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ONDBEAT: End-of-summer hurrah a shell of a sight in Sunset Beach

Does anyone know where summer went?

I just checked my New Yorker desk diary, which is starting to run low on new weeks and months with too many already in the past (i.e., outdated) for 2019 and almost couldn’t find it.

Factually speaking, which is what we strive to stick to in newspaper world, we still have another good three-and-a-half weeks of summer. That’s until the autumnal equinox kicks in around 3:50 a.m. EDT Sept. 23 or some wayward hurricane kicks our (insert another word for donkeys here), whichever comes first.

I think most of us agree Hurricane Florence did an ugly number on people last mid-September, wiping out any hope for a nice end-of-summer, start-of-fall or smidgen of seasonal goodness almost for the rest of 2018.

Even at last weather glance on deadline this past Monday, things were iffy with Tropical Storm/Hurricane Dorian spinning northward through the Caribbean and toward an uncertain future with the coastal States. As Forrest Gump would say, that’s all I have to say about that (for now).

Except for weather worries, around these parts and especially at the beach, Labor Day weekend, including the one fast approaching this weekend, tends to be celebrated as a last hurrah.

With most schools already in session, families are heading back home, leaving mostly retirees and locals to savor what remains of the summer concerts and focus on an array of fall festivities and festivals (as long as the sun shines and the creeks don’t rise).

This week, in commemoration of the aforementioned hurrah, I was alerted to a fledgling end-of-summer tradition in Sunset Beach I previously hadn’t known about — shell bushes.

Local resident Noelle Kehrberg had an even better term for the decorated shrubs lining the 40th Street walkway — “dollar tree.”

Before residents get upset that another dollar store might be coming to town, it’s a term she coined for the hundreds of handmade shell ornaments suspended from the shrubs.

People, mostly visitors it seems, made and contributed them in tribute to assorted things they love: loved ones, their beloved beach, lovely sea turtles and seahorses, etc.

The display is as assorted as the decorators’ imaginations: Festooned shells, sand dollars, sea biscuits, even broken conch shells have become colorful ornaments of beauty adorning the bushes.

Akin to the Kindred Spirit mailbox just a mile or so down the beach, they write messages on the shells.

Kehrberg recalls the “dollar tree” tradition ties to a smaller tree that was decorated for Christmas a little farther down the walkway.

Each year, more ornaments were added — same for the end-of-summer tree.

“But this year is certainly by far the most,” she said.

Storms eventually got the yuletide tree.

Here’s hoping the sand dollar tree survives a little longer.

Laura Lewis is assistant editor for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.