Thursday, August 12, 2010

Virginia Dare Birthday Celebration August 18th

First Published August 18th, 2009

Roberta Estes and Anne Poole

Day 3 – August 18th – 2009 Tuesday


Little Virginia could never have imagined the impact she would have in a misty and uncertain future. We don’t even know that she even lived past a few days of age, so her future might have been very short. Then again, if she lived to a ripe old age, she could have lived to be 70 or 80 years old. In fact, the Lumbee have a story that tells us that Virginia Dare is buried in Robeson County. Is it true? Well, it could be, assuming of course that she lived. We do know from historical records that there were people living in the Robeson County area as early as 1654. A surveyor entered the area to survey and got himself run off by a group of people with guns. Seems they didn’t want the land they were living on surveyed.

But the Virginia Dare we are all familiar with is the child, the baby, born on August 18th, 1587, to her young mother, Eleanor White Dare, wife of Ananias Dare shortly after landing on Roanoke Island. A marker at Fort Raleigh today commemorates her birth, but looks for all the world like a tombstone.

The Virginia Dare Faire at Fort Raleigh is always free and fun. Today’s event included the Kitty Hawk Kite Company, face painting, a balloon artist, Pizza Hut with free samples, the cast cruising about in costume, singing, dancing, juggling swords, playing “old games” with visitors and more throughout the park. Of course, we had our table there among the festivities as well.

We were fortunate that 2 of our members, Aleda Bunch and Jeri Evans, joined Anne and I for the day. There were lots of questions to be answered as many people stopped by and we needed the help, but more importantly, we go to know each other and had a lot of fun. We were also pleased to discover that two couples came specifically to talk to our group, but most people had a more general curiosity.

Interestingly enough, one of the most interested individuals was a young tour guide who works at Fort Raleigh. He had excellent questions for us and made me wish it was the beginning of their season, not the end. I think though that the Lost Colony is now under his skin, so to speak, and he will carry it with him in many ways for the rest of his life.

Anne talking to visitors

I must say that I don’t think I’ve ever met a nicer group of young people. Most of the staff there consists of college students. All of them were friendly, polite and some were genuinely interested in our project. They smiled and were engaging and helpful. And I must add that most were dressed in stifling wool costumes, floor length, long sleeves, and they must have been miserably hot. We were sweating like faucets stuck “on” and we certainly weren’t in authentic period costumes. Bravo to them for their sunny dispositions!!!

We decided that everyone must want to be an Indian in the cast, because although Ananias Dare is clearly a “leading man”, the Indians are much more comfortable in their costumes. The Queen passed through and traditionally cuts the birthday cake for Virginia Dare, but surely no one wants to wear her wardrobe in hot sultry August in NC.

After the Faire ended, Anne and I visited with Doug Stover, the Cultural Resource Manager at Fort Raleigh. Said another way, Doug is the historian and a font on knowledge. Doug was very gracious and spoke with us along with curator, Jason Powell for quite some time. We’re very pleased to continue to work with Fort Raleigh and the National Park Staff.

Tomorrow we’ll be using another local resource, the Outer Banks History Center. While Fort Raleigh involves archaeology, the Lost Colony, military colonists and the later history of the property, the Outer Banks History Center is administered by the North Carolina State archives and includes information on genealogy and family histories. Anne and I are hopeful that we can find some information directly related to the early families on Hatteras Island. We have a “hot lead” to follow!

Tonight, we travel the road beside the swamp to the stop light at the intersection of the bouncing bridge, back to Manteo, through the tree lined streets with names such as Grenville, Amadas and Ananias Dare. We return to the Fort Raleigh, not as workers, but to attend the play. This is Anne’s 52nd year attending the Lost Colony play. She has missed a few years, but not many. Jeri Evans told me today that her parents were at opening night in 1937. We’ll be asking these ladies to share their very special memories with us in a future blog. Tonight, we’re just going to enjoy this year’s rendition of the play, always slightly different, always wonderful.

Two years ago, we were invited to a very special event after the play. It has now become a tradition that we look forward to every year. Traditionally, Virginia Dare’s birthday is either the last production or the next to last production of the play for the season. Dignitaries are present, of course, and there are special events and awards to the actors and crew who deserve outstanding merit.

One of the most special events is the cast party after the play behind the stage. The area behind the stage is directly on the sound. Parts of the stage are built on a deck that is extended over the sound, and the sand in front of the stage is truly beach sand. By the time the play is over, darkness has fallen and thankfully, the heat has diminished a bit. Volunteers and local businesses provide food for the cast, staff and volunteers, and everyone sits together at picnic tables, visits and of course eats wonderful home-made southern food. (Anne is taking ham, green beans (with bacon fat of course), potato salad (a southern must) and Scotch Cake (some kind of the most wonderful smelling chocolate concoction). Cast members have created their own entertainment, sing, dance, so skits and entertain themselves and others as well. They have become family, indeed, throughout the summer and although we were not family members, they welcomed us warmly into their world. What a beautiful end to the perfect day, looking over the sound, watching the stars, the moon rising over the water and knowing that whether the Colonists survived and moved on or died on Roanoke Island, we’re sharing the same sand, land and stars, a few generations and 422 years removed.

Read all posts in the Trip to Roanoke series:

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