Happy birthday, Coasties: Rain doesn't spoil CG Day

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Coasties (l-r) E3 Ben Florence, E3 Chris McCann and E4 Darius Armijo enjoy helpings of barbecue and chicken during the annual Coast Guard Day celebration at Base Elizabeth City, Thursday. Despite intermittent spurts of rain, a good crowd turned out for the annual event held to celebrate the founding in 1790 of what is today the U.S. Coast Guard.

080318 Coast Guard
080318 Coast Guard
080318 Coast Guard

By William F. West
Staff Writer

Friday, August 3, 2018

Despite the occasional spurt of rain, Elizabeth City’s annual celebration of the U.S. Coast Guard went off without a hitch Thursday.

A good crowd turned out for Coast Guard Day at Base Elizabeth City, enjoying helpings of barbecue and chicken and relaxing with fellow Coasties and base co-workers. A number of attendees with young children watched as their kids played in bounce houses and petted animals at a petting zoo.

A preliminary estimate put turnout for the event — held annually to celebrate the anniversary of the founding in 1790 of what is today the U.S. Coast Guard — at between 3,000 and 3,200, according to Cmdr. Randy F. Meador, commander of Base Elizabeth City.

Petty Officer Third Class Mitchell Brown, who was attending his first Coast Guard Day at the base, thought the turnout was good.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good setup, a nice turnout,” said Brown, who is from Beaufort, South Carolina, and works on helicopters at Air Station Elizabeth City.

Just steps away, Brown’s 2½-year-old daughter was petting a rabbit provided for the event by Teeny Tiny Farm of Suffolk, Virginia.

“We’ve been showing her all these different farm animals in books,” Brown said. “And being able to see or actually interact with them is quite astounding.”

Shelly Bateman, 32, was also attending her first Coast Guard Day. Bateman, whose family farms in Pasquotank County, has a sister-in-law who works in civil service on the base.

Asked why she attended Coast Guard Day, Bateman replied with a smile, “To get my children’s energy out.”

Her mission seemed to be working: Her two boys, ages 6 and 3, were playing in a bouncy house made in the form of a dog wearing a police officer’s uniform.

“It’s really cool. I really like it,” Bateman said of Coast Guard Day. “I just wish the rain would stop.”

Another first-time attendee was Seaman Chris McCann, 26, who came aboard with Small Boat Station Elizabeth City at the start of February. The Charlottesville, Virginia, native was enjoying a barbecue sandwich, fried chicken, macaroni and hush puppies.

“It would be better if it wasn’t raining as much, but I do like it,” McCann said of Coast Guard Day.

McCann said the event is good for the base, good for Coastie morale and good for the Coast Guard because it gets the agency’s name out. He also liked the fact that so many local residents participate in the event.

“It’s great to see a community that embraces the Coast Guard,” he said.

Bill McGuire and his wife, Sandy, have been regular Coast Guard Day attendees for years.

“It’s tradition,” said Bill, a civil service worker who helps repair and overhaul Dolphin helicopters at the Aviation Logistics Center.

“It’s all about the families,” he said when asked why he likes Coast Guard Day, adding he gets to see co-workers outside of the workplace and link up with other Coast Guard retirees. A Lawrence, Massachusetts, native, Bill served in the Coast Guard from 1977-97, servicing helicopters before he retired and joined the civil service.

Asked about the rain, Bill didn’t seem too concerned about it ruining the day.

“It is what is is,” he said philosophically.

Sandy, who’s from Elizabeth City, said she likes the socializing aspect of Coast Guard Day.

“And the food is awesome,” she said.

As for the rain, she indicated she came prepared.

“I knew it was going to rain,” she said.

A long line of local volunteers served food to Coasties, civil service workers and base contractors during Thursday’s event. Among them was Camden Commissioner Randy Krainiak, who said he was a first-time participant.

Krainiak said the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce asked him to help out.

“I like what the Coast Guard does for our community,” he said.

Kraniak grew up in an Air Force family, so he “absolutely” has an appreciation for those serving in uniform, he said.

“Because if it weren’t for those people, we’d be in tough shape,” he said.

For Sentara Albemarle Medical Center President Coleen Santa Ana, serving food at Coast Guard Day has become an annual event. It’s something she enjoys doing, she said.

“We want to show our gratitude for them serving our country — and all the dedication they have to northeast North Carolina as well,” Santa Ana said.

Another server, Dana Rabon-Smith, said she has been participating in Coast Guard Day for three years.

Asked why she volunteers at the event, Rabon-Smith said, “Because we love the Coast Guard. And this is a great way to meet new people that are coming into town as well as some of our Coast Guard families.”

Meador said he considered the event a success, “especially considering Mother Nature’s random donations of precipitation.”

“Everyone I spoke to was having a great time,” he said.

Meador said he thanked all the community volunteers and sponsors who helped make Coast Guard Day the “success that it is.”