Editor’s note This story was corrected regarding a family connection and updated with costume winners.
By Richard Taylor
Islanders took a much needed break from the stress of Hurricane Dorian clean up to celebrate Halloween Ocracoke-style last week.
Jerniman’s Campground opened its doors Saturday, Oct. 26, at the former Ocracoke Station for a children’s party and later an adult social. A ghostly skeleton animated by the wind beside bales of hay beckoned guests.
By mid-week, some yards had begun to show sparse but welcome lights and decorations.
Decked-out kids, parents and islanders gathered Wednesday afternoon for “Trunk or Treat,” a cakewalk and a costume contest at Community Park, sponsored by the Ocracoke School PTA.
For the cake walk, dozens of random numbers circled the grass around the pitcher’s mound. DJ Tommy Hutcherson played Halloween tunes as participants slowly circled the course. When the music stopped, the participants jumped on a number and Hutcherson called out winning numbers selected at random from a hand-spun cage.
“Go right over there to the dugout and pick up your cake,” Hutcherson announced for participants to choose one of several donated cakes in this Ocracoke tradition.
The family of Ashley, Red and Malli Harrell and the National Park Service rangers were recognized for their “Trunk or Treat” tailgate displays along Maurice Ballance Road, leading to the ball field.
The following students were costume winners: Camryn Lewis, cutest; Gael Perez, most original; Juliette Jordan, scariest; Natalia Trejo, most traditional.
On Thursday, students in grades 2 to 5 rotated through various games, STEM activities and Halloween treats provided by teachers in the four second-floor classrooms unaffected by the storm.
Attired in a black cape and witch’s hat, Principal Leslie Cole visited each room. Third grade teacher Martha Taylor became a woodland sprite, complete with luminous wings, pointed elf-like ears and ballet shoes.
Before dusk Thursday evening, candy-seeking kids were seen patrolling Lighthouse Road, Irvin Garrish Highway and Sand Dollar Road hoping for handouts.
A skeleton sign reading “Trick or Treat. We have candy!!” announced booty next to Grace Gaskill’s house on Irvin Garrish Highway.
Gaskill, 84, and sister Chloe O’Neal, 83, were waiting on the porch with a large candy-filled pan.
Gaskill said she opened her house to candy collectors to celebrate being home for the first day since being flooded by Dorian on Sept. 6.
“It feels good to be home again,” Grace said after living in a motel for the last two months. “But there aren’t as many kids out tonight as last year.”
Chloe’s son Bobby had reason to celebrate Oct. 31 as well. O’Neal retired from Tideland Electric Membership Corp. that day, after working on electric lines here for 46 years. Bobby was all smiles as he hauled kids around in his golf cart. Bobby’s father Conk was the first employee of the Electric Co-op
Down Sand Dollar Road, Jason Wells took a break from rebuilding his popular restaurant and feeding islanders at the Ocracoke Strong Kitchen in the Community Center.
Wells became the Freddy Krueger character from Nightmare on Elm Street complete with a macabre mask and long menacing fingers. Louise Salerno donned a Chewbacca (from Star Wars) costume and Max Elicker dressed like a swamp creature to complete the trio of characters greeting revelers through Well’s Halloween maze.
“I really enjoy Halloween,” Wells growled from under his mask. “I’ve been doing this for four years.”
The night ended with a festive party and adult costume contest at Ocracoke 1718 Brewery. The establishment was decked out with ghostly figures and lots of faux spider webs around the bar.
Hutcherson again deejayed, playing a combination of Halloween and rock ‘n’ roll tunes to the dancing, fun-loving crowd. Tommy’s flashing strobe and stage lights added to the festive atmosphere.
Jovial Hyde County Manager Kris Noble wandered incognito through the crowd in a sleeveless black dress and wig, much in contrast to the laid-back way she led a community meeting the previous evening at the Community Center.
Ocracoke’s County commissioner Tom Pahl worked the crowd with a very believable knife cut across his right cheek, complete with a blood-drenched white T-shirt.
Noble announced the following winners:
First place: The Community Center Chicken and Beautiful Alien Accomplice, played by Red and Ashley Harrell
Second Place – Gonzo & the Chicken, played by Sundae Horn and Rob Temple.
Third place: Elle Driver and Budd (Kill Bill’s Assassin Squad members), played by Denny Widener and Becky Worley.
Fourth place: Death Princess, played by Claire
Honorable Mention to Amy Howard & David Tweedie as Sandy and Danny from “Grease.”
For a brief few days last week, Ocracoke celebrated witches, goblins, gremlins and ghouls and, of course, the joys of candy, comrades and carousing.