Arts & Entertainment

Ocracoke, my love

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Vanessa Boivin-Drolet performed on Ocracoke last summer. She is a songwriter, guitarist and singer of the Montreal group Vanwho. The name of this group evolved from a phonetic game on words with the nickname for Vanessa “Vanoue” and the pronoun “Who.”  She lives in Montreal and  sings in French and in English.

You can listen to her songs, “Delit de fuite” and “Nobody” below. 

“So, my love for Ocracoke began when I first visited the Outer Banks on vacation with some friends. I didn’t know this little village at the end of the island at that time, in 2017, but I met people who connected me to Barry Wells. Barry immediately took me under his wing and enthusiastically spread the word of my music to his friends and music community. He first took me to Kill Devil Hills to play a show at Jack Brown’s Brewery and then to Buxton at the Inn on Pamlico Sound (Get where we are going here?!) Shortly after these shows, Barry asked me to tag along with him on the ferry to Ocracoke and the rest is history.

Upon my arrival to the island, I quickly realized just how close knit and isolated this unique community was. To me, Ocracoke, seemed so fragile yet so strong and more than anything, incredibly beautiful. My infatuation with Ocracoke began on the night of my first show at the Marina. The show went so well and in addition to the strong smell of fish in the air, there was also magic and the feeling that something wonderful was about to begin. I quickly fell in love with the island, the people and the community, and the welcoming and peaceful vibe that permeates Ocracoke.

Almost immediately the message was: “If you want to come back next year, we would love to have you perform on a weekly basis.” I was ecstatic!

I remember ending one evening, a little tipsy, over at Gaffer’s to sing at Barry’s Karaoke (Barryoke), where I met incredible people who I am now proud to call my friends. The atmosphere was so warm and inviting and right away, I felt like I was at home. As if the village took me in its arms and never wanted to let me go, and I never wanted to leave.

As soon as I left the island, I knew in my heart that I would come back and spend the entire summer there. To make this happen, I worked very hard all winter in Montreal at Club Soda (A music Venue) in the coat check, wrote new songs and dreamed of island life and all the potential that the summer of 2019 would hold.

And it happened! I believed in it so hard and somehow, I was able to return for the entire summer.

At the very first show of that summer, at the O’bar (Ocracoke Bar and Grill), I met someone very special whom, I now consider one of my closest and best friends, the beautiful and talented, Katy Mitchell. Katy is the owner and manager of the Magic Bean Cafe and the air bnb above it. I saw her there sitting at the bar listening to my music with a smile on her face and after my set, she came over to introduce herself. Instantly we had this crazy connection that no words can ever do justice. It felt almost as if we were sisters in another lifetime…The connection was eerie, comforting and undeniable. One hug was all it took to unite us as best friends and “soul sisters.”

Each week of that Summer 2019, I traveled back and forth between Rodanthe and Ocracoke in order to play shows and spread my music and my message. I was feeling the love once again and I couldn’t have been happier. I played a lot of shows and met so many kind folks from all over the world. Many of my songs deal with themes of breaking down barriers between people, embracing our differences, accepting one another as well as ourselves, faults and warts and all, and most importantly, the idea that we are all of the same worth and value. That we are all beautiful and unique and deserving of love and respect. Each one of us is important and has something positive and good to offer to the world and to each other. I found time and again that my message was well received and that the people who are attracted to Ocracoke are very open minded and kindhearted. There is magic in the air here. Never once did I feel or experience hatred, for fear of difference or judgment, but instead, mutual aid and tremendous outpourings of love.

VANWHO performing live on WOVV. Photo: Peter Vankevich

I ended up having the chance to participate in the program of Peter Vankevich on the waves of Community Radio W0VV where I had the opportunity to talk about my music and my time here in the Outer Banks. I performed some of my songs, shared some of my favorite artists from Quebec and my love of French-Canadian music and spoke in both French and English with Peter. We had such a wonderful time and I am so thankful for his openness, kindness and his amazing radio show.

At the end of August, my boyfriend from Vermont drove 12 hours to be with me for my birthday at a party that Katy organized on the beach with great friends that I met over the summer. It was my golden year, 31 years old on August 31st and it was a celebration that I will never forget. We played kickball, grilled fish, played music around the bonfire and chased after crabs with flashlights. Katy was so thoughtful and generous, and she got us a room for two nights at the infamous Blackbeard’s Lodge which was simply incredible.

Then, about a week and a half later, something horrible and tragic occurred on the island….Hurricane Dorian.

All summer, I stayed in a small cabin at Rodanthe Watersports and Campground. I remember the day I left there were only 2 campers remaining and the owners of the campground, Janet and Mike, were taking great measures and preparing for the worst. They placed metal panels on all the windows of their home and did everything else they could to prevent damage to their home and business. There was fear in the air as the predictions of the storm grew worse and worse. With all my heart, I did not want to leave but I was left with no choice.

When I arrived in New England at my boyfriend’s house on September 5, I saw the radar showing the hurricane headed straight towards Cape Hatteras. I was terrified and extremely nervous for the people who live there, for the animals, for the shops and businesses, for everything, even the sharks. I texted Katy to find out if she was going to evacuate and she informed me that was staying because of her business, because her family and friends were staying and because this was home. I was so worried that I could barely sleep. I felt so useless being so far away from the community that welcomed me in and took great care of me all summer long. I stayed in contact with Katy and friends during the storm and was relieved to hear that none of them were injured. However, the devastation that remained after the storm passed was unthinkable. Everything that I had come to know on the island was flooded. Everything.

Three months later, I found myself feeling useless yet again, all the way up north, back in Montreal, not being able to go see or support my friends on the island in NC. My heart was crying out and all I could do was pray for them and wish that I could be there. My only solace came from the knowledge that the community in Ocracoke would come together and never give up. I know that this big beautiful community in would stand together and restore the island. This community is overflowing with love and that is exactly what makes them strong.

If someone falls, the people are there to help them up.

Ocracoke, I miss you and I love you with all of my heart. Stay strong you beautiful souls.

Love,
VANWHO

“Delit de fuite”