Ashley DesMarteau: Come Aboard for History, Up Front

  • Friday, February 28, 2014

February is a short, demanding month that asks a lot of us-- does not leave us complacent to simply stumble through each day as March and April might, February makes us work for it. All month long we celebrate Black History Month, honoring brave men and women in history who sacrificed for freedoms we now take for granted. Presidential birthdays in February have gifted us with an extra day off, enjoying long weekends instead of celebrating the accomplishments of those great men in history. And while Saint Valentine probably had good intentions, the date of his honor has become just another opportunity for over-commercialization and marketing — all in the name of love. Even Mother Nature can’t seem to decide what to do with February — one week she’s the ice queen, the next week warm and tender encouraging young buds to open only to surprise them with yet another arctic blast.

In Georgetown, February means something special to a group of volunteers who’ve worked together on a common goal for more than 20 years. February marks the 3rd anniversary of the dream of opening the South Carolina Maritime Museum finally becoming a reality. After everything that the Front Street community has been through since the devastating fire last September, you have to think that this anniversary is even sweeter.

In the three years since the Museum opened her doors 10,500 people have visited — and even during our chilly start to 2014 they’ve already welcomed more than 1,000 people. Local historians like Mac McAllister take great care in displaying photographs and artifacts that represent the rich maritime history of Georgetown. Melissa Smalls and her volunteers greet visitors with a smile and provide helpful information about the museum. A well-stocked gift store has nautical themed gifts, books by local maritime historians and whimsical Goat Island Yacht Club items.

But the South Carolina Maritime Museum is much more than just bricks and mortar — the museum has become a beacon for locals as well as newcomers to the area who have an interest in all things maritime related. New families to the area who have wanted to start junior sailing programs, camps for children to learn how to sail and high school sailing teams first came to the Maritime Museum and it became a gathering spot for incubating those ideas.

In a short time junior sailing efforts were underway and nearly 70 young campers have learned to sail, and two high school teams have been established who are competing in the South Atlantic Interscholastic Sailing Association.

Transplants, Susan Davis and her husband had just moved to the area when she reached out to the Museum prior to the Wooden Boat Show. Davis was warmly welcomed, put in charge of volunteers for the event and just a few months later was invited to be a member of the board. The Burning of the Socks and Mardi Gras Parade are fun events the community can participate in over the next few months.

The president of the South Carolina Maritime Museum, Johnny Weaver, has been there since the humble beginning. He was there during the fire directing the Georgetown Fire Department which artifacts to save from the building, and was just recently in Hilton Head where he and others from the board accepted the prestigious Charles Bundy Award. “The award was a total surprise and we have to thank Sally Hogan and Lauren Joseph with the Chamber of Commerce and Sally Swineford from the SCMM Board. We have known for a long time that this is a great show, now the whole state knows it,” said Weaver.

Soak up some history and visit the South Carolina Maritime Museum at 729 Front Street. Make it your business to keep it local.

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