A countdown of Beaufort County’s most memorable moments of 2018
This has been a year of fire and ice.
Ice poured down on Beaufort County in January — and actually hung around for five days. Few expect to see anything like it again in their lifetime.
As for the fire, businesses felt heat like never before to simply keep the doors open due to a lack of workers, particularly on Hilton Head Island.
Following are eight ways 2018 will be remembered in Beaufort County.
Workforce: “The whole island is a disaster zone right now,” Steve Carb, president of the SERG Restaurant Group on Hilton Head, said in a Washington Post article in May. “It’s been a nightmare.”
The restaurant group scaled back its usage of the Poseidon Rooftop Bar and had to close sections of Skull Creek Dockside at times this season, due to not having enough employees to provide quality service.
Housing: In a survey released this spring, 63 percent of respondents said they had trouble finding a suitable place to live in Beaufort County. Demand for nearly every housing type and price point in every area of the county is going to rise as the county continues to expand in the coming years, the study said. It is an acute issue for the Hilton Head workforce.
Traffic: Absolute gridlock hit the south end of Hilton Head this summer. It was so bad during an August construction project that then-Mayor David Bennett called the cops.
Airport: Hilton Head Island Airport’s extended runway opened after decades of bickering, with regional jets replacing turboprops on commercial flights and more connections planned for 2019.
Boundary Street: The $33 million streetscape project on the gateway to Beaufort — decades in the making— was finished.
Heritage: The RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing PGA Tour golf tournament on Hilton Head marked its 50th edition, celebrating more than $30 million given to charity by turning the Harbour Town Lighthouse’s cherry-red stripes into Heritage plaid. Hunting Island: The Friends of Hunting Island organization marked 40 years of enhancing the state park, one of the most popular attractions in the county and state.
MARCH OF TIME
USCB: The University of South Carolina Beaufort opened a $24.5 million campus on Hilton Head on the site of the old Sea Pines corporate offices, where bright minds transformed the island into a place that could one day have a college campus.
Tinsel Town: It was 25 years ago that Tom Hanks photobombed the Beaufort wedding of Mary Dunning and David Chapman during filming of blockbuster “Forrest Gump.” Closed: Among longtime businesses to call it a day was Stock Farm Antiques, opened in Bluffton by artist Naomi McCracken in 1953 and run for many years by her son, Emmett McCracken and his wife, Teddy. On Hilton Head, Nancy Voegele closed her Pink House Gallery after 34 years.
Poona Ford: He was said to be too small to play football after starring for the Hilton Head Island High School Seahawks, but he was the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year at the University of Texas before landing a starting job with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL. Deacon James Garfield Smalls: The 98year-old St. Helena Island native was honored by the state for keeping alive the fading Gullah spirituals of his youth.
Driftwood: A tantalizing Beaufort mystery was solved this year when Gibbes McDowell wrote “Driftwood Unmasked: The Legend and the Man.” Now we know the real story of the boozy raconteur of the 1950s and 60s, known as “Driftwood” for the art he made of natural objects found near his shack on Harbor Island.
Snowball: This albino dolphin is not a person, but she was quite a figure at the Miami Seaquarium after being captured in the wild near St. Helena Sound in the 1960s. The capture stirred a controversy that led to the earliest sea mammal protections in America and was told in Pat Conroy’s book “Prince of Tides.” Amodel of Snowball and her gray pup, including actual parts of Snowball, was placed on permanent display at the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center in Okatie.
Plastic bags: Most single-use plastic bags were banned in Beaufort County and its municipalities this year — an effort to keep them from harming wildlife. Offshore drilling:
Beaufort County government leaders remained united against offshore exploration for oil and gas, fighting a move by President Donald Trump to open it. The issue is believed to be the deciding factor in the local congressional race, with Joe Cunningham becoming the first Democrat to represent the 1st District since 1981. Snowmageddon:
Beaufort County was blanketed with 3 to 5 inches of snow, and its streets and bridges covered with ice, in a January weather phenomenon the likes of which had not been seen since 1989.
Open space: Beaufort County voters handily approved $25 million for the county’s Rural and Critical Land Preservation Program, which this year facilitated the purchase of a significant park site on the Beaufort River at Whitehall on Lady’s Island. Hurricane Florence:
The county was evacuated for Hurricane Florence, which struck North Carolina.
Deaths: Among the many contributors to life in Beaufort County to die this year were Henry C. Chambers, former Beaufort mayor; W. Brantley Harvey Jr., former state lieutenant governor; Joe Mix, “Mister Boys & Girls Club”; Gene Hood, longtime county public defender.
Dr. Jack McConnell, founder of the Volunteers in Medicine clinics; Hilton Head Gullah community leader Veronica Miller; John J. “JJ” Harter, an early Hilton Head fire service leader and head of town emergency preparedness; Thomas Norby, a longtime Sea Pines executive; Tom Wamsley, co-founder of the The Island Packet.
Arts and advertising leader John David Rose; Hilton Head orchestra leader Gloria Daly; and 11-year-old Charli Bobinchuck, killed in a Hilton Head crosswalk, a tragedy that made improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists on the island a major issue.
Retirement plan: Among the many contributors to life in Beaufort County to announce retirements this year are Maxine Lutz, executive director of the Historic Beaufort Foundation; Cindy Baysden, director of the Beaufort County Open Land Trust; Nan Johnson, who cheerily greeted the public on the phone or at the front desk at the Hilton Head Town Hall for 34 years; Betsy Doughtie, director of the Deep Well Project on Hilton Head for 22 years; Al Stokes, head of the Waddell Mariculture Center, where he had worked since 1979; and Tony Criscitiello, longtime head of the county planning department.
RIGHT THING TO DO
Guardian angel: An anonymous donor gave $500,000 to the Campbell Chapel AME Church in Bluffton to pay off its mortgage.
A couple walks along a stretch of North Forest Beach on Hilton Head Island, which was transformed into a winter wonderland by a snow storm.
Snowball, the albino dolphin captured in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina, front, has returned for good at the Port Royal Sound Foundation after the organization purchased the model from its owner, Kevin Vanacore. Pictured with Snowball is Sonny Boy, her calf that was captured with her and brought to perform at the Seaquarium located in Florida in the 1970s.
The Harbour Town Lighthouse looks out over the yacht basin and nearby 18th hole of Harbour Town Golf Links. The lighthouse’s red stripes were converted to Heritage plaid to coincide with the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing golf tournament’s 50th anniversary.
The great snow storm of January 3 brings new life to the statue of Albert the alligator and Sea Pines founder Charles E. Fraser in the Compass Rose Park on Hilton Head Island.