Phew! We are a few months in to a changed lifestyle since COVID-19 has had an impact on the state of North Carolina and the rest of the country. If you had told us last season that a global pandemic would be affecting tourism on Ocracoke this spring, we probably would have thought you were crazy. Just like the rest of the world, Ocracoke is in operation slightly different than what we are accustomed to, but we are happy to be welcoming visitors back and carrying on with life on Ocracoke Island.
Unfortunately, the “Corona Virus” washed out spring on Ocraoke. As did the other 99 North Carolina counties, Ocracoke operated on tight restrictions allowing only full-time year-round residents to occupy the island with limited ferry runs. For venues like us, it meant that no spring weddings, events or vacation rentals would be permitted. It was tough working with brides to reschedule their wedding day to a different day later in the year. Not difficult in the sense that we needed to reschedule vendors or change dates on the calendar but difficult in the sense that couples would not be able to wed on the original date that had so much meaning to them. It meant rescheduling family and friends, and we know how far in advance couples have to plan to have all their family and friends together on the same date. Most couples have rescheduled to late summer or early fall. These celebrations will be bigger and better than ever. While working with them, I told them they deserve at least two celebrations – one on their original date and one on the “new” date. To be so flexible and happy-go-lucky is admirable. I guess the saying holds true “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”
What’s life like on Ocracoke right now, you ask? Since Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on our tiny island September 6, 2019 businesses spent the greater part of winter repairing damages and preparing for an amazing spring. About 75% of the islands’ businesses are up and running again I would estimate. It is good to see them open for business. Since welcoming visitors back May 16, the island has been full and guests have been flooding in to support businesses that are permitted to be open. We are so very thankful for their support, not only after Hurricane Dorian but even now during the pandemic crisis. In accordance with CDC guidelines, Ocracoke business owners are implementing their own set of guidelines. Restaurants are operating at 50% occupancy with tables at least 6 feet apart. Shop and gallery owners are monitoring the number of guests inside stores. Owners and staff are wearing face masks and most are requesting visitors to wear them, if not requiring them to. Thus far, most people are complying with regulations. We look forward to when life can return to a “new normal.”
Bye bye Corona. During these unfortunate times, we are reminded we have so much to be grateful for. This community is strong, and we will persevere.