a coordinating director of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance—an organization dedicated to restoring and enhancing a marine system capable of supporting healthy, diverse and abundant marine life and human uses.
According to Foster, Dorry, who has experience planning and orchestrating these kinds of events, encouraged her to, “look beyond how much fun (the event) was going to be and think about what it is that you really want to achieve.”
This new focus led Foster and West to consider how Day at the Docks could become an even more potent tool for highlighting not only the economic importance of the fishing industry, but also its cultural significance.
To achieve this, Foster and the Day at the Docks team are bringing together a diverse array of watermen and women from other small fishing communities throughout the nation and a variety of authors, organizations and locals to participate in this year’s expanded celebration—one that will include public forums, gallery talks, local seafood cooking demonstrations and tastings, ticketed dinners and, of course, all the activities that Day at the Docks attendees have come to know and love—including the parade of boats and the Blessing of the Fleet.
In addition, a peripheral, though no less important goal of expanding the event, is to attract more visitors and keep them here for a longer period of time—to increase immersion in the local culture and provide an off-season boost to local businesses.
“I’m really looking forward to using different venues,” Foster said of this year’s celebration, “to moving more people throughout the village.”
Indeed, on top of all the regular festivities that take place along the village waterfront and at the Hatteras Village Community Building, this year’s schedule will boast events at the historic Seaside Inn, The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and Lee Robinson General Store.
In the end, Foster hopes that the expanded event will help to uplift the local fishing community, inspire young fishermen to become leaders in the fishing industry, and increase educational opportunities and cultural access for island visitors.
At its heart, Day at the Docks has always been about celebrating the waterman heritage and working to ensure the future of fishing on Hatteras Island. This year’s expanded event represents a big step forward in that direction.
Wednesday: What’s Planned