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A lot can happen in 50 years. Just ask any of the original residents of Ocean Isle Beach.
Ocean Isle Beach was a 7-mile stretch of pure beach some 50 years ago. When Odell Williamson and M.C. Gore purchased the island in 1953, they sold only a handful of lots before Hurricane Hazel hit the following year and wiped away most if the island’s initial developments.
Over time, the town rebuilt and grew into one of the best restored beaches in the country, according to the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.
In the past 50 years, the town has added sewer and water systems, obtained a federally funded 50-year beach renourishment plan, added employees to the police department and took control of the fire department and maintained the family-friendly atmosphere Williamson originally intended for the island.
“I think we really have just always wanted the same things,” Mayor Debbie Smith recently said in a Beacon interview. “Everybody was focused on the same goals, and what we wanted to preserve was the family beach, the family atmosphere. It’s nice to have a small-town feel.”
Smith can attest to the original small-town feel of the island. She and her family were the first four permanent residents to live at Ocean Isle Beach.
Although she and her brother and sister used to have the run of the island when they were children, she said she enjoys seeing other families and their children enjoy the island she once called her own.
Smith said she also enjoys sharing the beach with her own grandchildren, which brings back memories of her days of exploring the barren island.
“Things have to change as we keep moving along, but you still like to keep the quality things you’ve come to enjoy, like the beach and the family atmosphere,” she said.
To celebrate the town’s 50 years, a weekend full of activities and events open to all begins at 2 p.m. Friday. A commemorative celebration will be at town hall on West Third Street.
Photos and artifacts from the past 50 years will be on display, as well as a presentation showing a virtual history of the town.
Also at town hall, a community beach picnic will take place at 3:30 p.m. Town administrator Daisy Ivey said commissioner Dean Walters would be stationed at the grill, cooking the hamburgers and hot dogs.
Friday’s events conclude at 6 p.m. with a concert by The Imitations in the Museum of Coastal Carolina parking lot. The concert is part of the Concerts on the Coast series.
Saturday’s events are sponsored by the Ocean Isle Property Owners Association.
A meet and greet will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the town hall. A group photo will take place on the beach at 6:30 p.m., and a street dance will begin shortly after at 7 p.m. in front of town hall.
Whether you’ve been in Ocean Isle for the past 50 years or just a recent few, the weekend celebrations promise to be a good time for all.