tour­ing the south, the rise of agri-​tourism

The post-​NAFTA South is depend­ing on tourism to bring it back from eco­nomic dis­par­ity. Every­one seems to blame NAFTA for their eco­nomic woes. Towns like Wash­ing­ton and Colum­bia, North Car­olina, are hop­ing to cap­ture tourism dol­lars to replace tax dol­lars for­merly paid by fac­to­ries like Hamilton-​Beach, Proc­ter Silex, Singer fur­ni­ture, and the like. But it’s a hard row to hoe. Two new ideas have come to the fore­front, lately.

I wrote that in 2003 on Pop­mat­ters. Wow, it's come true. Here in Wash­ing­ton NC, the local tourism pimps are push­ing the enve­lope with their fine sam­pling of swamp fun -- includ­ing Agri-​Tourism.

eastern NC farm house

The first is our lat­est entry in the tourism field of dreams com­pe­ti­tion. Agri-​tourism. It seems peo­ple will pay good money to drive a trac­tor, weed col­lards, and pick cot­ton. Guess it’s that Green Acres land-​spreading-​out-​so-​far-​and-​wide urge in folks. It causes a com­pul­sion to mix it up with the aphids and the cow dung. And the sec­ond idea? Eco-​tourism. Which is pop­u­lar all over the damn place these days. In Wash­ing­ton County, North Car­olina, they’re build­ing camp­ing decks at $10,000 a pop in the swamps of the Roanoke River so the canoeing/​kayaking pub­lic can take in 130 miles of swamp with­out ever see­ing a tele­phone pole or an SUV. Beau­fort County, NC and the Pam­lico River has some fine camp­ing plat­forms now. Not a snarky com­ment, a true one. The plat­forms are pretty damn skippy.

Check out the Pamlico-​Tar River Foun­da­tion.

Pamlico-Tar River Foundation camping platform

Pamlico-​Tar River Foun­da­tion camp­ing platform

The cypress trees are truly an awe­some sight and I’m not deny­ing the beauty of the area. Truth is, the mos­qui­toes there come in two sizes. Small enough to fly in through the holes in the screens or big enough to open the door and come on in. And gnats, snakes, alli­ga­tors, bears, pan­thers (yes Vir­ginia, there are still pan­thers in east­ern North Car­olina), red wolves (recently intro­duced to the area by our for­ward think­ing envi­ron­men­tal­ists despite the fact that red wolves are not an indige­nous species, not native to the area, they eat yard dogs and small farm ani­mals, and they wan­der into people’s back yards and scare the beje­sus out of some ham­burger grillin’ farm fam­ily). (more...)


Holler. Hol­lerin'. Yelling too.

Bee Baby Jumps on iTunes!

Bee Baby Jumps on iTunes!

holler: [v] bawl, call, cheer, com­plain, cry, hoot, howl, roar, scream, screech, shriek, shrill, squawk, squeal, ulu­late, vocif­er­ate, wail, whoop, yap, yelp:  Roget’s The­saurus [or the sound one makes when one makes a high score on BeeBabyGames.]

I've told you about the Pan­tego Mud Run, one community’s answer to fund rais­ing for their vol­un­teer fire depart­ment. Dri­ving through a mud pit might be lucra­tive fun, but Spivey’s Cor­ner, North Car­olina, [pop­u­la­tion 49?] spon­sors the self-​proclaimed National Hol­lerin’ Con­test, a fire depart­ment fund rais­ing tra­di­tion since 1969. Held every sum­mer on the third Sat­ur­day in June, the National Hol­lerin’ Con­test is one slam-​damn good time. It’s so fun, it’s listed in the book 100 Things to Do Before You Die, Travel Events You Just Can’t Miss, right along with Mardi Gras and the run­ning of the bulls.

The res­i­dents of Samp­son County, North Car­olina don’t want you to con­fuse hol­lerin’ with yodel­ing. While sim­i­lar in its vocal inten­tions, the two dif­fer in tech­nique and sound. The roots of hol­lerin’ in Samp­son County can be traced back to the 1700s when men raft­ing logs down the water­ways to Wilm­ing­ton would holler’ back and forth to each other to request aid or to notify other rafters of their presence.


Dinah's Land­ing

Photo by Val MacEwan

Wash­ing­ton NC Water­front Sunset Progress

Roads change. Back in the late 1980s, I raised two girls and a garage full of crit­ters on a slice of the east­ern shore­line called Dinah's Land­ing. We lived in company-​owned hous­ing, a small pre­fab 3 bed­room, 2 bath home on a Wey­er­haeuser pine seedling nurs­ery. The house sat across from the nurs­ery office under a canopy of Loblolly pines and live oaks.

The road to the nurs­ery was paved with "reject", a pecu­liar mix­ture of fos­sils and clay -- the byprod­uct of the phos­phate mine owned by Potash­Corp (Saskatchewan CA com­pany, and one of the largest holes in the US) across the river in Aurora NC. It's an asphalt-​covered road now.

[Reject is described more fully later on in this essay.]

Let's move on, shall we?

How it was : Dinah's Land­ing Road, 1989

A tobacco barn, built before the Depres­sion and cov­ered with polit­i­cal signs hawk­ing can­di­dates from the 1980s, leans pre­car­i­ously toward the high­way at the turn-​off to Dinah’s Land­ing Road. The three mile stretch of road is barely vis­i­ble from the high­way. It’s just a nar­row slice cut through tobacco and corn fields. Most of the peo­ple trav­el­ing over NC Hwy 264E to Cape Hat­teras will drive right by and never see the turn-​off. Few will feel the urge to turn down this North Car­olina farm road. It ends abruptly at a small pub­lic access boat land­ing which gives the road its name, Dinah’s Land­ing Road. This is where the locals launch small, pretty sun­fish sail­boats and mod­est fish­er­mans’ jon boats. Three miles of unpaved incon­gru­ous lifestyles; where agri­cul­ture con­cerns co-​exist in frag­ile har­mony with upper middle-​class urban­ites that are hell bent to retire amid Loblolly pine and cypress on the banks of the tan col­ored water of the Pam­lico River.


Oh yes, he did. Bee Baby Games

Bee Baby Games by Valerie and Robert MacEwan

Bee­Baby. Creepy assem­blage, true. But oh so won­der­ful as she flies over your head, rain­ing art detri­tus down upon your head.

I cre­ated Bee­Baby a while back. It seemed a sim­ple cre­ation. An assem­blage inspired by a head­less yard orna­ment and a doll baby given to me by my almost 100 year old neigh­bor Velma. Not an" almost neigh­bor", although now she's a neigh­bor of mem­ory, but "almost 100 years old" at the time.

Robert turned Bee­Baby into an app.

An odd game using my assem­blage art.

We'll make more games.

Check out Bee​BabyGames​.com . It's just a beginning.

Bee Baby Jumps on iTunes!

Bee Baby Jumps on iTunes!

Soon to be a legend.

Next on tap: Donna Brander's Tan​gleInk​.com games.

We're wait­ing for Apple approval. You think you know Find It? ha!

The Pan­tego Mud Run

mudrun3Vol­un­teer fire depart­ments, espe­cially rural ones, often have to resort to some cre­ative fund rais­ing activ­i­ties. Turkey shoots are a real pop­u­lar cash cow. No, they don’t actu­ally shoot birds, they com­pete for accu­racy shoot­ing at tar­gets. Win­ner gets a cash prize. And there are fish fries and pig pickin’s (bar­beque). Din­ner goes for about $5 a “plate”, as they call them, even though they’re served in Sty­ro­foam tri-​sectioned containers.


Plate sales reach epic pro­por­tions dur­ing lunchtime when vol­un­teers will deliver the meals to busi­nesses. To be a good boss around here, you need to be will­ing to shell out a few bucks every time the Bun­yan or Clarks Neck Fire Depart­ment has a bar­beque, and buy all your employ­ees a plate. Then you tip the vol­un­teers about ten bucks for dri­ving out to your place of busi­ness, telling them to “put this in the kitty, and tell Bobby Earl that Rufus said hey and bought 16 plates.” The cheap skates call in the orders, have the employ­ees pay for their own meals but allow some­one to “take off from work” to go pick up the plates. Then the employer gets credit for buy­ing the meals, even though it didn’t. Comes off as a real Daddy War­bucks. No lie, I had a boss who did that.


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