By Connie Leinbach
Joyce Spencer said she never smiled so much in her life as she did while she was the grand marshal of the Ocracoke July 4th parade.
“It was fun,” she said in an interview afterwards. “It was fun to see people respond as I was waving.”
Spencer, for many years, worked at the Ocracoke Variety Store, including the hardware store, and retired in 2014.
The parade, organized by Woody Billings, was one of several island activities over two days celebrating the nation’s Independence Day.
The Brant Godfrey family, of Winston-Salem and who have a house on Ocracoke, received Best in Show honors for their rendition of the parade theme The Roaring Twenties: Then and Now.
Their float was “20-20 Hindsight” and featured sons John-Lewis Godfrey as Charlie Chaplin, the silent screen star of the 1920s, being harassed by the COVID-19 virus, aka Jay Godfrey.
“It was difficult to weave the two 20s together,” said Godfrey, who was dressed as a ringmaster on the trailer that featured a mermaid in “bathtub gin,” a nod to the Prohibition of liquor a century ago.
Godfrey noted that in the parade of about 21 participants, there were only a few locals.
“Ten or 20 years ago, there were so many more locals who made floats,” he said. “We miss the locals.”
Inside the car pulling the trailer were daughter-in-law Natalie Godfrey as the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg and sporting a lace collar outside her judicial robe and a gavel, and Brant’s wife Beverly, the driver, as Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde fame.
Best Float winner was “Saltwater Therapy,” by Native Parasails and featuring a boatload of children.
“The Roaring Sisters,” Teena Harmon and Laurie Raborg of Petersburg, West Virginia, sporting flapper dresses, received Best Theme honors.
The Oelschlegel clan of Ocracoke and Philadelphia, Pa., who gather on Ocracoke every summer, won first place in the Walk and Roll category.
“Stars and Stripes and the Flapper Eagle,” by the Arnold family, received first place in the Wheels category. Honorable mention went to the Ocracoke Wildlife Center, which showcased an opossum, a chicken and two baby goats inside a Jeep.
Honorable mention in that category went to Native Seafood for their “Clam Chowder” float.
Earlier in the day, beachgoers were treated to 18 sand sculptures arrayed at the lifeguard beach. This was the 41st year for this contest with four categories of competition in peoples’ choice judging.
The Alfonso “Chito” Guerrero family of Ocracoke won Best in Show for their huge “Dolphin.”
Following close behind and capturing best in the group-13-and-over category was the Carol Pahl family for their “Great Provincetown Miracle.”
This was a rendition of a man exiting a whale’s mouth in a nod to the recent story about a man off the coast of Massachusetts who was almost munched by a humpback whale before the whale spit him out.
A giant sun, sculpted by Dave Manthell of Monroe Falls, Ohio, captured best in the Individual 13 and over category.
Savannah Reep and Layla Green of Lincolnton, Lincoln County, captured the Group 12 and under honors with their rendition of the village of Ocracoke, and James Husted, with his three-dolphins “Fear the pod” entry captured Individual 12 and under.
Other activities on July 4 included the inside of the lighthouse open for viewing and hearing its history from islander Chester Lynn.
Island storyteller Donald Davis regaled his audience on the Books to Be Red lawn with the hilarious tales of his childhood Fourth of Julys, and preceding that, Desiree Christa Ricker sang the national anthem a capella.
Chad Macek, a board member of the Ocracoke Civic & Business Association, which sponsored the events, announced the three contest winners. Scavenger hunt winners can be found here.
After a year of cowering down from the COVID-19 pandemic, the island vibe seemed joyous for the nation’s birthday, noted Brant Godfrey.
“It seemed to be so much more relaxed and open,” he said.
Amy and Chris Davidson and their family of Pittsburgh, Pa., attended all the events.
“We loved it,” Amy said.
The community beach fire Sunday evening saw about 200 people attending throughout the three-hour event at the lifeguard beach.
Rachael Pulwers, OCBA administrator, said the OCBA was glad to bring the festivities back “after what has been a difficult time for many people here on Ocracoke and across the world.
“It was so meaningful to have as strong of a turnout as we had and to see so many different types of people take part. Just to see people having fun again was worth it.”
The evening of July 3 was capped with professional fireworks by Pyrotecnico of New Castle, Pa., and sponsored by Hyde County and the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax fund, preceded by deejay music by Tommy Hutcherson.
Point of disclosure: Connie Leinbach is on the OCBA events committee.