Attention seafood lovers: Day at the Docks — a celebration of the Hatteras Village community, heritage and living traditions of local waterman — is set for Friday and Saturday, Sept. 15-16, in Hatteras Village on Hatteras Island.
The annual event is free and open to the public.
A highlight of the festival is Saturday’s Shrimp and Grits Throwdown, a chance for visiting celebrity inland chefs Tom Armstrong and Jay Pierce to strut their stuff — live, in front of a crowd — using local shrimp and stone-ground grits.
Armstrong is chef and general manager at Vinnie’s Steakhouse and Tavern in Raleigh, North Carolina. Pierce is executive chef at Traveled Farmer in Greensboro, North Carolina, and author of “Shrimp: a Savor the South.” The 128-page cookbook, published by The University of North Carolina Press in 2015, focuses on the South’s fishing and culinary connections with shrimp, which are abundant in the estuaries and bays that line southern shores.
The friendly competition, which begins at 2 p.m., will be judged by celebrity chefs, food writers and food gurus who will decide which culinary master made the tastiest offering.
The Coast’s own food maven, Amy Gaw, serves as emcee, along with Bob Barris of Hatteras, and is the organizer of the celebrity chef face off.
Limited samples of the chefs’ creations will be available to the public.
“Chef Tom was with us last year as a judge. He held a benefit over the winter and gave a good sized check to Methodist Men in Hatteras after the storms of last fall,” Gaw says. “Jay wrote the book ‘Shrimp,’ part of the UNC Press Savor the South Series. Both chefs cook a lot of seafood in their restaurants and support small fisheries.”
Gaw says North Carolina Watermen Foundation director Kathy Sparrow also has been instrumental in making this Throwdown happen, “and we have local fishermen ambassadors sharing their island love with our visiting guests.”
The event, hosted by the Hatteras Island Civic Association, began as a one-day event to celebrate the indomitable spirit of Hatteras Island residents in the wake of Hurricane Isabel, which made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane on Sept. 18, 2003, between Cape Lookout and Ocracoke Island with winds of 105 mph.
“This is the real deal when it comes to an opportunity to understand the life of commercial fishermen and their families,” Gaw says.
The event is the brain child of Hatteras residents Lynne Foster and Susan West.
“Hatteras Island organizers Jon Kelmer and Kate Sutherland are the chairs of the whole event and rock out all the details,” she says. “Hundreds gather on this weekend to share community, fishing, food and love. There are educational displays in the forms of boats and art shows and net making. It is the heart and soul of the Hatteras Village doing what they do best.”
This year’s celebration features seafood cooking demonstrations, a chowder competition between local restaurants, fishing industry skills demonstrations — such as how to clean fish courtesy of Oden’s Dock — live music, and fun games for children that are designed to provide a glimpse into what it takes to live the life of a commercial fisherman.
The National Weather Service’s Newport/Morehead City Station will host Hurricane Awareness presentation at 1 p.m. Friday at the Community Building beside the Hatteras Branch Library, 57709 Hwy. 12.
At 4 p.m., the 6th Annual Taste of North Carolina begins at Lee Robinson General Store and Sticky Bottom Produce, 58372 Hwy. 12.
Attendees will have the chance to sample cuisine, sip North Carolina wine and craft beer and listen to Outer Banks musicians. In addition, North Carolina producers, cookbook authors, and craft beer and wine makers will take part in the event.
At 6:30 p.m., “Talk of the Villages: Reflections on Fishing as a Living,” will feature the first-ever viewing of a photo documentary by award-winning local photographer Daniel Pullen, as well as an interactive conversation with local, commercial fishermen.
The screening, which is free, features opportunities to view Pullen’s new, traveling art show, as well as to talk with local watermen about their work. The screening is at the Hatteras Island Civic Association’s Community Room, 57689 Hwy. 12, in the heart of Hatteras Village, behind the library.
On Saturday, the annual Fishy 5k and Dock Dash Fun Run steps off at Hatteras United Methodist Church, 57665 Hwy. 12, and loops through historic Hatteras Village.
The race, which is hosted by the church, is a fundraiser.
Registration is $35 and includes a T-shirt (limited quantities) Registration packets are available at the church from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15. Packets also can be picked up weekdays in person at the church and the day of the race. Registration can occur at both events. The race is rain or shine.
The North Carolina Coastal Federation will offer tours of the marsh along Durant’s Point, just across the harbor from Oden’s Dock.
The tours, which are at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., include a short boat ride from Oden’s Dock and across the harbor to a fragile piece of the barrier island where the federation and other partners have focused restorative efforts of native wetland vegetation to control erosion while creating estuarine habitat.
People can learn more about the Coastal Federation in the Education Tent or online at nccoast.org
In addition, captains Ernie Foster and Bryan Mattingly of The Albatross Fleet will offer harbor tours. Tours leave from Foster’s Quay, the docking site of the Albatross fleet fishing charters, located between Oden’s and Village Marina.
At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, students of Cape Hatteras High School culinary teacher Evan Ferguson will demonstrate how to create an easy seafood recipe.
Attendees can also take in the popular Concrete Marlin Contest, which pits professional boat captains and mates to compete for the best time to “hook” and “gaff” a concrete cylinder that replicates the weight of a fighting marlin. A new division, the Concrete Sailfish, is open to younger anglers.
There’s also a dunking booth, a kids fishing contest, crab races, and commercial and charter boat captains will be scattered along the docks showing their boats and demonstrating their equipment and fishing techniques, such as net fishing and net hanging. The U.S. Coast Guard’s 47-foot motor launch also will be site and open for tours.
The annual Blessing of the Fleet, which is at Hatteras Harbor Marina, closes out the event. During the ceremony, a wreath will be placed on the water to honor commercial and charter fishermen and other watermen who have “crossed the bar.” The term is taken from Lord Alfred Tennyson’s 1889 poem, “Crossing the Bar,” which speaks of a metaphorical sandbar that represents the barrier between life and death.
Gaw says she is “honored” to be part of the festivities.
“Day at the Docks is not a festival with ferris wheels or hinky games. This is real. This is more like a homecoming,” she says. “I am honored to be invited to help support these good folks.”