Tomorrow, we party at the beach. It’s a great party, with lots of tasty food, beer, and wine. The music is fantastic, and the company even better. But why? Well…it’s sort of a long story.
In 1903, the United States Life-Saving Service built this structure in largely unpopulated Virginia Beach. From 1903 – 1969, the men serving here created a beach community on 23rd – 25th Streets. Slowly, the tourists came and the resort district built up around them.
On January 15, 1969, the United States Coast Guard de-commissioned the building. It sat fenced and empty for ten years, in the middle of a bustling boardwalk. Most assumed developers would tear down the structure, which was sitting on valuable oceanfront property.
Instead, something really special happened. Local residents, led by Alice Granberry Walter, started a grassroots campaign to save the building. They wrote letters and garnered press coverage. They argued the building would make a perfect arts’ center, visitors’ bureau, or history museum, in the center of the boardwalk.
In the end, they successfully petitioned the City of Virginia Beach to save the building. Over two years, the city re-positioned and renovated the structure, preparing it for visitors. On July 1, 1981, a private non-profit organization opened the building as a museum sharing the story of the area’s maritime heritage and coastal communities.
That museum held its first annual Pig & Oyster Fest on Saturday, November 6, 1982, from 4-8pm. It featured roasted oysters, barbecue, and bluegrass music. Lawrence Maddry, a popular columnist from the Norfolk Virginian Pilot, spoke to the crowd. It all happened in a tent on the museum lawn.
That first year, the Pig & Oyster Fest helped fundraise and show support for the newly established museum. It was a way for the community to come together and honor the important piece of local history they saved.
Over the last 30+ years, the Pig & Oyster Fest has taken many shapes and been held in different places. But it has always served as a space for the oceanfront community to gather and support the continued telling of its own history.
This party at the beach is more than a party. It’s an important way to celebrate, honor, and preserve the history of the Virginia Beach oceanfront. So come out tomorrow afternoon, enjoy the good food and music, and join that tradition. With your support, this building will share its stories for generations to come.