Field of Dreams
The Outer Banks Event Site offers family activities, festivals and more
The Outer Banks Event Site
The Outer Banks is unique in a number of ways—a little bit remote, a little bit hard to get to—which is part of its beauty and appeal. That bit of remoteness and difficulty in getting to the area hasn’t stopped the Outer Banks from becoming one of the most popular vacations spots on the East Coast, but it does create some challenges in bringing visitors back in the offseason.
Perched on the shoreline of Roanoke Sound, the Outer Banks Event Site is part of the solution. At one time it was the home to a restaurant and windmill and is still known to most locals as Windmill Point. But the restaurant—a rendering of an ocean liner, complete with memorabilia from the SS United States—closed a number of years ago, and the windmill, a replica of the original, no longer exists.
What was left was a large open space that the Dare County Tourist Bureau (DCTB) and the town of Nags Head worked together to buy.
It took a number of years to complete, but by 2009 the purchase of the property was completed, and the Tourist Bureau— as majority owner—began envisioning how the property could be used to bring more people to the Outer Banks in the offseason.
Initially the thought was that a convention center with a hotel would be the best use of the site, but in visualizing how to go forward with that concept, DCTB board members seemed unsure if that was the best direction. “The board members were not comfortable with the conference center and hotel concept,” Lee Nettles, executive director of the OBVB, says. “We had to acknowledge there may be a better way to satisfy our mandate. It is important that what we do is of equal benefit for locals and visitors.”
The problem, as Nettles explains it, is the benefit to visitors was clear, but other than creating jobs, the benefit to the quality of life of the local community was difficult to see.
Standing conventional wisdom on its head, instead of a sprawling complex, what the board saw was a large open space—10.4 acres with five acres of wetlands—ideal for a variety of uses.
The first event held at the site was the town of Nags Head’s 50th Anniversary carnival, an old time rollicking affair featuring a Ferris wheel, roller coaster and games of skill and chance. An eight-day event, it was very successful and a clear indication of the possibilities for the site.
Then came the Outer Banks Seafood Festival last October, and if there were any doubts about the potential of the Outer Banks Event Site they were erased.
With more than 8000 people attending, it was a spectacular day, perfect for families, filled with great food, wonderful music and lots to do.
Next year’s event is scheduled for Oct. 19, and it’s a date that should be put on every family’s planner. The site, however, has been used for more than festivals and carnivals.
Last summer Alyssa Hannon, executive director of the Outer Banks Children’s Museum, started showing family films on the site. Called “Movies on the Sound,” the event was geared toward residents and tourists. “We’re trying to enhance everyone’s experience,” Hannon says. “Both local and visitor.”
With the Roanoke Sound as a backdrop and an inflatable screen for the movie, the setting becomes almost like the drive-in theaters from days gone by. “Some people stay in their cars to watch the movie,” Hannon says. “Other families bring out lawn chairs and sit outside.”
The fee this year will be $10 per car for as many people as can be crammed into the vehicle. “We do get some circus cars,” Hannon explained. “You know, a van with 15 or 20 people in it.”
Plans at this point call for Friday night movies from early May through September.
“Last year we showed Toy Story, Lorax, Dolphin Tale, Madagascar,” Hannon said. “Our most popular was Wizard of Oz. We had over 400 cars for that."
It’s not just children’s movies that will be bringing folks to the site this summer if tentative plans work out. According to Nettles, the DCTB is working with local artists to create a weekly art show at the location. That type of thought that is going into how to use the site is just the beginning of a process that Nettles believes will continue to grow and thrive and insure the success of the site.
“Once you start tapping into the creativity of this area,” he says, “I think you’re going to see a lot of ideas come forward.”