Winter Is No Excuse!

By Michael Lay | Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Well, here we are, folks, smack dab in the middle of an Outer Banks January where temperatures have recently swung from a frigid 17 degrees on a Wednesday morning back to shirtsleeves on the porch weather by Friday evening. Just as quickly, dark and dreary seasonal grayness can give way to sparkling winter days during which I can see Jockey's Ridge practically glowing across the Roanoke Sound from the third floor balcony and windows of my apartment here in downtown Manteo.

Accompanying these episodes of winter weather whiplash is the annual wintertime complaint that "There's nothing to do." Of course there is! It just requires a little adjustment of the ol' gyroscope. Instead of surfing, fishing, boating or just beachin' it, a slight change in perspective reveals a wealth of entertainment opportunities. For the first time in months a great meal can be enjoyed in a topnotch restaurant without an interminable wait for a table. Over on the beach, moviegoers frequently discover that they have the entire theater practically to themselves. While we lack a multiplex here on Roanoke Island, we more than make up for it with first run movies at the Pioneer Theatre for a mere $5/ticket - even better, $8 delivers a movie, a box of popcorn and a drink! Sorry, beach folks, we got ya there.

This is also the time to brave the chill and get out to see some of the Outer Banks' amazing musical talent up close and personal. The intimacy of these off-season sessions makes possible a much fuller appreciation of the players' musicianship and songcraft, which can prove exceedingly difficult in the sometimes chaotic din of public performance spaces during summer months.

Shortly before Christmas I capped a day of last-minute shopping by stopping in at Peppercorn's in the Ramada Plaza Hotel to see a gig by Kevin Roughton, Matt McGuire and Doug Dino. Perhaps due to the nearness of the holiday, with all its assorted logistical challenges, there were only a couple dozen people in attendance - mostly the musicians' family and friends - and my initial impression was, "Uh oh, this doesn't bode well." But I quickly discovered just how lucky I was. These musicians held nothing back in what was essentially a private show. Just imagine it - seeing a band you really want to see in a room where everyone in attendance is also there for the sole purpose of listening to the music being played only a few feet away. It was one of the best musical outings I've enjoyed recently.

These more relaxed off-season performance environments can also provide the perfect venue for making new musical discoveries, either of artists new to the Outer Banks music scene or those simply new to you. Last Saturday was a strangely balmy, yet bleak winter day of scudding clouds and intermittent rain squalls. After being ill for most of the preceding week, I spent the bulk of the day engaged in something of a cooking frenzy. But, by 10:20 that evening I was getting fidgety and decided to head across the street and catch what I could of local singer-songwriter Hannah Buckley's last set at Poor Richard's. I'd previously tried to see her perform here and at other venues only to abandon each effort to the raucous in-season crowd. But, on this particular dismal Saturday night, a smaller, more subdued crowd struggled to divide its attention between an NFL playoff game and Hannah's performance. The NFL lost. And with good reason! Accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, Hannah brings a worldliness and subtle melancholy to her own songs, and uniquely insightful interpretations of others' work, that belies her age. I was unprepared for such a lovely, soulful voice and sophisticated delivery flowing from someone so young. Hannah Buckley is on my list of local performers to see again soon, only next time I intend to catch her entire performance. You should add her to your list, too.


Hitting the Big Notes

Manteo's hometown tenor, Tshombe Selby, returns from operatic training in New York City to perform a concert at First Assembly of God Church in Manteo at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19. Tshombe possesses a remarkable vocal talent that he has graciously volunteered in support of numerous community causes. Don't miss your opportunity to hear him sing now. Later on it may cost you a trip to New York City and the price of an opera ticket!

2014 Wedding Weekend and ExpoPlan Now...Coast to the Wedding

Don't forget, the 2014 Wedding Weekend and Expo is THIS weekend! Beginning Friday, Jan. 17 at 11 a.m., learn about local wedding venues, vendors, caterers and other members of the Outer Banks food, hospitality and entertainment community before you plan your wedding. Held at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills, tickets are $20/person. The Expo continues Saturday, Jan. 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.


History and Learning


"Sinking of the USS Monitor"

As part of Whalehead's Winter Educational Series, Lauren Heesemann, research coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary will present "Sinking of the USS Monitor" at the Outer Banks Wildlife Center for Education in Corolla on Tuesday, Jan. 21 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. In her position at NOAA Heesemann works toward the preservation and conservation of natural and historical resources through research, education and outreach. The presentation is free, but reservations are requested. To make your reservation, call (252) 453-9040 ext. 228 or e-mail

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

In last week's blog I featured one of the Graveyard of the Atlantic's short historical presentations on the Civil War. But there is much more to see and do at this impressive museum located just past the ferry docks in Hatteras Village. Museum Mysteries will appeal to anyone interested in shipwrecks and island life who also appreciates the challenge of a good puzzle or riddle. The Nautical Knots exhibit allows you to try your hand at making a variety of seaworthy knots. As someone who struggled as a child to learn to tie my own shoelaces (if there'd been Velcro back then I probably never would've learned), I might do well to take a shot at this one myself. Certainly, there's no denying that knowing how to tie a good knot can come in handy throughout life, and this is the perfect place to learn the skill. Readers will find that the museum also features a great selection of books on pirates, shipwrecks and underwater archaeology! The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the museum is free, but donations are always welcome.




Assistance for Exceptional Children

This free workshop will help parents and teachers of exceptional children learn skills needed to identify and understand challenging behaviors while creating an atmosphere for positive change and support, including how to implement Functional Behavior Assessments and Positive Behavior Supports at school and at home. The workshop is offered by the Exceptional Children's Assistance Center and will be held at Outer Banks YMCA in Nags Head Wednesday, Jan. 16 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and again on Thursday, Jan. 16 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Pre-registration is required.

Got a Teachers' Workday off? Spend it at the Aquarium!

Not looking forward to being at loose ends on next Tuesday's teacher workday? How about spending the day in the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island exploring the wonders of the ocean, taking part in a scavenger hunt, meeting animals up close and getting a look behind the scenes of the museums displays and exhibits? Sure sounds better than veggin' out in front of the TV, doesn't it? Closed-toe shoes and a bag lunch are required, and be sure to bring a coat to participate in some outside adventures. Aquarium Day Camp runs Tuesday, Jan. 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is $35/child, $31.50/child for NC Aquarium members. Pre-registration is required.


Martin Luther King Celebration

Dare County's Martin Luther King Day Celebration is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18 at 11 a.m. at the Dare County Community Center at 950 Marshall C. Collins Drive in Manteo. The Rev. Calvin Whedbee from Edenton will be the guest speaker. A free meal will be served at the conclusion of the speaker's remarks. For more information contact Ruth Lewis at (252) 473-3151 or Rev. Spottswood Graves at (252) 480-9276.


Outer Banks This Week Giveaway








This week you have a chance to win a two-night stay at Days Inn Oceanfront and a hang gliding lesson from Kitty Hawk Kites!

For more information about Days Inn Oceanfront, check out their website.

For more information about Kitty Hawk Kites check out their website.

About the Author Michael Lay
Michael Lay is a local graphic designer, artist, photographer and writer. He lives in picturesque downtown Manteo, NC, and is the manservant of two beautiful and willful feline princesses, Sophie and Sassy. You can contact Michael at