Sequestration affects Southport's July 4th events
June 7, 2013By Susan Hance & J. Elias O'Neal
Area Independence Day festivities planners are hoping for increased attendance this year, even with some limiting factors.
“The movie Safe Haven may give it a bump since there was a Fourth of July scene in it. The film showcased the area quite well,” said Karen Sphar, administrator of the N.C. 4th of July Festival in Southport and executive vice president of the Southport-Oak Island Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Southport area is well known for its three-day event, which begins with a beach day at Oak Island on July 1; an event honoring veterans on July 2; a naturalization ceremony on July 3; and the 11 a.m. parade and 9 p.m. fireworks show on July 4.
“We’ve had to deal with some financial issues because of sequestration,” Sphar said, referring to federal budget cuts that took place this year.
“We had support from the military for the naturalization ceremony … so we have to increase efforts to get sponsorship.”
Additionally, a U.S. Marine Corps band traditionally had played the Sunday prior to the festival, but the Marine Corps had to cancel events, and some parade groups also have cancelled, Sphar said.
Still, the area’s accommodations industry is reporting strong bookings, while police, fire and rescue officials are getting ready for crowds, Sphar said.
“The police chief has secured enough assistance to try a new traffic pattern this year,” she said.
In Wilmington, the 17th annual Battleship Blast will take place on July 4, at 9:05 p.m., said Heather Loftin, promotions director for Battleship North Carolina.
According to its website, the Battleship North Carolina was noted in Coastal Living’s 10 Spots to celebrate the Fourth and is a recent recipient of Southeast Tourism Society’s award of Top 20 things to do in July.
The best view of the pyrotechnics is from downtown Wilmington, as the entire Battleship complex will close at 6 p.m., and all vehicles will be required to leave by 6:30 p.m.
“On average, the Battleship receives 200,000 paid visitors a year, and generally June and July are the strongest months for visitation,” Loftin said.
Surfing schools ready for swells in summer visitors
Local surf schools, classes and camps are riding the rising economy this summer.
“This year is shaping up to be better than last year, and last year was the busiest year we had in our history,” Rick Civelli, founder and director of WB Surf Camp, said in a recent email. “All of our camps, surf and stand up paddleboarding school reservations are up. We draw people from all over the world that come to the Cape Fear Coast specifically for our experience.”
According to their websites, WB Surf Camp, Tony Silvagni Surf School and Indo Jax Surf School all are family-owned businesses in the area. Instructors are CPR and first-aid certified. All three schools participate in charity events for special needs or underprivileged groups.
The schools keep a pool of between 12 and 60 surfing instructors, and operations have expanded in recent years, owners say. Tourists and locals participate in classes.
Civelli, who has a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from University of North Carolina Wilmington and post-graduate study in coastal geology from UNCW’s Center for Marine Science, worked as a marine science educator for the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, according to the website.
Tony Silvagni, owner of Tony Silvagni Surf School is also a UNCW graduate in business as well as a professional athlete currently ranked fifth in the world, he said. Silvagni was the ISA 2011 World Longboard Gold medalist and the first North Carolinian longboarder in history to win a world title, according to the surf school website.
Instructors are trained in AED use as well as CPR. In addition to surfing and stand up paddleboarding, Silvagni’s company offers kayak tours and paddleboard yoga (SUPY), taught by a certified yoga instructor, he said.
His business has expanded in the past five years to include a shop at Carolina Beach that sells and rents surf equipment and beach items.
"Our personalized surf instruction offers a quality service for no more than two students per instructor ratio," Silvagni said.
Indo Jax Surf School owner Jack Viorel’s surfing life began in the frigid waters of Half Moon Bay in California, according to his company’s website. Having traveled the world in search of great waves, his experiences have been featured in several books by Joshua Priven.
The Wilmington-based company has built up classes for water sports at area beaches, from Topsail Island to Oak Island. Indo Jax offers kite boarding lessons in addition to traditional surf lessons and a surf team for locals.
“Indo Jax Surf School is seeing an increase in class registration over past years,” Viorel said. “We’ve added new programs – we’re expanding. We get a lot of online signups from out of town.”
Shakespeare festival celebrates 20 years
A Wilmington summer tradition, Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green, is entertaining visitors and residents for its 20th season this year, according to a press release from Connie Nelson, spokeswoman for the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Productions of Shakespeare’s works are performed in the 900-seat, Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, which sits on the lake’s edge in Greenfield Park. All performances are free to the public, but donations are accepted.
Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green festival, in association with the City of Wilmington, performs Measure for Measure through June 30, and the group’s Youth Company performs Shadows of Shakespeare through June 13. Now in its ninth season, the youth outreach program is designed to offer young actors the experience of performing Shakespeare’s works, according to the press release.
For a schedule of performances, go to www.capefearshakespeare.org.
City council OKs tour bus parking
Tour buses will now be able to park along Water Street.The Wilmington City Council recently voted to amend its parking ordinance of large vehicles to accommodate tour bus parking there.
Tour buses will now be allowed to unload tourists in front of the city-owned parking deck at an 80-foot loading/unloading zone in the 200 block of Water Street.
In the past, tour buses had to park in the 1100 block of North Fourth Street, between Swann and Nixon streets – a longer walk to the central and historic business districts.
Betty Gurganus, city parking manager, said the new parking area in the central business district would allow visitors to frequent the Riverwalk, downtown shops and other tourist attractions.
She added that city officials planned to provide signage to alert tour bus companies of the new parking designation.