Anthony Donahue, Caroline Hitchcock, Joyce Belliveau, Calvin Kuzontkoski and Heather Hitchcock with their tie-dye shirts. Photo courtesy of Amanda Hitchcock

By Rita Thiel

A vacation can include more than just relaxation and over eating.

Family traditions can take shape anywhere, at any time, and that’s what the Hitchcock/Lefferts/Rice family group looks forward to each summer during their Ocracoke vacation.

Traveling from Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut, in each of the last 10 summers here the group has continued a tradition of tie-dying clothing chosen expressly for this purpose.

The idea started from an activity the family participated in at a vacation spot in Connecticut years ago.  Changing vacation destinations did not deter them from continuing this new family tradition. 

Setting out multiple bottles of different colored dyes, tubs of water, piles of rubber bands, and clotheslines for drying, Heather Hitchcock, daughter, Amanda, and other family members expertly twisted and rubber-banded wads of cotton T-shirts, socks and pants to catch that special design before applying the dyes. 

The side yard and the under-house space, temporarily transformed for the annual event, became the gathering places for the family group of 17 this year.

Barbara Rice and Kristen Lefferts apply dye to their items. Photo by Amanda Hitchcock

Joyce Belliveau, Heather’s mom, and matriarch to part of the clan and an oil and watercolor artist herself, held up a dripping, newly dyed T-shirt.

“I like this one better,” she said. “The colors turned out better this time.” 

The clothesline was strung with psychedelic-inspired patterns and shouts of bold colors transforming ordinary white tees, pants and socks into fruit loops on a line.  

“We found these white pants at the Pirate’s Chest for $2.99!”  Belliveau said.  And there the once-white pants hung, dripping with every color of the rainbow.

Family members have collections of previous years’ efforts and are always thinking of new items to dye.

Since they ran out of clothing this year, they decided to tie-dye each other’s hair.

Their two weeks on Ocracoke was packed with tie-dying, bike riding, exploring favorite restaurants and shops, beach days and shell collecting.

They happened upon island tie-dyer Kim Hansen inside Tapestry across from Community Square.

“She gave us some great tips,” Belliveau said.

Arlo, a German Shepherd owned by Joyce Belliveau, sports his own tie-dye T-shirt. Photo courtesy of Amanda Hitchcock

Family activities also included painting with watercolors and making wind chimes from shells, Belliveau said.

Heather and Amanda also rolled up their sleeves and helped Ocracats feed cat colonies, haul water and check on kittens.

“We like to do what we can to help while we’re here,” Heather said. “We love the cats and like seeing the momma of the kitten (Sweet Tea) we adopted last year.” 

The two had training sessions with an Ocracat volunteer before setting out on their appointed rounds.

“Volunteering for an island cause is a way of giving back to a community that gives us so much,” Hitchcock said.  

Calvin Kuzontkoski is proud of his tie-dye masterpiece. Photo by Amanda Hitchcock
Heather and Amanda Hitchcock help feed an Ocracat colony. Photo by Rita Thiel
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